Writers On Writing | T.J. English



I think the more shocking fact of the whitey bulger story when you look at it in its totality is the fact that Bulger had this relationship with the criminal justice system and that he was able to manipulate it and use it to stay in power to commit murders to commit murders and get away with them because the government was protecting him and covering up for him and that this was all not an unusual situation but this was business as usual for the criminal justice system in New England this was is shocking to me even though I followed this story now for decades and I've written about it a lot I write about crime in a very particular way I write about the criminal universe of crime organized crime crime that is connected to the political apparatus the business and economic apparatus the social and cultural apparatus this is a inexhaustible subject to me to me it's really about writing about how social systems work how the system works or doesn't work one of the consequences of it and since I write primarily about the United States of America I'm writing about capitalism and the underside of capitalism the underbelly of capitalism and how this is all connected to the upper world the relationship between the underworld in the upper world and that's just endlessly fascinating to me that's what a journalist that's my to me that's the definition of a journalist and I've carried that over into the writing of books so I had gone up to Boston numerous occasions to do research on Boston organized crime I had written a book called patty whacked which was a big sweeping history of the Irish American underworld I had created a network of sources in in Boston and in South Boston over more than a decade before Bulger was captured so when he was captured in Santa Monica and brought back to Boston for trial and I went up there initially just to cover the IEL as a journalist I started to reconnect with a lot of these sources and some of them were people who were close to Bulger Associates of his like Patrick nee who was both a rival and an associate of Bulger he's kind of an unique character in that sense kevin weeks who was whitey bozer's right-hand man in the years that Bulger was in power these were people I had gotten to know and knew you know before I went up there to write this book so I I sort of had to address the issue that I had been using these people as sources for a long time and I did I felt like I needed to be honest about that in the writing of the book that this couldn't be a dispassionate a so-called objective journalistic account or I pretended like I interviewed these sources and never knew them before and then list their names in the source section in the back of the book I realized that I would have to write this book in a slightly different way that I would have to write parts of it in the first person that some of it would be almost like a memoir of my getting to know these people and interviewing these people and spending time with them because clearly the relationship had evolved over the years into something slightly more than just sources of information I'd become friendly with some of them Robert Fitzpatrick had been the assistant special agent in charge of the Boston division in the 1980s well before the trial a couple years before the trial I'd gone to visit him and gotten to know him a bit and so I spoke you know Fitzpatrick had a an interest in having his version of the story told because it had been very frustrating to him and he he had more or less been drummed out of the FBI because of his efforts to close down Whitey Bulger or call attention to the fact that it was a it was an unhealthy relationship with Bulger so Fitzpatrick spoke to me for those reasons and he spoke to me almost as an agent or as a quasi whistleblower who had been forced out of the system and those are really valuable sources if you can get people like that to talk to you because it's that's that's someone who's been in the system been a part of the system and is now outside of the system and is able to see it in a way that they didn't see it when they were in the midst of it so he was a really valuable source one of the people that I interviewed a few times in the years that Bulger was on the run was his former common-law wife Teresa Stanley the woman he lived with for 30 years before he went on the run and I got to know Teresa pretty well and she was the one who first told me that Bulger used to read a lot but that he used to sit up late at night reading the book the Westies and she'd say Jimmy come to bed and he'd be out there reading Westies and then later you know when he went on the run and he was found in Santa Monica and they confiscated his belongings he had a copy of patty whacked the book patty whacked which was a big history of the Irish American gangster and that book begins and ends with Whitey Bulger I use Bulger as sort of a framing device in that book so I imagine he read it he was he was always interested in what was being written and said about him one of the things that's always a little bit flattering to me in a backhanded way is when I hear that people in the criminal world have read the books that I've written and find value in the books that I've written cuz in a lot of ways that's your toughest audience I mean that's the people who live that world and know that world so if they find value in reading something on it it means that you have something legitimate to say

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