George Hassett’s new book, Gangsters of Boston is a well written and researched volume that goes in-depth to all things criminal in Boston. The city’s underworld is explored and examined in this thorough and detail orientated book. From the New England Mafia to Whitey Bulger’s Winter Hill Gang to the crack empire of Darryl “God” Whiting and even Joe Kennedy. To get the real deal on the book and why he wrote we got with George. Here’s the exclusive-
What is your book Gangsters of Boston about?
Gangsters of Boston is about three centuries of rioters, thugs, dirty cops and gangsters in the city where America was born – my hometown, Boston, Massachusetts.
Why do you think Boston has such an Irish history when it comes to gangsters?
So many cities have their own histories of gangsters from Prohibition to the crack epidemic. But Boston is probably unique in that Irish gangsters had a stronger hold on the city than they did in say Chicago or New York.
What is the state of the New England Mafia now?
The New England Mafia now is made up of old men in diapers and young wannabe’s raised on The Sopranos and attracted to what they think is glitz and glamour. These young guys are more likely to be from suburbs such as Medford rather than traditional Mafia neighborhoods such as the North End or East Boston; and in some cases they are not even Italian so there is not the same process of grooming and earning your stripes as there was in the 40s, 50s, and 60s.
Who are some of the more noteworthy names you write about in your book and why?
Joe Lombardo was the North End Mafia boss who likely set up the killing of Irish gang leader Frankie Wallace. That murder was a watershed moment in Mafia history in that the Italians finally stood up to the Irish who were bullying them and outnumbered them. There’s Raymond Patriarca the boss of the New England Mafia. Jerry Anguilo who died in 2009 was Patriarca’s underboss in Boston. However, Anguilo was never widely respected because he had bought his way into the Mafia – he didn’t “earn his bones” by committing a murder.
Why has the Irish mob always held such a mystique in Boston?
Probably because Boston is a flagrantly Irish town. Even as Italian immigrants were establishing themselves in other cities in the 1920s, Irish outnumbered Italians in Boston by a 7 to 2 ratio. That meant the access to corrupt power – the crooked police, judges and politicians – was in the hands of the Irish gangsters not the Italians.
What was the crack era like in Boston?
The crack era in Boston was dominated by Darryl Whiting and the New York Boys. Whiting was from New York and when he moved to Boston, as the great Globe columnist Kevin Cullen said, it wasn’t to root for the Red Sox. He eventually built a $10 million cocaine empire in the Orchard Park Housing projects. My book Gangsters of Boston features Whiting’s first interview in 20 years and some new details from that time.
What is going on with the street gangs in Boston?
Street gangs began in Boston with the release of the movie Colors – the Dennis Hopper movie starring Sean Penn and Robert Duvall that featured an early look for those outside Los Angeles at LA gang culture. Also, pivotal were the Johnson Brothers who founded the Corbet Street Crew and their young cousin Tony Johnson who became a gangland legend before being murdered at 21.
What other work writing wise have you done besides this book?
My work has been featured in the late, great Boston Phoenix, F.E.D.S. and AS IS. I was editor of The Somerville News for five years and also worked as a reporter for the Cambridge Chronicle.
What are your future plans?
Future plans? Like everyone else in Boston, I want to make a movie now.
Order Gangsters of Boston on www.amazon.com
George Hassett was born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts. He is a veteran Boston journalist experienced in covering politics and crime. Follow him on Twitter @Boscrimewriter.