Street Soldier: My Life as an Enforcer for Whitey Bulger and the Irish Mob
For decades the FBI let James “Whitey” Bulger get away with murder, allowing him continued control of his criminal enterprise in exchange for information. He went on the lam in 1995 and today follows top-ranked Osama bin Laden on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List.
Edward J. MacKenzie, Jr. was a drug dealer and enforcer who would do just about anything for Bulger. In this compelling eyewitness account, Eddie Mac delivers the goods on his one-time boss and on such former associates as Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi and turncoat FBI agent John Connolly.
Street Soldier is also a story of the search for family, for acceptance, for respect, loyalty, and love. Abandoned by his parents at the age of four, Mackenzie became a ward of the state, suffered physical and sexual abuse, and eventually drifted into Bulger’s orbit.
The Eddie Mac who emerges in these pages is complex: An enforcer who was also a national kick-boxing champion; a womanizer who fought for custody of his daughters; a kid never given much of a chance who went on, as an adult, to earn a college degree in three years; a man who lived by a strict code of loyalty but also helped set up a sting operation that would net one of the largest hauls of cocaine ever seized.
Street Soldier is as disturbing and fascinating as a crime scene, as heart-stopping as a bar fight, and at times as darkly comic as Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction or Martin Scorsese’s Good Fellas.All due respect to the Gambinos and the Genoveses, but the Italian mob families aren’t the only gangsters to make for compelling memoirs. In terms of relentless ruthlessness and its obsession with the almighty dollar, the Irish mob of Boston’s James “Whitey” Bulger could match its New York counterparts hit for bloody hit. For decades, Edward J. MacKenzie, Jr. (a.k.a. Eddie Mac) was a drug dealer, enforcer, and key associate of Bulger (on the lam as this book was published). Mac’s first-person account of those years is rife with more gory details per page than the entire last season of The Sopranos
By the brutal code of honor and loyalty in the streets, the candid dishing of such dirt marks MacKenzie as a world-class rat, second only to Salvatore “Sammy the Bull” Gravano, the man who put John Gotti away. But Eddie Mac has some justification in spilling the beans; in exchange for his tips, the Feds turned a blind eye toward his crimes. (It’s also worth nothing that Bulger himself was an informant for the FBI.) The author certainly doesn’t portray himself as any sort of hero or “gangster with a heart of gold.” Witness his charming account of one of many attempts to “enlighten” a wayward associate: “Probation notwithstanding, I had to open Steve’s eyes a little. I headed over to Dunkin’ Donuts and bought a cup of coffee for .24. Medium, black, scalding hot. . . .Steve was still in his car, sleeping like a baby. The window was down and he had his head against the door, hands under his cheeks. I poured the hot coffee down the side of his face, making sure to get some on his eyeballs. . . I swear if I’d had enough money to buy the gasoline that day that’s what I would have done. . . but I’d only had .30, so the coffee had to do.”
Although MacKenzie has not one but two ghost writers (Karas is a contributor to People magazine and the author of The Onassis Women, while Muscato is a self-described “strategic communications consultant”), the prose never rises above the level of the sleaziest pulp fiction. But that of course is exactly its appeal, and fans of the true-crime genre will find Street Soldier a supreme pleasure, guilty or not. –Jim DeRogatis
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