This is a tale written in 2006 by a man born in Galway in 1943 who arrived in Southie when he was eight years old. He wasn’t the toughest guy in the neighborhood like all the other gangsters who wrote books about Southie like Eddie MacKenzie’s, Street Soldier, or John Shea’s Rat Bastards or Kevin Weeks’s Brutal. Nee suggests he wasn’t much of a fighter at all, losing most of his fights. He only gains a little redemption by shooting a bully in the head with an arrow.
I agreed with part of his three paragraph note in the book’s beginning: “Most reporters and authors who write Southie gangster books use CIs — confidential informants — as sources. However, seldom is the majority of information compiled by these sources correct information. Confidential informers are self-serving criminals who lie.” That’s what I always told the cops I worked with about their informants: “They’re betraying their friends, you’re not even a friend.”
Nee goes on to say what he writes are about things he’s seen done, done himself or heard directly from the person who did them. He doesn’t say he’s going to tell us the whole truth. For instance when he tells of a murder, the only killer he identifies is a person who is dead unless it is Whitey. I have a sense he was involved in two murders: one he doesn’t mention, the other he brush strokes himself out of.
In the beginning he tells of planning an armored car heist in Abington, MA, with some other guys in 1989. They are waiting in a snow storm for it to show up outside the bank when the FBI swoops down on them. Some guy named Ryan blew the whistle on them (My father once told me, I don’t know if it’s an an old Irish adage or not: “Don’t Trust A Ryan.”) One of the guys in Nee’s gang, Jimmy Melvin, was again arrested this past June for extortion at age 70. Old habits die hard. I should mention in June Melvin’s partner was 83 year old Howie Winter, Whitey’s former partner in the Winter Hill gang.
Nee doesn’t tell us what happened after his Abington arrest. I assume he went back to prison. Rather goes back to his days in Ireland, his trip to America and his youth in Southie. He likes the criminal life and joins the Mullen gang. At 17 he goes off to the Marines. As a Marine myself growing up in a similar neighborhood I understood him when he tells how those who already served infused the younger guys with a desire to serve much better than any recruiter could do. He doesn’t mention that seeing your buddies in an Army paratrooper uniform or in Marine dress blues also provides a compelling tug to join up.
He extols his Marine training. The Marines make him into a hardened, disciplined man and send him to fight in the jungles of Vietnam. He comes back to Southie to resume his life as a criminal but with much better skills. His brother gets murdered and he revenges it by gunning down the guy who did it. Then he’s smack dab in the middle of the Southie gang war between the Killeen gang and the Mullens.
The top gunmen in the Killeen gang are Billy O’Sullivan and Whitey. Nee writes that Paulie McGonagle, later killed by Whitey, was the one who shot O’Sullivan near his home in Savin Hill. At least one other Mullen was with McGonagle but since there is no statute of limitation on murder he doesn’t identify the person. That person is either a living former Mullen or Nee, probably the latter.
The war ended when Howie Winter, mentioned above, acted as a second for Nee and Tommy King the bosses of the Mullens; and Angiulo Mafia guy, Joe Russo, as a second for Whitey (now boss of the Killeen gang since Donnie Killeen had been killed by two Mullens, McGonagle and Tommy King). Winter and Anguilo controlled all the mob guns outside Southie. They guaranteed that the meeting would be peaceful. These bosses held a peace powwow at a gangster owned restaurant, Chandlers, in a neutral venue, the South End, just over the bridge from Southie. (South Boston and the South End are not the same places. They are as different as night and day.)
They agreed to split the Southie criminal business and to stop killing each other. Within a short time Whitey will kill Tommy King. Nee managed to keep his partnership with Whitey alive for many years. He then got involved in supporting the IRA in Ireland sending seven tons of arms there which is intercepted. He’s arrested and sent to Danbury. When he gets out he gets involved in the armored car matter that began his book. We know nothing of what happened to him after 1989.
I assume he was in jail most of that time. He said when he was arrested for the failed armored car heist how he thought of the humiliation not of being caught “but at the thought of the food in the county jails where I’d be held until my trial, and the infamous federal bus tour I’d be on after my sentence: forced to ride for sixteen hours a day without stops for the bathroom, fed cheese and two-week old bread, my ankles shackled and my hands secured tightly to my waist with a chain that acted as a belt. . . . Yes, my life was going to suck for a long time to come.” All the criminals seem to dread that bus ride. I felt sorry for Sal DiMasi when I heard that he has been on few of them. I’d suggest this type of punishment is not part of a civilized society.
The best part of the book for me is the insights it gives into Whitey. Nee’s not one of Whitey’s men. He seems more of a stand up guy than a major tough guy. The guys in the IRA he deals with are hardened fighters. He tells how he helps bury John McGonigle after Whitey and Stevie killed him because being unarmed and caught unawares he didn’t want to cross either of those “two paranoid psychos” hot and excited from the kill. He writes any show of hesitation “would have been grounds for putting me in the hole next to McIntyre.”
Here are some of the things we learn from him about Whitey. Nee said Whitey experienced an orgasm watching someone die and he had to lie down afterwards (Weeks would write that after Whitey killed someone he had to go and lie down.) Nee calls Whitey a rat, a pedophile, a rapist, a homosexual and a sociopath who was dishonorably discharged from the Air Force. He says he is the man directly responsible for bringing drugs into Southie. Except for the sociopath, he gives no evidence to back up these statements.
Whitey (along with Billy O’Sullivan) were the two men who the Mullens feared. I’ve suggested Whitey always acted with backup, Nee shows that I was wrong. He was fully capable of acting alone. Nee’s not a Whitey fan yet he portrays him a a fearless man — knowing a gang war was breaking out he walked by himself into the Mullen camp. Whitey went by himself to Charlestown to try to kill Nee in his apartment and did other murders by himself.
Nee wrote that Whitey was the most egocentric criminal he’d ever meet. He was always talking about things that he did and possessed with grandiose ideas about weapons and warfare. They laughed at his puerile knowledge of war. Nee called him an air force washout whose only knowledge of war came from books but who considered himself an expert on military maneuvers. The IRA guys always laughed at Whitey’s bravado and the Charlestown guys thought little of him.
I picked up an interesting vibe reading this and Kevin Weeks’s book Brutal. Nee writes about Weeks, “Kevin was a great kid; he was young and loyal. Whitey, twenty-eight years his senior, had recruited him right out of high school. Kevin had no criminal background; he was just a kid who’d gotten sucked in by Bulger’s ego and loved being the guy next to Whitey. Who could blame him? Whitey was a legend in Southie, make no mistake about that. . . . I liked Kevin a lot. We’d studied Uechi-ryu karate together until Whitey decided Kevin was spending too much time away from him. Too bad, Kevin was talented.” I thought his effusive praise of Weeks a little out of place.
I read Kevin’s book also written in 2006. He called Nee his friend and wrote about their time doing karate together and going to tournaments. He mentions Nee two or three other times but never indicates he was a big time hoodlum Then it came to me. Each one was protecting the other and signalling their intent not to tell the feds anything they knew about the others exploits.
For instance, could the guy in the back seat of the car who gunned down Halloran with Whitey have been Pat Nee? Kevin put a ski mask on him and claimed he never knew who it was. Far fetched, but done to protect his buddy Nee. We can assume Nee’s keeping his mouth shut about some things he knows Kevin may have done.
Nee was right, informants are “self-serving criminals who lie.” So are criminals who write books.
The book is an easy read. It gives a glimpse of Southie life. It gives a sense of the draw Ireland had on Irish Americans. I enjoyed it especially as it provides a different window into Whitey’s life.