Howie Carr blows up

By DAVID BOERI  |  March 16, 2006

Weeks didn’t shoot, he writes, because Carr was with his daughter. But by committing the story to three paragraphs years later, Weeks hit a bull’s-eye for Howie.

“Kevin Weeks didn’t have the stones to shoot me,” Howie has written in the first sentence of his front-page column in the Herald. “That’s what I told Ed Bradley of 60 Minutes... You watch Sunday night and tell me what you believe.”

Weeks has given a very big mirror to an attention addict. Deftly, Howie Carr Inc. stole the thunder from Monday’s release of Weeks’s book on Bulger and put it in the service of selling Howie’s. In its advance promotion 60 Minutes pumps the angle of Weeks’s almost-hit of Howie. It’s Friday (March 10), and print, TV, radio, and the Web are one big vibrating wave, not of Whitey and Billy Bulger, but of Howie. The Cheshire grin he sports on television appearances is the look of the cat who caught the canary.

“It’s all about moving product,” he laughs to the sound of a cash register ringing on his radio show.

Meanwhile, Kevin Weeks is going out of his mind. He’s been out of prison for almost a year, but today, he’s telling me he wants to rip Howie’s head off. I’m alarmed when he tells me where Howie’s going to be and when, until I discover that Howie’s Herald column even advertises his book-signing appearances.

I get the sense that Kevin may be the only one who doesn’t get it. I want to quote Michael Corleone to him. “It’s not personal, [Kevin]. It’s strictly business.” After all, his own publisher (Regan Books) moved up the release date from May to March, betting, no doubt, that what is good for Howie is good for Kevin. A rising tide lifts all boats, but there’s a storm raging inside Kevin. I’m relieved to learn that instead of going out to find Howie, he’s going out to shoot paint balls instead.

Howie’s honesty about what he’s up to is admirable. He’s become the Ron Popeil of Boston media, as exuberant as the salesman of the Veg-o-matic, spray-on hair, and the Pocket Fisherman. Indeed, Howie is pushing The Brothers Bulger with his own set of refrigerator magnets. One expects that at some point he’ll even be offering to throw in a set of Ginsu steak knives.

But moving product is not the same thing as writing history. And though it has gotten the publicity of a classic, TheBrothers Bulger is no Brothers Karamazov.

Just the Facts?
Dostoyevsky would have loved this story. Subtitled How They Terrorized and Corrupted Boston for a Quarter Century, Carr’s book holds out the promise of telling a big four-decade story involving the two brothers, three branches of government, the fourth estate, and a five-and-dime’s worth of mobsters, informants, victims, townies, cops, and federal agents.

The cliché, invoked too often in the past by the likes of 60 Minutes, the New Yorker, and the Washington Post, is to liken James and William Bulger to the Old Testament brothers Cain and Abel. The story is far more complicated and interesting than that. One brother is a vindictive career killer and mob boss who turned the FBI into the Bulger Bureau of Investigation, the other a vindictive all-powerful president of the state senate with long arms that reached into budgets, the courts, patronage, and the interlocking directorates of legitimate power.

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Related: We found Whitey Bulger . . . and he’s still missing, Brass balls and cold steel, The odd couple, More more >
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  •   HOLLOW JUSTICE  |  October 05, 2011
    When Whitey Bulger was arrested in Santa Monica, California, this summer, it may have seemed that a new day had dawned for the local FBI and for the Justice Department.
    I get a lot of calls about Bulger, but this one was different.

 See all articles by: DAVID BOERI