Friday, January 6, 2012

THE MOST NOTORIOUS GANGSTER EVER




This is the dark side of The Sopranos, The Godfather with all the romanticism stripped away, organized crime shown for what it really is and the terrible costs it bears.



But at its heart BETRAYAL is the story of one man’s absolute refusal to quit, even after facing the ultimate betrayal and, finally, long after he was forced to resign, leads to his spectacular vindication thanks to a series of groundbreaking trials years before Bulger’s capture in June of 2011.



***on BETRAYAL by Bob Fitzpatrick and Jon Land




HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Think of Melvin Purvis' dogged pursuit of John Dillinger, or Elliot Ness taking on Al Capone. Think of BETRAYAL. This hot-off-the-presses nonfiction thriller—just out this week!--tells the story of Robert Fitzpatrick, one of the most celebrated FBI agents of the modern era.


In 1981 Fitzpatrick’s career took him to Boston where he found himself up against his greatest adversary ever: the notorious, and recently captured, Boston gangster James “Whitey” Bulger.


Bulger had been on the books as an FBI informant against the mafia for years. But Fitzpatrick quickly uncovered the fact that Whitey was providing no real information – while reaping the rewards of FBI protection that ultimately enabled him to murder three of Fitzpatrick’s informants after corrupt agents leaked word they were ready to talk. But did anyone listen to him?



The fabulous Jon Land collaborated with Fitzpatrick to tell this stranger-than-fiction tale…





THE MOST NOTORIOUS GANGSTER EVER



by Jon Land





Bob Fitzpatrick was appointed ASAC (Assistant Special Agent in Charge) of the Boston office of the FBI with a clear mandate: “Kick ass and take names.” And the ass he really needed to kick was that of an Irish gangster named Whitey Bulger.



But what Fitzpatrick, one of the most celebrated agents of his time, didn’t know, couldn’t know, was that the adversary he was about to confront was fast becoming the most notorious gangster in all the annals of American crime history. Bigger than Al Capone, bigger than any of the infamous heads of the Five Families in New York, bigger than John Gotti and every other name of criminal legend. Why?



Because only Bulger had the FBI and the Justice Department acting as willing accomplices in his murderous rise to the pinnacle of the criminal underworld.



Sound crazy? Maybe so, but it happened. Turned out, James “Whitey” Bulger, who, remember, is Irish, was then on the books as a Top Echelon (TE) informant. And in the Bureau’s mind, he was the perfect guy to supply crucial evidence against the Italian mafia!



But Fitzpatrick ascertained that Bulger was providing no evidence of the kind whatsoever, never mind anything of note. He was ripping off the FBI. Using the agency to his own ends.



Yet instead of taking Fitzpatrick’s advice and targeting Bulger, the FBI did nothing. The Justice Department through Jeremiah O’Sullivan, head of the Organized Crime Strike Force for New England, did nothing. No less than William Weld, then the U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts and future governor of the State, did nothing. Fitzpatrick warned officials at the very highest levels of the FBI in Washington about what was happening. They, too, did nothing.



They did nothing--Even when no less than three informants capable of proving everything he said was true were murdered. And that was thanks directly to sources inside the Boston FBI office who leaked the names of those informants to Bulger—which, of course, in that vicious culture of corruption, assured their deaths.



Meanwhile, Bulger consolidated the power the FBI had enabled him to seize in the first place. His equally notorious contemporaries and predecessors never had the government’s help, never had the FBI and Justice Department riding shotgun over their murderous exploits. Elliot Ness put Al Capone away on tax invasion. Melvin Purvis gunned down John Dillinger. John Gotti, the so-called “Teflon Don,” died in prison.



Whitey Bulger, on the other hand, went on to allegedly murder more than a dozen people under the watchful eye of the FBI after Bob Fitzpatrick recommended he be arrested once and for all after their single fateful interview in March of 1981. No other gangster, no other underworld figure, can make that claim. No other gangster or underworld figure had their brutal efforts aided and abetted by the very officials charged with protecting the rest of us from their actions.



As a fiction writer, of thrillers specifically, no one would believe this were possible or credible if I had offered this story as a plot synopsis. But in BETRAYAL (Forge, January 3), the book I co-authored with Bob Fitzpatrick—we give the straight story, chronicling his time in Boston and the frustration he faced in trying to end the madness once and for all.



Bob Fitzpatrick wasn’t just any agent either. Before coming to Boston, his major case experience included playing a key role in the takedown of Sam Bowers in the famed Mississippi Burning case, leading the investigation into the Martin Luther King assassination, and running ABSCAM in Miami. The Bureau had the right man for the job all right; they just wouldn’t let him finish it.



HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: I was just waking up one morning last year when I heard the news that Whitey Bulger had been captured. I leaped up, ran downstairs, and pounded on the door of my husband’s bathroom. He was taking a shower. I couldn’t wait until he was finished to tell him—the news was that amazing!



Jon Land’s incredible access to inside information has all of us reporters salivating…and he’s here today to answer all your questions! (The ones he’s allowed to, at least!)






*****************************************





ROBERT FITZPATRICK spent twenty-plus years as an FBI agent and chief in a career highlighted by his involvement in the Martin Luther King, Jr. killing and the ABSCAM investigation in Miami that resulted in the indictments of numerous public officials. He played a key role in the famed "Mississippi Burning" investigation and recovered the rifle that was used in the MLK assassination that ultimately led to the arrest of James Earl Ray.





JON LAND is the critically acclaimed author of thirty novels, including the bestselling series featuring female Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong: Strong Enough to Die, Strong Justice, and Strong at the Break. He lives in Providence, Rhode Island and can be found on the Web at jonlandbooks.com.












33 comments:

Avi Love said...

What a compelling story! It's an honor to have you here today for questions. Congratulations on the release of your book.

I'd like to know about an agent's job, particularly at that level, is it as political as it seems? If so, is it that from the get-go?

My father was a military man whose job it was to brief the guy that briefed the big-wigs. Were Robert Fitzpatrick's reports going through channels like that, or were they sent direct to the HQ?

Do the families of agents have a kind of group connection, somewhat like military families?

I'm trying to imagine a fictional agent of course -- it's challenging to comprehend what it must be like for the real deal. I look forward to finding out in BETRAYAL. Thank you.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Hey--so great to see you!

I'm always fascinated when I see photos of Whitey..it's hard to imagine how he actually (allegedly) killed 19 people.

And to hear the stories of how beloved he was by some segments...
My husband was appointed as his attorney after the capture--but when one of the federal lawsuits was dropped, he didn't need representation in that case any more.

it was such a dilemma--the case would have been all-consuming for my husband--but wow, think of all the things he'd find out!

(And think of all the things he'd never be able to tell me... :-)

Avi, did you get my emails?

Jan Brogan said...

Jon,
We met long ago at some signing event - probably in Rhode Island - if I recall. Welcome to Jungle Red.

This is right up my alley- I'm so fascinated with BULGER and organized crime in general.

What I want to know....do you know who has actually been Tweeting under Bulger's moniker since he's been caught? I've had some pretty good running gags with him!

I will DEFINITELY buy your book,

Jon Land said...

Great questions, Avi! And as a matter of fact, Bob Fitzpatrick is with me today so I'm going to let him answer your first question. He says it "turned out to be" political. "At first the political issues were more personal because agents were going outside the protocol and chain of command which indicated to me that things were becoming political. I'd walked into a hornet's nest and didn't realize it right away." At first Bob's reports were filed traditionally but when leaks began to abound and spread, he began filing them confidentially on secure teletypes--essentially he was working undercover in his own office. Bob also says, yes, the Bureau, like the military, is a vast extended family. Only those who are part of it truly understand the day to day dynamics of living the law enforcement life. Bob joins me in thanking you for your interest! Jon and Bob

Jon Land said...

Bob Fitzpatrick is here too and he loved your question. Neither of us has any idea who is tweeting on Bulger's behalf. Probably someone with a twisted sense of humor. Raises an interesting question of how technologically savvy Bulger is or isn't. He grew up old school in South Boston when black and white television was about as far as it went. Hard to see him with a Facebook page or Google Account. Jan, you are going to love this book. Here's my e-mail address to let me know what you think: jonlandauthor@aol.com

Linda Rodriguez said...

Jon and Bob, thanks for joining us today! This, of course, is one of the big stories of the decade.

My first question is for Bob. Did you ever feel endangered yourself? I mean, if agents were leaking info about informants who were then killed, did you ever suspect that you yourself might be killed by Bulger and his minions?

Also, Bob, have you ever had to go undercover as someone else to investigate a case and live that way for any length of time?

Jon, what was your greatest challenge in turning Bob's incredible experiences into a book?

Jon Land said...

Hank raises a great point about appearance. Whitey Bulger looks very ordinary, even less than ordinary in photos, and yet the actual number of his alleged victims is over 40. He's not alone. Bob Fitzpatrick, BETRAYAL's co-author, was one of the Bureau's first profiler and he wrote the profile that helped nab serial killer Ted Bundy. Bundy was charming and charismatic, and nobody yet knows how many people he actually killed. John Wayne Gacy played a clown for sick children in hospitals. I heard the BTK killer was once a local Scoutmaster They fool us with their appearances and personas--it's what allows sociopaths to go on living among us. A bit different for Bulger since he was a gangster but the personality was the same. I get a kick out of the fact that for years there were plenty singing Bulger's praises, that he wasn't really a bad guy, handed out turkeys to the poor on Thanksgiving and only killed other bad guys. Well, what about the two women he killed, the two Debras, for no other reason than he was jealous? What about John McIntyre, Fitzpatrick's final informant who Bulger tortured for hours before finally killing him as you'll see in the book's prologue. Bulger was a stone killer. Plain and simple.

Jon Land said...

Jon here, Linda. My biggest challenge was two-fold: first and most important, to distill a huge sweeping tapestry of a story that has confounded pretty much everyone for years into a discernible and riveting narrative. Second, I had to make sure to find corroboration for all of Bob Fitzpatrick's claims. I never doubted him for a moment, but that doesn't mean someone else might challenge his word or his recollection. So you'll note that every single claim he makes, every single one, is backed up independently. Some people have told me this is the first book they've actually paid attention to the Endnotes! And check out the Appendix which contains documents, including internal FBI memos, no one outside of a select few have ever seen. Going to pass this on to Bob now so stay tuned!

Linda Rodriguez said...

Wow, Jon! That sounds almost overwhelming. I can't wait to get my hands on the book. The Appendix alone sounds like a crime writer's dream!

Jon Land said...

Hi Linda, it's Bob Fitz. I'll answer your second question first with a yes. I was undercover most prominently in the ABSCAM investigation I ran as head of the Economic Crimes unit in Miami in the mid-70s or so I think. We were after a bunch of public officials on public corruption charges in what became one of the most successful sting operations in FBI history. We procured a confiscated yacht from the DEA and decked it out to the be the property of a fabulously wealthy Arab Shiek who was played by one of my agents. People came onto the boat to do some business with who they thought were foreigners, including Senator Harrison Williams. I was also undercover during the "Mississippi Burning" case where we finally nailed Sam Bowers for Civil Rights murders in the wake of my turning an informant who was killed in the shoot-out that nabbed Tommy Tarrants outside the Meyer Davidson synagogue he was about to bomb. Meanwhile, the only time I felt potentially endangered was when Bulger disappeared in 1994. At that point all bets were off and he'd already threatened a supervisor named John Morris. I remember leaving the lights on and sitting by the window to watch the outside of the house around those days. But if I let those kind of things scare me, I'd never have survived 20 years with the Bureau!

Linda Rodriguez said...

Fascinating stuff, Bob! You must have nerves of steel.

I've got a million questions about how on earth you manage to preserve your cover when you're undercover for a long time as you were in both cases, but I'd better let some of the other Jungle Reds bloggers and backbloggers ask their questions, or my own life won't be worth much. ;-)

Jon Land said...

Linda, you will not be disappointed. BETRAYAL is truly an amazing read made all the more incredible because it's real. I'm still in awe of what Bob Fitzpatrick went through and what he still managed to accomplish in Boston, including the ultimate takedown of Boston Godfather jerry Anguilo with no help from Whitey Bulger the informant whatsoever. Both sad and ironic.

Jon Land said...

LOL, Linda, and Bob says hi too! I'll be off until around 3:00 or so and will catch up with everyone through the rest of the afternoon. Keep the comments and questions coming!

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Oh, this is great stuff! Thank you..yes, doesn't that make Bulger an (alleged) serial killer?

Do you think he knows about the Gardner Museum Heist?

Avi Love said...

Jungle Reds, great questions. Jon and Bob, thanks for your replies. Fascinating stuff! I'm on the edge of my seat.

Hank, I haven't gotten any of your emails. How can I assist?

And Hank, to think that your husband's almost-involvement causes you to brush elbows with this world. Yeow.

Jon Land said...

Hank, great question about Bulger as a possible (alleged) serial killer. Certainly of fellow informants who could have brought him down since he killed at least five of them and probably more. Three of these were Bob Fitzpatrick's own informants, all willing and able to help put him away once and for all. FBI leaking led directly to their murders. Truly tragic stuff, especially John McIntyre who wasn't a wiseguy at all. As for the Gardner, opinions vary on that. But anyone who reads BETRAYAL will become acquainted with another gangster, a Bulger rival actually, named Joe Murray. Murray, in Fitzpatrick's mind, was connected to the Gardner heist--but that's a topic for a whole nother book!

Jon Land said...

I'm back, everybody, so if you have any more questions and/or comments, keep them coming! Jon

Jon Land said...

I agree wholeheartedly, Avi, and so glad all this has you on the edge of your seat. It's one thing for fiction to do that, but quite another when it's something that actually happened. I've been following the Penn State scandal closely and, you know, the parallels to what happened in Boston are scarily on point. Another story all about cover-up and corruption by those who in power resulting in needless suffering. You just wanna ask people involved in cases like this, What were you thinking? Why didn't you do more? Why didn't you do the right thing?

Hallie Ephron said...

I confess to being fascinated with Catherine Grieg. Did you all research her at all? Wondering whether she's one of those people who thinks Whitey's really a good guy. Are there still people that are doing Whitey's bidding so someone like her would be in danger if she told what she knows?

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

I know--it's was a kind of hilarious situation--I knew Jonathan was gong to be appointed, but I couldn't say anything, even though the TV station I work for would have liked to have known.

So I kept quiet.

When Whitey was being brought to court, we were all watching it on the live feed, and my boss called me and said: hey, Hank. I see your husband at the courthouse! Is there anything you'd like to tell me?

Sigh. Worlds collide.

Jon Land said...

Nice to hear from you, Hallie, and what a great question! The answer is no, I did no research into Catherine--in fact, I never even heard of her until she was found with Whitey. Do I think she's in any danger? Not really. Whitey's been out of the game too long in my mind to still have anyone left truly loyal to him. Jeeze, plenty of the Winter Hill Gang have gone on to write their own books so I guess they're legitimate now, so to speak. As for how Catherine looks at Whitey, she can probably rationalize many of his actions in her own mind and buy his version of events as opposed to the truth. These wiseguys aren't just serial killers and/or criminals; they're serial liars. That's why I get a kick out of their books performing so well when you can't believe one word they say.

Jon Land said...

You know, Hank, when Bob Fitz and I write the sequel, we may just wanna talk to Jonathan! LOL

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

He might want to interview YOU!

Julia said...

Facsinating stuff! I have to confess, I find the Whitey Bulger story endlessly interesting. Thank heavens it's non-fiction, because if it were invented, no one would believe it!

Reine said...

I am salivating in anticipation of getting this book. I have a few questions and comments, unfortunately none that I feel safe with. Keep up the good work, Both.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Reine, now THAT is tantalizing!

Jon Land said...

Hey, Julia, I said exactly the same thing in an interview recently--guess great minds really do think alike! Truly amazing, and perplexing, that the FBI let this train stray so far off the tracks and only Bob Fitzpatrick was trying to get it back on the rails. Forums like this make me think that BETRAYAL is a much bigger story than even I thought!

Jon Land said...

You can always e-mail later, Reine, at the g-mail address provided or jonlandauthor@aol.com. And definitely read BETRAYAL with the lights on!

Reine said...

Oh yeah. Sorry, Hank. I might be able to formulate something that feels safe. Do you remember my uncle, Tommy Troy?

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Oh, Reine..of course! Didn't he--defend the Boston Strangler?

And that professor who was charged with killing the--student? Prostitute? I can't remember the names, sigh..Robin Benedict?

Wow. He must have had some stories. Jon, we missed out on that one...

Bob, tell us more. We're all curled up here, waiting for more tidbits from your amazing past.

What mistakes do you see crime writers making?

Reine said...

Yes, among other wonders of the psycho universe. I'll email.

Jon Land said...

Just spoke with Bob, Hank, and he says the mistake he sees most frequently with crime writers is how they portray informants. Typically they're drug addicts and/or sleeze bags, something of that sort, when that's really not the case at all. The vast majority of informants, according to Bob, are decent folks who for one reason or another have decided to help the good guys. Sure, there's the usual stereotype of someone ratting out others to save their own butt. But these people are often otherwise little different from you and I. The other most common misconception is that informants are typically low-life low level guys. But those kind of people, he says, seldom really know anything helpful. A surprising number of informants, like Whitey Bulger himself, for example, come from the top of the food chain not the bottom. It's less glamorous and dramatic that way, but more accurate.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

I can just see that as a terrific plot, Jon...hmm.. The "good guy" rat. It has conflict, uncertainty, stakes...hmm...

One of my favoirte quotes is from a witness in a code-of-silence trial Jonathan was involved in. One witness yelled from the stand at an informaant: "You have Rat Blood in your veins!"

(We use that expression now, all the time.)

Thank you both so much for being here today! (and for attracting so many new visitors!xoxo)

Keep in touch, okay? Can't wait to hear the latest from you both.. And when the Whitey trial starts (?) it'll be so fascnating to hear what happens...