Hitman: The Untold Story of Johnny Martorano: Whitey Bulger’s Enforcer and the Most Feared Gangster in the Underworld

Author: Howie Carr
Forge Books
Release date: April 26, 2011
MSRP: $25.99

For a long time I have wanted to know more about what went on in Boston crime in the 1960s and 1970s. it seemed like all you would hear about was whitey Bulger and the Angiulo brothers. You have books like Black Mass, The Brothers Bulger and Paddy Whacked. Those were OK, but didn’t give me what I was looking for. Growing up in Boston, I’d hear stories and names. I knew a lot more went on then what was being written about. People would say so and so used to live there or worked out of that garage or hung out at that bakery or the F.B.I. had that placed wired up tight or they found a Cadillac on that corner with a body in the trunk. Yet the aforementioned books, and many like them, make no mention of those events or people.
One name that popped up over the years was John Martorano. Usually placed in context with Whitey Bulger and then would mention the fact that he killed 20 people, but that was it… if you’re the type of person who senses a story and does not get it, you will remain curious. The book Paddy Whacked by T.J. English came out a few years back and had a section on the Boston gang wars of the 1960s. It was a revelation to me. I knew nothing about any of it. it grabbed my interest only to be let down when the book moved on to the next Irish gangster. I was like fuck this shit, tell me more about what happened in my hometown.

Another name that if you live in or around Boston you can’t help but hear is Howie Carr Howie Carr in a columnist for the Boston herald and syndicated radio talk show host. Carr for years has been the bane of organized crime in Boston If somebody gets busted, Carr will write a column about it then make a verbal attack on his radio show. Some people love him, others think he is a loudmouth prick. Growing up the where and how I did, I was a member of the latter group. I thought he was a bully on a soapbox plain and simple.
Because Boston is a small town it was inevitable that these worlds would collide.

A couple months back I was poking around on amazon looking at upcoming releases for books when I saw the listing for HITMAN by Howie Carr I had an oh shit moment. I clicked on the link and read the summary and was stunned to realize that loudmouth prick had written the book on a subject I’ve been looking for. At this point, I had not read Carr’s other book The Brothers Bulger. I was only familiar with his columns and radio show and I figured if the book had the tone of either of those, I wanted nothing to do with it. Anyone who knows me, knows I’m all about due diligence. I went to my local library and picked up The Brothers Bulger. I must admit I was pleasantly surprised. It was well written and it placed many facts about the Bulgers in the proper context. Best of all, there were only hints of Carr’s attitude in the writing.

Hitman was set to come out in about a month. I could wait. Dropped a line to Jeremy at Crimespree about writing it up. He said word, then did some magic and a copy showed up in my mailbox. I sat down to read it. 2 days later as I drove around Medford, Malden, Somerville, Revere, Chelsea and Boston, I had a revelation and it was kind of mind blowing for me: The area I grew up was the wild west during those years I always wondered about.

Johnny Martorano was half Irish, half Sicilian Even though his father was Sicilian and worked for the patriarchs out of providence, because he was not full blooded, he could never be a made man. Growing up south of Boston, was a high school athlete and was pre-law at Boston college for a short time. His father ran a bar in was was then known as the combat zone of Boston Basically Boston’s 42nd street. From what I know about those days and that area….i would have said fuck pre law as well.

One thing led to another and in 1965, martorano killed his first man. Between then and 1982, he would add 19 more to his entourage. Many of those were during the gang wars. Best way I can describe it is that because Boston is Irish, the Italians never got big in Boston the way they did in other cities. The Italians had the city of Boston and Boston proper is small. The Irish and just about every other ethnicity were slugging it out over territory in the cities that surrounded Boston Bodies were dropping on street corners, some just disappeared. To really grasp the scope of what I’m trying to describe, you need to read the book.
After the gang wars of the 60s, the attitude was different in the 70s. martorano and the crew he ran with ( The Winter Hill Gang, named after the area of Somerville they hung out in) decided it was time to make money, which they did. Some others in the crew thought it would be cool to bring this guy named Whitey out of south Boston into the mix. After that it was a new world

This was the book I had been wanting to read. Carr delivered the goods here. HITMAN is well written, factually accurate and presents a story that needed telling. Something really cool is throughout the book are mugshots of almost all the people involved. I was even able to get past the pull quote from Bill “fuck it, we’ll do it live” O’reilly on the cover. This book should be read.

Dave Wahlman