boston mob

When Boston organized crime is mentioned, images of Whitey Bulger usually come to mind, his white hair slicked down over his balding head and his eyes covered by aviator sunglasses.

Bulger's years at the head of the Winter Street Gang, his 2011 arrest and his subsequent trial and conviction have all made him synonymous with the term "Boston Mob."

But for author Marc Songini, Bulger is not the main attraction of the Hub's organized crime history. His newest book, "Boston Mob: The Rise & Fall of the New England Mob and Its Most Notorious Killer," focuses instead on the ascension of organized crime in Boston and the many influential characters who started it.

Although Songini acknowledges Bulger is a key figure in the gang wars of Boston in the late 1960s and early '70s, he barely touches upon him in the book.

"Bulger was a nobody in the '60s and his power was mostly limited to South Boston and mostly to extorting other gangsters," he said.

Instead, Songini chronicles other underworld figures based on information he acquired from government sources, congressional testimonies and interviews.

Songini said he wants "people to be in the front seat," feeling the paranoia and fear so prevalent in these gangs.

"I wanted to get as close as you could get to the gang wars of the '60s and re-create the mind-set of these people," he said.

Songini describes this book as having a "flat, deadpan style to emulate the tone of people that I interviewed."

The author spends a lot of time chronicling the crime career of Joesph "the Animal" Barboza, his "Most Notorious Killer," and covers all of Boston and beyond: the Irish gangs of Charlestown, Somerville and Roxbury; the North End and Providence Mafia organizations; and Barboza's East Boston operation.

Writing has always been a passion for Songini, and he got his professional start at The Sun Chronicle.

"I cut my teeth there when I was 26," he said.

Songini worked as a correspondent for about four years before leaving to pursue journalism in Boston. "Boston Mob" is now his fifth book, his third discussing New England history.

He said he enjoys the challenges nonfiction writing brings, with its constant need for accuracy and fact-checking.

Songini's interest in the Boston mob came in part from his family and upbringing.

"My father grew up in the South End (of Boston) at a time when it was at its most dangerous," he said.

When Songini was born, his family resided in Dorchester, and he recalls his father telling stories about the gangsters and crime in his neighborhood. Eventually, the family moved to Walpole, where Songini spent most of his childhood.

Songini said the men profiled in "Boston Mob" were working class and found their way into crime as a way to provide for their families.

Gangsters and criminals often seem to be glorified in popular culture, but Songini said he avoids doing that in his book. It contains the facts as well as the profanity and gruesome violence that go with the subject matter.

Essentially, "this book describes six years of a nightmare," Songini said. "These guys were so very over-the-top eccentric, so 'Wild West' that it is hard to believe people were doing this only 30 or 40 years ago."

Marc Songini will be at the MMAS Black Box Theatre, 377 North Main St., Mansfield, at 7 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 26, to kick off the "An Evening with an Author" series. He will read from his "Boston Mob" and discuss his writing and researching process. Admission is $10. Tickets can be purchase by calling 508-339-2822 or visiting mmas.org.

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