The film “Black Mass” featuring Johnny Depp as the notorious Boston criminal James “Whitey” Bulger, took us inside the old Boston underworld and the power struggle between the Irish and Italian organized crime organizations that turned the city into a battle zone. Bulger’s story, due in part to documentaries, media coverage and books, is well-known. But what isn’t widely known, is the story of the Winter Hill gang’s most efficient and feared killer, Johnny Martorano. In the film, Martorano is played by actor W. Earl Brown. Howie Carr presents us with this chilling account of Martorano’s early life, his descent into the crime world, affiliation with Bulger, arrest and decision to become a testifying witness against the Winter Hill gang and numerous individuals targeted in law enforcement investigations. And what he reveals is a gritty underworld full of corruption, drugs, sex, money and murder. All of the infamous Boston gangsters make an appearance including, Donald Killeen, Indian Al, Wimpy Bennett, Gennaro “Jerry” Angiulo and Tommy King.
Martorano’s life reads like a story straight out of “GoodFellas” or “The Departed” except that this isn’t fiction. This is the city of Boston, in the 1960s and 1970s and the mayhem that ensued. The murders are brutal, the crime heinous and nothing is spared in the book bringing home the reality of the streets of Boston during those times. At some points in the book you may feel as if you’re sitting next to Martorano and the crew at Basin Street South or Chandler’s as they plot their next crime. As a father of several children by different women, husband, hitman, loan shark and enforcer, Martorano is a man of many faces able to change from one to the other when necessary and in an instant. At the time of the publication of this book, Bulger was still at large. Since then, he has been captured and is currently incarcerated and will spend the rest of his life in prison. Martorano served 12 years in prison, was released and currently resides in Milford, MA. His days with the Winter Hill gang are long gone but his reputation and past actions continue to live on as Bulger and the gang continue to be examined in books, films and documentaries.