Review for Boston Mob: The Rise and Fall of the New England Mob and Its Most Notorious Killer-Marc Songini

The underworld in New England existed in a fractured environment. Raymond Patriarca lorded over his illegitimate enterprises from a perch in Rhode Island, his scheming underling Gennaro “Jerry” Angiulo ran his money making ventures out of Boston. Their tenuous allies coexisted in Charlestown, Somerville or South Boston. The New England Mob profited from partnerships with Irish Mobsters like James “Buddy” McLean, the McLaughlin Brothers, Italians Steve and Vincent Flemmi and Portuguese Joe Barboza. The mob had weathered through ambitious prosecutors and incorruptible lawmen seeking a notch on their belts in rounding up the gangsters in one arrest or another. The troublesome law enforcement types were merely an inconvenience to the overall profitability of their operations. The real trouble emerged in 1961, when a drunken moment involving one of the McLaughlin men and the girlfriend of another gangster precipitated a murderous gang war lasting six years and leaving scores dead.

Joe “The Animal” Barboza’s true allegiance was to himself. Loyalty didn’t pay the rent. He could turn on a friend, quicker than the cocking of a trigger. Barboza performed the role of executioner for Raymond Patriarca’s family, but Barboza’s wildcard nature along with his not being Italian meant he would never attain the status of a made man. Barboza ran with other sociopaths such as the Flemmi brothers. They cut a swath through Boston and its suburbs, bodies strewn about. Barboza’s allegiance in the destructive gang war was shaky at best, yet he leaned to Buddy McLean and his Winter Hill mob. Patriarca and his crew were intent on staying inert on the sidelines, waiting for a clear winner to emerge. However, as time went on, the violence generated outrage in its brazen nature. Headlines and law enforcement scrutiny was the last thing La Cosa Nostra desired. The war would end with McLean and two of the McLaughlins in the ground. The reputations of the Flemmis would be cemented along with other survivors who had been wily enough to avoid getting a bullet or arrested.

Barboza would have a falling out with Patriarca and Angiulo. He would become an FBI informant in mid 1967. He had felt betrayed in business and other ways by Patriarca and his crime family. Barboza’s testimony verged to the schizophrenic, as the truth was somewhere in the ether of anything he uttered. The FBI, served to enable Barboza’s perjury with the corrupt actions of agents Paul Rico and Dennis Condon. The FBI sought to protect their double dealing informants such as Barboza and Vincent Flemmi. This was illustrated in the murder of Edward “Teddy” Deegan. The suspects arrested, tried and convicted in the brutal gangland killing were innocent (or 90% of them) were. But Barboza’s testimony would convict them. Barboza would prove to be problematic for the FBI and its new Witness Protection Program, as Barboza clung to the life of a criminal.

As Barboza spiraled out of control, the New England mob grasped onto its very existence. Patriarca dealt with the looming prospect of a long jail sentence from his former hitman’s damning testimony, meanwhile his underlings pondered Raymond’s disappearance from the scene altogether. The survival of the mob revolved around Barboza’s demise. Barboza would ultimately play right into their hands in the end.

Marc Songini’s history of the Boston Underworld is comprehensive and ambitious. The book would appear on the surface to be a rehash of the Whitey Bulger days, but not so. Bulger’s appearance is as a footnote. The deadly machinations of Organized Crime in New England are penned with depth and skill, the moves plotted in devious and deadly ways. The action can occasionally be muddled, but that fits well in with the nature of those hectic times. The reality of the psychotic violence and paranoia inhabiting the mob life has never been so stark. The duplicity and crimes engaged in by the FBI, function as an appetizer for the Whitey Bulger-Steve Flemmi-John Connolly days. A great true crime book.

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