Black Mass is the latest cinematic treat to be released, starring the genius actor that is Johnny Depp. The film is widely anticipated and is expected to receive plaudits from movie critics around the globe. The name James “Whitey” Bulger will again be well-known as the story reveals the monstrous character of one of America's most notorious gangsters. A name that you may not be so familiar with is Howie Carr. He was the one person who was determined to stand up to a man with such a fearsome reputation so even FBI agents deemed him untouchable.
Carr is renowned for his unrelenting, tenacious reporting on Whitey Bulger’s criminal empire. Bulger is not a man who would like his private affairs poked into so it is no surprise that Carr began to be the target of multiple assassination attempts over the years. Hired hit men, plastic explosives and drive-by shootings were just a few of the failed attempts on this man’s life.
Howie has spent most of his long journalistic career covering Whitey and his brother Billy, even writing a New York Times bestselling novel “The Brothers Bulger.” With the highly anticipated release of the already critically acclaimed film Black Mass, Howie is finding that he is again in the spotlight with people desperate to know if Johnny Depp’s portrayal is as accurate as people say.
“I couldn’t believe how well they captured Whitey. They got it right, the menace, the intimidation,” he says. “Whitey’s job in the gang was intimidation, and from what I’ve seen, Depp has captured that perfectly.”
Howies persistence in pursing top figures in the criminal underworld meant that a very hostile relationship with the Bulger Brothers was ongoing until Whitey’s eventual murder trial in 2011.
“His greatest regret is not killing me,” says Carr. “He hates me; I’m one of the guys he blames for his downfall.”
These claims could be put down to bravado or a plan to jump on the bandwagon of this hotly anticipated Hollywood Blockbuster. Astonishingly however, Howies stories have proven to be true. A confidant of Whitey's called Mark Gallagher was interviewed by an American news network. He spent a lot of time with the man himself in 2014 and was asked if there were still any people Whitey would like to settle a score with.
“I asked him, I said if there’s one person on this planet that you could kill right now who would… before I even finished the sentence, he said, ‘Howie Carr, I’d kill that bastard in a heartbeat.”
The main reason for this deep rooted hatred is mainly attributed to the fact that Carr also went after Whitey's brother, the less notorious Billy Bulger.
Unlike his fearsome sibling, Billy had never been directly linked to any crimes. He is now a retired American Democratic Politian and lawyer who served within congress for 18 years. Carr believes him to be corrupt with as many criminal tendencies as his brother.
“One of them robs you with a gun; the other robs you in the senate.”
Strong rhetoric however it seems to hold a lot of truth. Billy’s political career came to an end when he was forced to stand down after refusing to testify in a congressional hearing about the communications he was having with his brother, who was at the time a wanted fugitive on the run.
The upcoming film shows the brothers relationship and our very own actor, Benedict Cumberbatch looks to be portraying Billy accurately. Carr still likes to ensure he gets an insult in though:
“I was amused by the fact Benedict is 6 feet tall. I loved going after his brother. I knew Billy as a corrupt midget, standing only 5’ 6’.”
It suddenly becomes clear as to why Whitey still carries a lot of anger towards Howie Carr.
At one point Whitey was second on the FBI’s most wanted list, only being trumped to the top spot by a certain Osama bin Laden for a number of years. He evaded capture from 1994 to 2011 before being caught and for all that time, Carr was living in fear of his own life and those of his family.
“I was always looking over my shoulder. The day he went missing, I heard about it whilst driving down the street. I went cold when it came over on the radio that he had disappeared. Now, for the first time in over a decade, I don’t have to sleep with one eye open.”
Howie Carr can sleep well at night. After being convicted of several murders, Whitey Bulger will not be released. All that is left for this intrepid reporter to do is get his cinema ticket and watch a story that he was so heavily involved in unfold on the silver screen.