|By Rick Winterson
This is the second review of the four books recently written about criminals and the crime scene in South Boston. It takes a look at “BRUTAL”, by Kevin Weeks.
The book, “BRUTAL” (283 pp.), was written by self-confessed local criminal Kevin Weeks, along with Phyllis Karas, who is an author and an adjunct professor at Boston University. It was published by HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., of New York; the copyright (2006) lists Kevin Weeks and Phyllis Karas.
The title “BRUTAL” is well-chosen. Something over half the book is devoted to intimidation, beatings, and murder. The chapters in the middle of “BRUTAL”, which extend for almost 150 pages, carry titles like “Three Murders”, “Ten More Murders”, and “Loan Sharking, Extortion, and Murder”. The descriptions of the unremitting violence become increasingly graphic as the book proceeds.
The book tells the story of Kevin Weeks’ life, from his upbringing in Old Colony, through deepening involvement in local crime, to a relatively brief prison term. Despite a father who was abusive, Weeks’ two brothers and three sisters grew up straight, as did most of the Old Colony young people in the 1960s. Kevin Weeks didn’t.
There is a lesson or a throughline to the book, which begins early on. The story of Kevin Weeks is a classic tale of an otherwise intelligent young man, who allows himself to be led. He was a consummate follower, especially of Stephen Flemmi and James Bulger. Weeks was “never more than a phone call away” from them. He became complicit in Deborah Hussey’s murder, even though her killing violated his youthful principles about involving women in violence.
After the 20-year interlude with Bulger and Flemmi, Weeks discovers they had been FBI informants for 20 and 30 years, respectively, and were handled by Boston FBI agent John Connolly. He then turns informer himself, and goes to prison for five years.
“BRUTAL” certainly teaches a lesson about South Boston’s criminal life. Hang with the wrong people and they not only lead you astray, but they turn around and rat you out in the end, to save their own skins. And crime here isn’t anywhere near the same league as the New York “families” or the South American drug lords – it’s actually fairly small time. As a picture of profound moral decay, “BRUTAL” is worth reading.
Unfortunately, there are boring parts in “BRUTAL”. The relentless violence, even though sensational, begins to dull the senses after 50 pages or so. The “technical details” of the murders, such as extracting teeth to prevent identification of the corpse, don’t need to be described more than once. Hannah Arendt, a twentieth century political philosopher, said that evil is boring, because it’s the same thing over and over again. She had the right insight.
Two short chapters, “Stippo” and “The Media Lies”, are devoted to debunking various newspaper articles and columns written about Weeks, Flemmi, and Bulger. Herald columnist Howie Carr is the main target of these chapters, in more ways than one. Anyone who reads Boston newspapers already knows they aren’t models of accuracy, so “BRUTAL” should have used those chapters for something else.
Pam deserved more space in Weeks’ book. After the chapter on her marriage to Weeks, she scarcely gets another mention. She seems to be an interesting woman of high quality, whom Weeks deeply loved. Also, there’s a lack of resolution. Even at the end, Weeks praises James Bulger’s “brilliance”, and says, “I hope they never catch him.” Go figure!
Generally, the book is over-written – Weeks and co-author Karas use too many words. There are some typos – “Mullin” for “Mullen” and “real” for “really”, for example. Karas inserts a few classical references that obviously don’t belong in a book like “BRUTAL”.
VERDICT: Shocking in part, but too long and repetitious (C). Read “BRUTAL” only for its lesson: the ranks get ratted out, while the big guy skates.