By Beverly Ford and Stephanie Schorow, authors of The Boston Mob Guide: Hit Men, Hoodlums and Hideouts, contribute blogs to The Mob Museum.
Bad boys redeemed by the love of a good woman are the stuff of romance novels. Just check out Good Reads, a popular Web site for book recommendations. The site has a whole section on “Best Mafia/Mob Romance Books.” Tagline: “These are the baddest of the bad boys.”
Thus, with mingled fascination and revulsion, we read a recent front-page story in The Boston Globe by former colleague J.M. Lawrence which details love letters exchanged between convicted mobster James “Whitey” Bulger and long-time gal pal Catherine Greig. Seems Bulger, currently serving two life sentences, was convinced that prison officials would stop any effort to send a letter to Greig. The former dental hygienist willingly accompanied Bulger during his life on the lam; a time in which (by all accounts) the pair lived quietly in modest circumstances. Their honeymoon came to an end in June of 2011 when the pair was arrested in Santa Monica, California.
Bulger apparently wanted to write to Greig so his attorney, J.W. Carney, offered up his legal pad. With permission from Greig’s attorney, Carney then visited Bulger’s girlfriend in a Rhode Island federal detention center and showed her the pad. She sobbed and penned a response which elicited tears from Whitey when the lawyer dutifully carried her message back to the mobster.
The image of tough-guy Bulger getting all weepy over his long-time love has predictably garnered national attention. Likely, the families of his murder victims – including two women connected to his partner Steve “The Rifleman” Flemmi whose slayings he either watched or participated in – won’t find this too romantic.
Greig’s devotion to Whitey may be less of a bodice-busting passion and more of a sinister addiction. Consider this: During the height of his crime-boss days, Bulger carried on with both Greig AND a divorced mother of four, Teresa Stanley. When Bulger got a tip in 1994 he was about to be indicted on federal racketeering charges, he picked up Stanley and began his life as a fugitive. But Stanley missed her family, so in 1995, he dropped her off and picked up Greig. Yes, she stuck with him for 15 years, but now Greig is doing eight years for helping Whitey evade capture.
Romance novels usually have a happy ending. The saga of Whitey and Catherine does not.