“STATE YOUR NAME” exclusive Interview with:
A candid conversation with New England’s favorite talk show host and celebrity writer, about his new book, Killers, and the work, toil, and fun of crafting novels from criminals and politicians – yet we repeat ourselves
by Lawrence ‘Lonnie’ Brennan and Howard Lawrence Carr
Nancy ‘”Sandy” Shack and “VB” Goudie were busy juggling the topics and callers on the Howie Carr Radio Show as Howie stepped back into the broadcast room and rejoined a portion of his broadcast family, having just returned from a taping down the street for the Sean Hannity FOX TV show which would broadcast later that evening.
Howie is well known and respected for his razor-sharp intellect, his affable rapport with callers (both friend and foe), his perfectly timed one-liners (delivered with a smile), and his many broadcasts as well as columns printed in the Herald. His syndicated four-hour radio program can be heard throughout New England.
A New York Times multi-time best-seller, Howie is the author of seven books (thus far), with lucky seven called Killers.
Wrapping up another show, the Carr broadcast “family” gathered for some photos and Howie sat down with our publisher to discuss his new book which is flying off Amazon and is available nearly everywhere:
BRENNAN: Please state your name
CARR: Right. Howie Carr
BRENNAN: And you understand this conversation is being recorded?
CARR: Yes, I do.
BRENNAN: And that we have your permission?
CARR: Yes. This is a two party state as Jack Reilly has assured me so many times.
BRENNAN: Exactly. You got it, from your lead character [Jack Reilly] from your first novel, Hard Knocks.
BRENNAN: What got you to write novels?
CARR: Well, I always wanted to write novels, you know. I used to read novels – well I still read novels – but I used to read them when I was younger and I always liked detective novels. I was a big Raymond Chandler fan, and I always wanted to do books like that. I really wanted to be able to drop one liners in, and amalgamate characters – you know, blend them together and not have to be accused of taking liberty with the facts. And so, in this new book, Killers, I reworked a lot of the great mob stories and mob testimonies that I’ve seen.
People who have followed me, followed my non-fiction books, and followed my columns, I figure there’s certain things that they’re going to recognize. You know, statements that people make, like for instance, the mafia guy picking up the phone one day and going ‘nooooooo, he can’t be dead, he owes me 13 thousand dollars. I mean, that’s a real line. That’s from Jerry Angiulo at the Doghouse [the boss Gennaro “Jerry” Angiulo’s headquarters at 98 Prince Street, Boston]. And there’s a lot of lines like that. I’ve been able to take them, and put them all together in these characters, and I think it’s a very entertaining book, and you’re going to learn a lot about the mechanics of how these rackets work or did work.
You know, I set it in the present, but the reality is it’s more like something that happened in the past.
Howie Carr in-studio just prior to interview
BRENNAN: Is it like your book Hard Knocks?
CARR: Well, what happened is, with Hard Knocks, it was fairly successful for a first novel, and it went through two printings in hardcover. And so they wanted me to write another book. Jack Reilly was the hero, the private eye, the ‘corrupt’ ex-Boston Cop, and I said I’ll do another Jack Reilly book. And the editor in New York, his name is Bob Gleason, he works for Forge Books, which is a division of McMillan, he said, you know a lot of these guys, these gangsters. You know you wrote the book Hitman, a book about Johnny Martorano, and you know some of his friends, and well, you know, they DID try to kill you. So, maybe, could you put a hitman in there.
So I thought about it for a little while, and what I ended up with was a guy named Bench McCarthy, pronounced the old Irish way: Car-tee, not Car-thee. You know, like Donovan. You know dUN-A-van is the old Irish way, not don-o-van. So Bench McCarthy, he’s from Somerville. He dumps on Whitey Bulger on page 2 [chuckles]. And he’s in a post-Whitey era, you know. There isn’t much of a mob [left] but I’ve set him [in a world with an active mob] – again, it’s fiction.
So I have many chapters of Bench McCarthy, the hitman, and Jack Reilly. They start out separately, and they end up working on the same thing, which is stopping the fact that there are some people – some parties – that are trying to kill Bench and his mafia partner or boss, and it’s going to screw up Jack Reilly and his clients at the State House at the same time. So it’s kind of convoluted. But again, I don’t worry that much about the plot, I mean, Raymond Chandler never worried about the plot. I’m not comparing myself to Raymond Chandler…
You know the famous story of Raymond Chandler? One of his books, he sold it to Hollywood, and one day he got a call from one of the screenwriters who was writing the script for the movie, and he said ‘I’m lost here, I don’t know what happened, can you tell me what the plot twist is here,’ and Raymond Chandler said, ‘I have no idea.’
I think the plot [of Killers] holds together, but it doesn’t matter – I just want people to be amused by it. It’s entertainment; that’s what a novel is supposed to be.
Making the Radio Show Happen:
Doug ‘VB’ Goudie, Nancy ‘Sandy’ Shack, Howie Carr, Steve Robinson, and Grace Curley
PHOTO: Lonnie Brennan, Boston Broadside
BRENNAN: In Hard Knocks, you write about more than just the politicians and the criminals, and yet I repeat myself, you also bring us all around Boston to a number of different venues, the view from the mayor’s office and such… Is Killers a sequel?
CARR: It’s a semi-sequel. Again, it’s all around Boston and it’s a convoluted plot, but there’re new characters in it. Jack Reilly still has half the chapters, but I would say the leading protagonist is Bench McCarthy. And he’s not a terribly violent guy. I mean, he puts people in the trunks of cars, drives them around, and just scares the bleep out of them. Or, he tries to kill people, or, on one occasion, he borrows some money from a loan shark – and then a guy comes out – looking for his girlfriend, you know, he comes out of prison. So Bench McCarthy tells him, well, you didn’t know it, but your girlfriend has taken up with this loan shark. So the guy naturally shoots the loan shark and Bench McCarthy gets to keep the money.
Well that story is based on reality: Wimpy Bennett, who was murdered by Stevie Flemmi in 1967.
Wimpy Bennet actually did that to a guy named Ned C.
He told the guy, who got out of jail, named Spike O’Toole, he said, well your girlfriend took up with Ned C., and Spike O’Toole went and killed the guy. And so, I mean, nobody knows that story, or very few people. I mean maybe I put it in one book, but most people don’t know it, so I figured, there’s all this information out there, and it seemed like it could be worked into a novel.
Books by Howie Carr
BRENNAN: Seven books- Where did you find the enthusiasm and the strength to put this all together with the show with the columns… what helps to motivate you to do this?
CARR: You know, when you do a radio show, it’s fun while you’re doing it, and you can make a good living at it, but it’s kinda gone into the ionosphere. How many people remember Jerry Williams’ shows now [WRKO talk-show legend]? I mean, we may remember it, but there’s no real record of it. It’s the same thing with my columns. But I always figured that in a way, a book is some small tiny measure of immortality.
You know, I mean, no one is going to be listening to my radio show or reading my columns when I’m long gone. There’s a chance that someone’s going to pick up The Brothers Bulger and say, you know, that guy Howie Carr who wrote that book, he was a smart guy. You know, he did a really good job: that’s a nice turn of a phrase in Hitman. Or, I like the way he put the pictures together and the exhibits in Ratman, or recycled all these old mafia and corrupt pols stories in Killers. So I appreciate it that way. It’s kind of lasting, well as lasting as any legacy can be.
BRENNAN: Is it hard to do, or is this fun like the radio show?
CARR: It takes work to put everything together. You have to go about a lot of things, like take the pictures in Plug Uglies. It took a lot of time to put all the pictures together and it took me some work to put things together and it was like a transaction almost (getting the pictures)…I could do a Plug Uglies 2 now, I have so much…
You know, I have – well, it’s become a famous picture now – the first picture of Whitey Bulger when he’s like 12, when he’s a kid, and he’s got the blonde hair. I was at a book signing down on the South Shore and a woman came up to me and said I got a nice picture of Whitey and it was left to me by somebody, and I said, I’ll trade you a copy of Hitman for that picture…
BRENNAN: And the start of working with publishers? You were self-publishing at first?
CARR: I got that started with Rifleman. I’ve got all these pictures and this report and his confession that nobody else has, and I figured, why not? …
And then I did Ratman. The trial ended in August, and I had the book out by November, because there was no B.S. about it…
BRENNAN: Killers. Where can folks get it? Why would someone buy it?
CARR: It’s a great book. Go to Amazon. Read the excerpts, or just go pick it up and check it out at your local book store.
I’ll be all over the place. I’ll be at Market Baskets everywhere throughout the region. It’s a great Christmas present for anybody who’s a fan of the show or a fan of my column. Just give it a chance.
If you don’t do any reading of novels anymore, try to get back in the habit. This is the place to start: with Killers.
Nancy ‘Sandy’ Shack running the in-studio board while Howie and V.B Banter with callers…
Check out The Howie Carr Book Tour http://howiecarrshow.com/book-tour/