If you have any interest in organized crime, Southie, or Whitey Bulger this book is an absolute must read. This genre aside, this book is one of the most enthralling books I’ve ever read. Eddie McKenzie’s story is brutal, remarkable, and amazingly honest. While “Eddie Mac” will never be able to erase his past, this book is an achievement in and of itself – one which should give McKenzie something to be proud of. You definitely get the feeling that that’s what the publication of this book and the honesty within its pages was all about.
Eddie McKenzie was raised in a series of foster homes, where he was separated from his siblings and frequently beaten. Sodomized by the age of 9, Eddie Mac ran away from foster care and raised himself on the streets of Southie from age 13 on – often sleeping outside. Eddie would go on to get himself into some trouble at a young age, and was forced to enroll in the Marines to avoid serious jail time. His Marine recruiter, who was in many ways his savior and friend, would rape him the night before he was about to head off to camp – another secret he couldn’t reveal without landing himself in jail.
McKenzie eventually found his way back to Southie, where he focused his energies on becoming a brutal fighter. A New England boxing champion, McKenzie would also go on to teach himself judo and kung fu. Despite being only 5’10, he became nearly untouchable in any fight. It wasn’t long before Whitey Bulger came calling, and Eddie Mac became one of his true disciples – an enforcer fiercely loyal to his boss who wreaked havoc on Whitey’s victims with nothing but pleasure. After knocking his victims out, he would often break all of their ribs as well as a leg or two – sometimes he’d even bite off a victims ears or fingers. This would eventually parlay itself into a serious stint as a drug dealer, which afforded Eddie Mac a lifestyle few could ever imagine.
Bulger would eventually rat on Eddie Mac, as well as the rest of the “Southie 51,” in order to save his own ass. With a stable of little kids at home, Eddie Mac was forced to make his own deal with the FBI. Yes, he is a rat – a distinction that he struggles with to this day. But as opposed to the rest of the guys Bulger brought down, Eddie Mac cut his deal with the FBI without providing any information whatsoever on Bulger or any of his boys from Southie – he’s one of few who maintained his code of silence. Instead, he started dealing with the Medellin drug cartel and helped the FBI seize 318 kilos of coke – valued at an estimated $25 to $40 million dollars. To date, it’s still one of the biggest drugs busts in US history, and it bought Eddie Mac his freedom.
Realizing the break that he caught, Eddie’s life soon became focused on his daughters and turning his life “legitimate” – something he admits that he still struggles with to this day. Despite McKenzie’s current age and the fact that he successfully put himself through college, he admits that he still occasionally accepts “collection” jobs, unable to turn down the fast and easy money. As he puts it, “..we all would love the chance to live life without any restrictions, without any fear of consequences. You want that car? Take it. You like that liquor store? You now own it. That guy down the street, the loudmouth with the hot wife and big paycheck? He gets a beating the first time, and if that doesn’t quiet him down, he gets whacked.”
Following his deal with the FBI, Eddie Mac turned down a spot in the witness protection program, despite the fact that the FBI and all of his neighborhood friends warned him that “the Colombians never forget.” As Eddie writes, “Sure, someday they may find be wearing a Colombian necktie (a common technique where your neck is cut and your tongue is pulled out through your neck). Until then, I’m going to live my life to the fullest and take care of my children.”
McKenzie’s life is truly fascinating – few have been through all that he has endured. But despite his crudeness, his absolute brutality, and the fact that he was what my friends would refer to as “a grade-A sicko,” you find yourself rooting for him. He was an underdog from the get-go, and got himself in deeper than one could ever imagine. But he’s also bounced back remarkably, putting his children and his education first while taking responsibility for a past that will never go away. Eddie sums up his journey with, “As for my future? I hope that when Kayla and Devin (two of his daughters) are grown, they can understand the truth about their daddy. That he was a bad man, but he wasn’t the worst man; and he even managed to improve himself and do some good.”
In many ways this is the ultimate redemption story, told by a truly tortured soul. But for me it was the most in-depth look I’ve ever had at the Southie of the 70′s, 80′s, and even 90′s that I never knew myself. Don’t get me wrong – I hate Southie today. It’s isolated from the rest of Boston, and there’s a constant clash between the “locals” and the “yuppies” who have started buying up condos there. The beach is gross, and everyone thinks they’re a tough guy. The last time I drove through Southie I had 3 different groups of guys approach my car and give me a hard time. Put it this way, I drive a Mazda and am not one to roll around Southie in my favorite pastel colored polo. This new generation of Southie “tough guys” seemingly think they can get by on their neighborhood’s reputation alone. I suggest they read Eddie Mac’s book.