The Bubbie and the Mobster (Day 222)

(photo credit: Crime Scene Tape by Brandon Anderson on

When you meet Phyllis Karas — journalist, college professor, doctor’s wife, and nice Jewish grandmother –the last thing you would imagine is that she hangs out with mobsters. Yet . . . over the last six or so years, she has become the sidekick to Kevin Weeks, convicted murderer and close confidant to the infamous mobster (and subject of the new Johnny Depp movie, Black Mass), Whitey Bulger.

I met Phyllis Karas in the 1990s at my mother-in-law’s book club, not long after she published her book about Jackie Kennedy’s marriage to Aristotle Onasses. It was my privilege to meet Karas again and get to know her better a couple of years ago when she began attending my writer’s group’s meetings.

Last week, she published a fascinating blog post explaining her foray into the world of organized crime and her ongoing relationship with Kevin Weeks, a man whose resume includes committing five murders as an integral part of Whitey Bulger’s mob. (read that story here.)

Whether or not you decide to link to Karas’ blog post, you definitely should check out her New York Times best-selling book about Kevin Weeks’ life, Brutal: The Untold Story of My Life Inside Whitey Bulger’s Irish Mob,  published six years ago, and her new book, Hunted Down: The FBI’s Pursuit and Capture of Whitey Bulger, a fictional account of Whitey Bulger’s 16 years on the run, eventual capture, trial and sentencing.

I love that this little Jewish grandmother (and I say little not as a derogatory but because she is petite) knows more than most people about money laundering, bookmaking, loan sharking, leg breakers, and extortion. And I love that she has such a passion for telling tales of organized crime.

The life of a writer can go in so many directions.




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