Boston’s most-wanted book list

Getting a read on Whitey Bulger’s favorite literary escapes

By Alex Beam
Globe Columnist / April 30, 2010

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“I think they had some suspicion that he was in the area,’’ said Jim Munro, owner of one of Victoria’s largest bookstores, Munro’s Books. He said agents, who described Bulger as an avid reader, provided a wanted poster of the 80-year-old gangster and his girlfriend, 59-year-old Catherine Greig.

— The Boston Globe, April 21

THE SCENE: A fleabag hideaway somewhere in Central America. BULGER and his friend GREIG have just returned from their annual vacation at the luxury resort of Zlatni Pyasatsi (Golden Sands), in Bulgaria.

BULGER: (Gesturing toward a stack of accumulated mail) Did the Amazon order come?

GREIG: I’m checking . . . I don’t see anything. You waiting for something in particular?

B: The new Denise Mina. She’s great, certainly in Ian Rankin’s league. I love those Scottish writers. They’re like the Swedes — they get gloom.

G: Probably reminds you of Boston in the spring.

B: Don’t. It’s too painful. Castle Island . . . the onion rings at Sullivan’s.

G: Is your Kindle working?

B: Not down here, obviously.

G: I told you to get the DX, with global downloading.

B: God, you’re such a nerd! I got a few books during the layover in Miami. The new Ben Macintyre, “Operation Mincemeat,’’ looks promising. He’s good on limey spies. Loaded up on Antony Beevor, of course. “Stalingrad,’’ “D-Day.’’ I’ve read ’em all twice by now.

G: Aren’t you worried that they can ID you from those downloads? That’s a two-way connection — Jeff Bezos has his nose in everybody’s business.

B: Nah. I’ve got a foolproof alias and password.

G: Really?

B: Yeah., password billysmybro, all lower case.

G: Clever.

B: Hey, something must be working. They think we’re still in Canada.

G: Gosh, I miss the Northwest. There must be more bookstores between Seattle and Vancouver than anywhere else in the world. Well, except for Cambridge.

B: Don’t. It’s too painful. The Grolier Bookshop . . . I once heard Seamus Heaney read there.

G: Really? Was he good?

B: (Smiling, sadly) “Now limbo will be/A cold glitter of souls/Through some far briny zone.’’ He’s no Yeats, but he gets the job done.

G: Remember Powell’s, in Portland? When we snuck into the Justin Cartwright reading?

B: Don’t. It’s too painful. “In Every Face I Meet’’; best novel ever written.

G: Better than “Tourist Season’’?

B: No fair bringing in early Carl Hiaasen! You know Powell’s has fantastic Internet sales, almost as good as Amazon. I still have an account there.

G: Don’t tell me. You have an impenetrable alias.

B: That’s right! Username ThatsVeryWhiteyofYou, password howiemustdie, all lower case.

G: Brilliant. Seattle, Portland, Vancouver. That was the vacation of a lifetime. Canada’s bookstore heaven, with those chains — Chapters, Indigo. They aren’t warehouses, like Barnes & Noble. Those are real bookstores. Too bad their people can’t write.

B: Are you nuts!? Timothy Findley? Rohinton Mistry? Margaret Atwood? Robertson Davies? Hello? Alice Munro? The best writer in the English language?

G: OK, get a grip. I stand corrected. Still, it’s hard not to notice that all their bestsellers are crap from the US.

B: That’s cultural imperialism. There’s nothing they can do about that.

G: (Turning on her desktop computer.) Have you seen LibraryThing, on Facebook? It’s pretty neat, you can read other people’s reviews of books you haven’t read.

B: I don’t like Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg has his nose in everybody’s business.

G: (Laughing) What? You’ve got something to hide?

B: What are your pals recommending?

G: The new Howard Frank Mosher, “Walking to Gatlinburg.’’

B: Vermont fiction? It’s like waiting for the syrup to run.

G: Frannie says this one is different: “Like ‘The Odyssey,’ only readable.’’ That’s her review.

B: I wasn’t aware that Homer has readability problems. Any others?

G: Here’s a nice review of “James Michael Curley,’’ by William Bulger. (Smiling) Any relation?

B: Don’t. It’s too painful. You’re not posting any of our pictures on Facebook, are you?

G: None that haven’t appeared in post offices . . . Just kidding! No, I’ve got an assumed name, fake pictures, and a logon they’ll never be able to trace to me.

B: Really? What is it?

G: JimmysMoll, password onthelam, all lower case.

B: You’re right. They’ll never catch us.

Alex Beam is a Globe columnist. His e-dress is