Lehr, Dick 1944(?)–

views updated

LEHR, Dick 1944(?)–

PERSONAL: Born c. 1944. Education: Harvard College, B.A., 1976; University of Connecticut School of Law, J.D., 1984.

ADDRESSES: Home—MA. Office—c/o Boston Globe, 135 William T. Morrissey Blvd., Boston, MA 02125.

CAREER: Journalist for Old Lyme Gazette, Lyme, CT, 1977–79, and Hartford Courant, Hartford, CT, 1979–83; Boston Globe, Boston, MA, general assignment, legal affairs, Spotlight Team reporter, and feature writer, 1985–.

AWARDS, HONORS: Associated Press (AP) Sports Editors award for best news story, 1989; AP Sevellan Brown Award, 1989, 1990, 1996, 1997; Scripps Howard Public Service Award, 1991; John S. Knight journalism fellowship, at Stanford University, 1991–92; Loeb Award, 1992; Hancock Award, 1992; Pulitzer Prize for nomination for investigative reporting, 1997; AP Managing Editors Public Service Award, 1998; Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Fact Crime, Mystery Writers of America, 2001, for Black Mass: The Irish Mob, the FBI, and a Devil's Deal.

WRITINGS:

(With Gerard O'Neill) The Underboss: The Rise and Fall of a Mafia Family, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1989.

(With Gerard O'Neill) Black Mass: The Irish Mob, the FBI, and a Devil's Deal, Public Affairs (New York, NY), 2000.

(With Mitchell Zuckoff) Judgment Ridge: The True Story behind the Dartmouth Murders, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2003.

SIDELIGHTS: Writer and reporter Dick Lehr has served on the staff of several New England newspapers since graduating from the University of Connecticut School of Law, including the Hartford Courant and the Boston Globe. Over the course of his career, he has won several awards for journalism, including a John S. Knight journalism fellowship, the Scripps Howard Public Service Award, and the Associated Press's Managing Editors Public Service Award. In 1997, he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in investigative reporting. He has also coauthored a number of true crime books, combining his writing talents with his legal knowledge and a reporter's skill for digging up the facts and examining the motivations behind a given event.

Lehr's first book, The Underboss: The Rise and Fall of a Mafia Family, which he cowrote with Gerard O'Neill, examines the structure of the Mafia in Boston by focusing on the Angiulo family. Lehr and O'Neill then turn their attention to the Irish mob, partnering once again to write Black Mass: The Irish Mob, the FBI, and a Devil's Deal. Based on a news story they originally broke, the book traces the lives of South Boston FBI agent John J. Connolly, Jr., and James "Whitey" Bulger, also from South Boston and a hardened criminal, and examines how the two mens' lives ultimately intersected. It started with Connolly using Bulger as an informant, but led to his encouraging Bulger and Bulger's friend and co-informant Stephen Flemmi to provide information that would enable agents to bring down key players in the Italian mob—thereby eliminating Bulger's competition. Not only did Connolly proceed to disregard standard procedure for dealing with informants, but he involved his supervisor and other coworkers as well, ultimately leading to a conspiracy that included more that a dozen local FBI agents. While the FBI was able to decrease Italian mob activity in Boston, their methods allowed Bulger and Flemmi to increase their own businesses to fill part of the gap.

Washington Post Book World contributor Peter H. Stone remarked that "through diligent investigative reporting, Black Mass succeeds admirably in showing just how fragile FBI integrity can be when the good guys lose sight of truth, the rules, and the law." Alan M. Dershowitz wrote in the New York Times Book Review that the book "should prompt a re-evaluation of the uses and misuses of informers by law enforcement officials throughout the country." William Bratton, reviewing for the Boston Globe, commented: "The book is a great read—it reels you in and holds you. O'Neill and Lehr have the remarkable ability to put you in the room and on the street where the action takes place. The dialogue is vital, gutsy, down and dirty." Black Mass was awarded the Mystery Writers of America's Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Crime Fact book in 2001.

For Judgment Ridge: The True Story behind the Dartmouth Murders Lehr collaborated with Mitchell Zuckoff and traveled to small-town America in order to report the gruesome murders of two Dartmouth College professors who were stabbed to death in their homes by a pair of teenage boys. The murders occurred in early 2001, when Robert Tulloch and Jim Parker, residents of nearby Chelsea, Vermont, decided they wanted to move to Australia and that the way to earn the money for their trip was by stealing it. Later police uncovered the true motivation for the brutal murders as, not robbery, but curiosity: Robert wanted to know what it would be like to kill someone. Booklist critic Vanessa Bush called the book "a chilling and revealing look at a crime that fueled concerns about adolescents and violence." A contributor to Publishers Weekly found the work "meandering yet irresistibly absorbing," noting that Lehr and Zuckoff "appear to have been reluctant to omit any mundane detail or passing commentary, [thus] bogging down their energetic narrative." Douglas McCollam, reviewing for the Washington Post Book World, commented that the authors "convincingly explore those particular strands of teenage DNA that sometimes mutate into murder: the extreme self-possession, the feelings of invulnerability and the desire to defy authority. Judgment Ridge is a scary and depressing examination of what can happen when that mutation goes unchecked."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Atlantic Monthly, August, 2000, Phoebe-Lou Adams, review of Black Mass: The Irish Mob, the FBI, and a Devil's Deal, p. 98.

Book, September, 2000, Rob Stout, review of Black Mass, p. 82.

Booklist, June 1, 2000, Mary Carroll, review of Black Mass, p. 1814; November 15, 2001, Ted Hipple, review of Black Mass, p. 591; September 15, 2003, Vanessa Bush, review of Judgment Ridge: The True Stories behind the Dartmouth Murders, p. 188.

Boston Globe, June 7, 2000, David Nyhan, "Read All about It: The Vicious Record of Whitey Bulger and His Protectors," p. A19; August 13, 2000, William Bratton, review of Black Mass, p. D1.

Denver Post, November 16, 2003, Robin Vidimos, "Double Murder Probe Comes down to Why," p. F13.

Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 2003, review of Judgment Ridge, p. 953.

Library Journal, June 1, 2000, Charlie Cowling, review of Black Mass, p. 162; August, 2003, Deirdre Bray Root, review of Judgment Ridge, p. 106.

New York Times Book Review, July 16, 2000, Alan M. Dershowitz, "Stoolies," review of Black Mass, p. 16; November 2, 2003, Andrea Higbie, review of Judgment Ridge, p. 28.

Publishers Weekly, May 22, 2000, review of Black Mass, p. 86; July 21, 2003, review of Judgment Ridge, pp. 186-187.

Reason, January, 2004, Jesse Walker, "The Blurry Blue Line" review of Black Mass, p. 14.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 4, 2000, Harry Levins, "Boston Scandal Inspires Both Novel and True Story," p. F10.

Telegram and Gazette (Worcester, MA), June 20, 2000, Lee Hammel, "Authors Doubt FBI Aimed Leaks at Mob," p. A2; October 10, 2003, Pamela H. Sacks, "Duo Didn't Rush to 'Judgment': 'Dartmouth Murders' Authors Patiently Pursued Teens' Motives in Zantop Slayings," p. C1.

Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), December 24, 2000, David Wise, review of Black Mass, p. 1.

Washington Post Book World, July 16, 2000, Peter H. Stone, "Crime Tsars" review of Black Mass, p. X9; September 14, 2003, Douglas McCollam, "The Death Penalty on Trial, a Down-Home Defense and Teens Who Kill," p. T6.

ONLINE

BookBrowse.com, http//www.bookbrowse.com/ (February 9, 2005), "Dick Lehr."

HarperCollins Web site, http://www.harpercollins.com/ (February 9, 2005), "Dick Lehr."

About this article

Lehr, Dick 1944(?)–

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article Share Article