Legends of Winter Hill by Jay Atkinson
Cops, Con Men, and Joe McCain, the Last Real Detective

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“At McCain Investigations, I’d be sent looking for people who didn’t want to be found, following guys who didn’t want to be followed, and entering neighborhoods where I was not at all welcome. There would be no commercials, no time-outs, no ‘do-overs’ if somebody got shot or stabbed or run over. These guys were playing for keeps.”

Seasoned journalist and adventurer Jay Atkinson spent a year working as a rookie private eye for the storied firm McCain Investigations, founded by the late Joe McCain, Sr., one of the most decorated police officers in Boston history. In his colorful narrative style, Atkinson describes some of the cases he worked as a detective, chasing down an assortment of felons, thieves, and con artists, as well as the ghost of a real-life American hero, legendary cop Joe McCain.

Atkinson traces McCain’s story from the day he put on his Boston Metropolitan Police uniform in the 1950s through the heyday of his run-ins with mafiosi, bad cops, and ruthless killers. Big Joe was the genuine article, a detective so committed to his work that a gunshot wound suffered in the line of duty took thirteen years to kill him. McCain pursued such infamous Winter Hill mobsters as Stephen “the Rifleman” Flemmi and the murderous James “Whitey” Bulger, who remains on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list. Here Atkinson reveals new details—based on his exclusive interviews and an abundance of his own shoe leather—about how Bulger, one of America’s most notorious fugitives, came within inches of being apprehended during Joe McCain’s reign.

Atkinson also tracks the career of Joe McCain’s son, Joe Jr., a tattooed, hard-riding motorcycle fanatic who followed his old man onto the force. Since big Joe’s death, young Joe has learned the hard way that a father’s mythic persona can be both a blessing and a curse, as a fellow cop with a grudge against Joe Sr. may be out to ruin young Joe’s career. Atkinson delves into this dark and dangerous aspect of “the job,” where it’s uncertain which side some cops are on.

Legends of Winter Hill takes you into an alluring and gritty world where heroes go unsung every day, and moral boundaries aren’t always black and white.

From the Hardcover edition.

About Jay Atkinson

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A former two-sport college athlete, Jay Atkinson is the author of seven books, including the bestsellers Legends of Winter Hill and Ice Time, as well as the classic rugby novel, Caveman Politics. He teaches writing at Boston University.
Published March 15, 2005 by Crown. 384 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Political & Social Sciences, Professional & Technical, Law & Philosophy. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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When the author joined McCain Investigations, it was headed by the also smart and tough son, Joe Jr., some 13 years later, after complications from the bullet wound (and possibly the diabetes) had finally proved fatal to the father.

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Publishers Weekly

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Bestselling author Atkinson (Ice Time ) has produced an unhappy blend of hagiography and true-crime reporting as he presents the story of Joe McCain, a classic old school Boston detective, as well as Atkinson's own experiences tagging along as a private eye with the firm McCain founded.

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