Dick Lehr

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Dick Lehr
Born (1954-05-03) May 3, 1954 (age 65)
Connecticut, United States
OccupationAuthor, journalist, professor of journalism
ResidenceBelmont, Massachusetts
Alma materHarvard University
University of Connecticut
GenreNonfiction, crime, history
Notable awards

Dick Lehr (born May 3, 1954) is an American author, journalist and a professor of journalism at Boston University. He is known for co-authoring The New York Times bestseller and Edgar Award winner Black Mass: Whitey Bulger, the FBI and a Devil’s Deal, and its sequel, Whitey: The Life of America’s Most Notorious Mob Boss.

Life and career[edit]

Lehr grew up in Connecticut. He attended The Gunnery School, in Washington, Connecticut, and later attended Harvard University, graduating in 1976. While working for the Hartford Courant, Lehr received a law degree from the University of Connecticut in 1984.

Lehr was a John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships at Stanford in 1991-1992. From 1985 to 2003, he was a reporter at The Boston Globe,[1] where he was the Globe's legal affairs reporter, magazine and feature writer, and a longtime member of the Spotlight Team, an investigative reporting unit.[2] He was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in investigative reporting.[3] He was a Visiting Journalist-in-Residence at The Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University in 2007.[4]

Lehr left the Globe in 2003 and became a professor of journalism at Boston University College of Communication.[5]

Published works[edit]

In January 1989, he co-authored his first book, The Underboss: The Rise and Fall of a Mafia Family, with Gerard O’Neill published first by St. Martin’s Press and later editions by PublicAffairs.[6]

In May 2000, Black Mass was released, which he also co-authored with O’Neill. Pulling from their investigations on the Spotlight Team, Black Mass detailed the illicit relationship between Boston crime boss James "Whitey" Bulger and FBI special agent John Connolly.[7][8][9][10] The book became a New York Times bestseller[11] and won the 2001 Edgar Award for best fact crime. In 2015 the film adaptation of Black Mass premiered, with Johnny Depp playing the role of Whitey Bulger and Benedict Cumberbatch playing Whitey’s brother Bill Bulger. In the movie, Lehr makes a cameo as a patron in a restaurant.[12][13]

Since Black Mass, Lehr has authored many books. In September 2003 Judgment Ridge: The True Story Behind the Dartmouth Murder was published by HarperCollins, which he co-authored with fellow Globe reporter Mitchell Zuckoff.[14][15]

In June, 2009, Lehr published his first solo project, The Fence: A Police Cover-up Along Boston’s Racial Divide published by HarperCollins, a non-fiction narrative about the police beating of Michael Cox, an officer working in plainclothes who was mistaken for a fleeing murder suspect. It was the worst known case of police brutality in Boston history.[16][17] The Fence was an Edgar Award finalist for best non-fiction,[18] and Fox Searchlight Pictures is developing a motion picture based on the book, with Dennis Lehane and George Pelecanos co-writing the screenplay.[19]

In 2011, James “Whitey” Bulger was arrested in Santa Monica, California after successfully evading law enforcement for nearly two decades. After his capture, Lehr co-wrote with O’Neill the definitive biography of Bulger, Whitey: The Life of America’s Most Notorious Mob Boss, which was published by Crown in February 2013.[20][21][22]

In 2014, Lehr authored The Birth of a Movement: How Birth of a Nation Ignited the Battle for Civil Rights published by PublicAffairs. In the book, Lehr recaptures the firestorm that ensued after the 1915 release of The Birth of a Nation, zeroing in on the parallel narratives of two men entrenched in the controversy: an African-American journalist and agitator William Monroe Trotter and D.W. Griffith who created the film.[23] In February 2017, Lehr was featured in a PBS documentary titled The Birth of a Movement as part of its Independent Lens documentary series.[24]

In 2014, Lehr began penning his first young adult novel, Trell, inspired by a series of articles he wrote from the Globe about the questionable conviction for first-degree murder (later overturned) of a young drug dealer, Shawn Drumgold. The novel was published by Candlewick Press in September 2017. In it, a Boston teen named Trell teams up with a Globe reporter to try to uncover the evidence to show her father was wrongfully convicted for murder.[25][26] Feature film rights to Trell were acquired by Epiphany Story Lab prior to the novel’s release.



  1. ^ "1995 Beating by Boston Police Highlights Dangers for Black Undercover Officers". The Washington Post. 21 July 2009. Retrieved 16 September 2017.
  2. ^ Shea, Jack (16 December 2015). "'Spotlight' highlights the role of investigative journalism". The Martha's Vineyard Times. Retrieved 16 September 2017.
  3. ^ "Pulitzer Prize winners, finalists". The Boston Globe. 8 April 1997. Archived from the original on 8 November 2017. Retrieved 16 September 2017.
  4. ^ "Dick Lehr | Schuster Institute | Brandeis University". Brandeis University. Retrieved 1 October 2017.
  5. ^ "Richard Lehr". Boston University. Retrieved 16 September 2017.
  6. ^ "The Underboss Gerard O'Neill, Author, Dick Lehr, With St. Martin's Press". PublishersWeekly.com. Retrieved 16 September 2017.
  7. ^ Dershowitz, Alan M. "Two journalists explore the case of protected F.B.I. informers". The New York Times. Retrieved 16 September 2017.
  8. ^ "Nonfiction Book Review: Black Mass: The Irish Mob, the FBI, and a Devil's Deal by Dick Lehr, Author, Gerard O'Neill, Joint Author". PublishersWeekly.com. Retrieved 16 September 2017.
  9. ^ "BLACK MASS by Dick Lehr , Gerard ONeill". Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved 16 September 2017.
  10. ^ Schwartz, Drew. "Talking to the Journalist Who Literally Wrote the Book on Whitey Bulger". Vice. Retrieved 16 September 2017.
  11. ^ "Bestsellers". The New York Times. Retrieved 16 September 2017.
  12. ^ Palma, Kristi (16 September 2015). "How the 'Black Mass' authors watched their book come to life on screen". Boston.com. Retrieved 16 September 2017.
  13. ^ Hamedy, Saba (19 September 2015). "'Black Mass' co-authors share experiences with taking book to Hollywood". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 16 September 2017.
  14. ^ "JUDGMENT RIDGE by Dick Lehr , Mitchell Zuckoff". Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved 16 September 2017.
  15. ^ "Judgment Ridge". The New Yorker. 27 October 2003. Retrieved 16 September 2017.
  16. ^ Alix Spiegel. "Why Seeing (The Unexpected) Is Often Not Believing". NPR.org. Retrieved 16 September 2017.
  17. ^ Pennington, Bill (16 November 2013). "A Lesson in Perseverance for a Giants Running Back". The New York Times. Retrieved 16 September 2017.
  18. ^ "Nominees: The Edgar Awards". The Edgar. Retrieved 16 September 2017.
  19. ^ Shanahan, Mark. "Boston police coverup tale coming to a theater near you". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 16 September 2017.
  20. ^ Connolly, John. "Review: Whitey – The Life of America's Most Notorious Mob Boss, by Dick Lehr and Gerard O'Neill". The Irish Times. Retrieved 16 September 2017.
  21. ^ Davis, Paul. "BOOK REVIEW: 'Whitey'". The Washington Times. Retrieved 16 September 2017.
  22. ^ "Book review: 'Whitey: The Life of America's Most Notorious Mob Boss' by Dick Lehr and Gerard O'Neill". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 16 September 2017.
  23. ^ Drabelle, Dennis. "Book review: 'The Birth of a Nation,' the racial debate over the film, by Dick Lehr". The Washington Post. Retrieved 16 September 2017.
  24. ^ "Birth of a Movement | Film about Controversy Around D.W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation". PBS. Retrieved 16 September 2017.
  25. ^ "Children's Book Review: Trell by Dick Lehr". PublishersWeekly.com. Retrieved 16 September 2017.
  26. ^ "TRELL by Dick Lehr". Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved 16 September 2017.
  27. ^ Papiernik, Dick (June 1992). "Editors on the move in Philadelphia, Florida; award winners announced" (PDF). The Business Journalist. 31 (1). Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing. pp. 3–4. Retrieved February 2, 2019.
  28. ^ "Category List – Best Fact Crime". Edgars Database. p. 2. Retrieved 16 September 2017.
  29. ^ "Award-winning author serves as Hill's writer-in-residence". The Hill. Retrieved 16 September 2017.

External links[edit]