The Gonz Show: Richard Marinick
The Southie cop turned robber (and now former inmate) has banged out a
new novel-and our John Gonzalez is a little intimidated.
You’re well versed in martial arts and boxing, and you know how to handle a gun. Ever think of picking up some nonlethal hobbies? Fantasy football can be pretty fun, you know.
Never. That’s not for me. I was always into dangerous, risk-taking activities. You don’t start out robbing armored cars, but you move up to it. People say, "Do you gamble?" I say, "No, but when I did, I gambled with my life."
[sidebar]How did you fall in with the Southie underworld?
I moved to South Boston in the early ’70s, and trained at a boxing gym called the Muni. A lot of the fighters who were training there were up-and-coming wiseguys. I developed contacts. They were nice guys. I still have friends who are gangsters. But today I’m just a writer. I keep to myself.
As a writer, you probably can relate to that Rakim lyric "When I’m writing, I’m trapped in between the lines." It’s like prison. Actually, uh, that may be a bad analogy.
But for me, it’s freedom, too. I never felt comfortable in my own skin until I started writing.
You wrote Boyos while working on the Big Dig. You weren’t handling those ceiling tiles, were you?
No, no. I was a tunnel worker.
You attended your state police class reunion a few years back. Were you worried when they called? I bet hearing "Rick, state police is on the phone" isn’t comforting.
Exactly. I was a little hesitant, and asked if it was an ambush. But they wanted me there, and I had a fabulous night. I really did.
A recurring character in both your novels is a Southie criminal nicknamed Wacko, who hates when people call him that. When you were in the Southie scene, was there anyone with a forbidden nickname?
The only person who I knew, and I related this to Wacko, was Jimmy Bulger. No one called him Whitey. We called him Jimmy. If you called him Whitey, you had a problem. He was a dangerous guy.
For the extended version of this Gonz Show with Marinick, go on to the next page…
You’ve done a lot of things—cook, bouncer, state trooper. How did you fall in with the Southie underworld?
You have to realize, I moved to South Boston in the early 70s. I trained at a boxing gym called the Munie. A lot of the guys, the fighters who were training there, a lot of them were up and coming wise guys. They were called “up and comers”—the guys who would take over the mob some day. They were connected to Bulger, and these were the people who would take over when he was killed or went to prison or went on the run. Plus, I started as a bouncer in the combat zone, and you come into contact with a lot of underworld types. You develop contacts. They were nice guys. I liked them. I have very close friends in the state police, and I still have friends who are gangsters. But, today, I don’t associate with either. Today, I’m just a writer. I keep to myself.
I’m not entirely sure I could figure out how to rob myself. How do you go about planning an armored car heist?
It’s a lot of work. They generally take two months to do the homework. You have to “clock” the truck and find out where it stops before the bank, when it stops at the bank, and where it goes after the bank. You have to find the right location to hit it, the best location to provide escape routes, and the habits of the guards—whether they’re cautious when they get out or if they’re lackadaisical. And then, of course, you have to determine how much money is in it. Are you going to go after a truck that has six money bags in it or one that has 45 money bags in it? You have to do your homework. There are no rehearsals. When you step out of the door and you make your move, that’s it. There’s no turning around.
How much money do you think you made from the different jobs you pulled?
I don’t want to go into that. Hundreds of thousands, put it that way. When we got caught in Berkshire County because of the road block, we had $800,000. They counted it. That was back in ‘86. That’s just from one score.
It’s been said that you’re a pretty tough guy, that you’re well-versed in martial arts and boxing. And you obviously learned how to handle a gun and other weapons. Did you ever think of maybe picking up some non-lethal hobbies? Fantasy football can be a hoot, you know. Never. That’s not for me. I don’t really follow sports that much. I was always into the dangerous, risk taking activities all my life. It was a natural progression. You don’t start out robbing armored cars, but you move up to it. It was the adrenaline. It was the ultimate game. It’s literally life and death. You’re stacking the odds in your favor the best you can and you take a shot. People say, ‘do you gamble?’ I say ‘no, but when I did, I gambled with my life.’
You spent 10 years in Norfolk State prison, which is where you learned to write. Was there anything that drew you to it?
I tell people, I believe I was born to write. It was in my genes, something I always aspired to. I remember working in a body shop up in Concord when I was 22. I was spraying cars and I only had a high school diploma at the time. But I had no doubt that my destiny was to be a writer.
I think it’s crazy. I’ve been a writer all my life. For me, it’s like Rakim once said—“when I’m writing I’m trapped in between the lines.” You only escape when you’re done. That’s how I feel about writing—it’s like prison…that’s probably a bad analogy now that I think about it.
It is a love/hate relationship. But, for me, it’s freedom, too. When I write, that’s who I truly am. I’m a writer. I wore all these different hats over the course of my life—I worked in the district attorney’s office, the state police, gangster, but I didn’t feel comfortable. I never felt comfortable in my own skin until I started writing.
After getting out of prison, you wrote your first book, Boyos, while working on the Big Dig. You literally wrote on the job. Uh, you weren’t working with those ceiling tiles by chance, were you?
No, no. I was a tunnel worker.
Boyos is about the Southie Criminal element. The main character’s nickname is Wacko. Naturally, he doesn’t like people calling him that. When you were mixed up with that scene, was there anyone you knew who had a nickname that no one used because they were afraid of how he might react?
The only person who I knew, and I related this to Wacko, was Jimmy Bulger. No one ever called him Whitey. We called him Jimmy. If you called him Whitey, you had a problem. He was Jimmy to us. He did not like Whitey. He was a dangerous guy.
Wacko is not a guy to be messed with. He emerges from Boyos as the guy in the Southie underworld. In your new book, In for a Pound, which comes out this month, he only becomes more fearsome. You also introduce a new character in the book—Delray McCauley, a former trooper wrongly convicted of a crime. Do you see yourself in Wacko and McCauley?
I think I do, yeah. I know what it’s like. I infused Delray’s character with what went through my mind. A lot of hi
m, especially his prison recollection and how he was treated as a cop in prison, that’s very accurate to what I experienced. As far as Wacko goes, he’s not me. He’s a compilation character, and I’m part of his persona.
I read somewhere that you attended your 25th state police reunion. Were you worried when they contacted you? I imagine hearing “Rick, it’s the state police on the phone” isn’t exactly music to your ears.
Exactly. I was a little concerned. I was more pissed off because I knew I wasn’t involved in something. But, many times because of your past, the police assume you’re involved in things. My mum told me the state police called. It turned out to be one of my classmates who’s a captain now. I was a little hesitant, and I asked him if it was an ambush. But they wanted me there, and I had a fabulous night. I really did.
You’ve said Southie has changed. And in In for a Pound, you use the term “Yuffies” to describe who’s moved in—Young Urban Fucking Fools. Did you come up with that?
I made that up, yeah. You listen to the characters. When I’m writing, I watch the characters. I listen to them. He said it, and I just wrote it down and thought, “hey, that’s a great term.” It’s like watching a movie in your head. As they allow me to become familiar with them, and they relax more around me, I listen more. If I don’t like what they say, I can give it a tune-up. But a lot of the time, it comes out the way they say it the first time.