Buddy Boys


Buddy Boys by Mike McAlary

The book, Buddy Boys, by renowned journalist and author Mike McAlary, is a great read that focuses on the 77th Precinct in Bed-Sty during the 1980’s.  The book is about the corruption of a once good cop, Henry Winter.  It is not fiction, but a compelling true story of disappointment and the failure of a man who slid down a slippery slope into a life of crime.  It is, among many cops, considered the best-told story of the descent of a good cop into the abject depths of corruption.

Henry Winter is our protagonist here.  He is portrayed by McAlary as an aimless youth from Valley Stream, Long Island who takes the NYPD test to get away from a string of meaningless jobs.  He gets on the NYPD and loves it.  By all accounts Winter becomes a good police officer who has a positive impact on crime and the community. 

But soon begins the slow road to disillusionment and disaster.  As happens to many cops, the excitement and importance of “The Job” slowly faded away, and a bitter drudgery set in.  Finding himself transferred to the 77th Precinct after making a bad split-second decision, Winter’s career began to nosedive.  At the time the 77th Precinct, which the cops there called “The Alamo” (although every NYPD cop knows that the 46 Precinct is the real “Alamo”), was one of the busiest precincts in the city – and a dumping ground for problematic officers. 

At the 77, Winter is introduced to the corruption that seemed to permeate the command.  He no longer thinks he is making an impact and begins to join corrupt cops who are looking to steal more than they are looking to help.  It starts with a disturbing (albeit hilarious) story of Winter lighting a problematic drug dealer’s money on fire because arresting him didn’t seem to do any good.  Winter was now on the fast track to serious crime. 

The action rises to difficult-to-believe stories of daring police raids on drug dens and stash houses, solely for the purpose of stealing money or drugs.  I must say, these guys were inventive and gutsy.  The description of these operations lends them the air of dramatic military actions; had these cops been on the side of good, they would’ve been quite a team.

Eventually, of course, Winter is busted (they always get these guys).  It leads to Internal Affairs wanting him to wear a wire – and to Winter facing a fateful, torturous decision.  Incredibly, Winter still thinks of himself as a cop even though he left that road long ago.   

McAlary paints a vivid and relatable picture of the fallen Winter, weaving incredible crime stories with funny anecdotes through the plot as vivid background.  His portrayal of the 77 precinct is both realistic and depressing.  The precinct, and the area it covers, are truly places without a future. 

And McAlary should know.  He was a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who worked at The New York Post, The Daily News, and New York Newsday.  He covered the crime beat for years.   He uses his knowledge of the streets and first-person interviews to bring the streets of 1980’s Brooklyn alive.  You’ll feel like you’ve been sitting in the backseat of the patrol car.

Buddy Boys can be purchased on Amazon for less than $12 dollars.  If you are in the New York area, check your library.  It can often be found on the shelf there. 

A final note on the disgraced Police Officer Henry Winter: The dynamic hero/villain didn’t live long after the book’s publication.  The pressures of the situation he created for himself became too much, and he hung himself in his mother’s house.  His story, so compellingly conveyed by McAlary, is a cautionary tale for cops or aspiring cops everywhere.   

Christopher Flanagan


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