Johnny Depp’s Black Mass: History vs. Hollywood
Discover the true facts behind Tulsa’s Southern Hills murder
Q&A and book-signing
Saturday, October 17th, 11:00 AM
How much of Johnny Depp’s new movie “Black Mass” about Boston mobster Whitey Bulger and his part in the 1981 Southern Hills murder of Tulsan Roger Wheeler is really true? On Saturday October 17, BookSmart Tulsa’s Jeff Martin will ask retired Tulsa Homicide Detective Sgt. Mike Huff who investigated the case and Larry Yadon, co-author of the book “One Murder Too Many.”
In Black Mass Johnny Depp portrays James “Whitey” Bulger, who was a Boston crime boss for more than two decades. The film shows Bulger increasing his power through an alliance with the FBI, to become one of the most dangerous gangsters in U.S. history and evade capture for sixteen years.
Bulger’s downfall began with the murder of Tulsan Roger Wheeler at Southern Hills Country Club in May of 1981. Wheeler, a well-known entrepreneur, suspected that one of his investments was being skimmed by organized crime.. As Wheeler began to unravel the money trail, Bulger’s White Hill gang scurried to cover their tracks. Wheeler rejected the gang’s alleged attempts to stop his investigation, mistakenly believing his many well-funded connections within the FBI would protect him. Bulger dominated Boston organized crime for over a decade after the Wheeler murder, dropped out of sight in late 1994 but Detective Huff and Wheeler’s family never gave up their pursuit of justice. Their perseverance paid off when Bulger was apprehended in June of 2011.
About the Participants
Mike Huff’s father preached that life should be” full of adventure.” Huff took that to heart and launched a police career that became legendary as he hunted down Mafia hit men and other notorious killers over 37 years, logging some 1,000 arrests for homicide and solving mysterious cold cases. Huff has handled over 300 police shootings.
His work as Tulsa, Oklahoma’s most high-profile detective led Huff to testify in front of Congress and landed him a seat on “60 Minutes” for his work on a case of a corrupt FBI agent and a mob murder. Under Huff’s command as head of the Homicide Unit, the Tulsa Police Department cleared over 80 percent of the crimes they were assigned, compared to a national average of 59 percent. That is the highest solve rate in the country for a major city.
Huff retired in 2011, but he hasn’t hung up his skills as one of the top cold case detectives in the country. Huff helped create the International Association of Cold Case Investigators and he isn’t one to give up on age-old homicides whose victims still await justice.
Laurence J. Yadon is an attorney, mediator, and arbitrator. He has assisted the Department of Justice in litigation matters before the local United States district court and helped prepare a major case successfully argued before the US Supreme Court. He is the co-author of Pelican’s 100 Oklahoma Outlaws, Gangsters, and Lawmen: 1839-1939; 200 Texas Outlaws and Lawmen: 1835-1935; Ten Deadly Texans; Old West Swindlers; Arizona Gunfighter; and Outlaws with Badges. Yadon resides in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
About the book: One Murder Too Many
In an unusual dual biography, authors Laurence J. Yadon and Robert Barr Smith explore this compelling criminal case from both sides. Tulsa computer tycoon Roger Wheeler was the victim and organized crime boss Whitey Bulger was the criminal—or so it seemed. Through a fascinating examination of information related to both men, the authors break down the façade and expose the underlying truths in this decades-long case.
This riveting true story lays out how the unrelenting efforts of the family of a murdered Oklahoma businessman led to this crime boss’s downfall. Yadon and Smith provide insight into the development of organized crime in American and its stronghold in Boston while following and uncovering all the murky details of this groundbreaking case.