Phyllis Karas was satisfied with her literary career for 20 years. As a writer of young adult novels for Avon Books, Ms. Karas had a large, enthusiastic audience for whom she wrote humorous books that always had a serious subject woven into the humor. Phyllis even managed to write one adult novel, A Life Worth Fiction, as well as numerous magazine and newspaper pieces. When she wasn’t writing, Phyllis Karas was teaching writing at Boston University School of Journalism, where she is an adjunct professor. Along the way, she garnered a few writing awards, including the New England Press Association’s award for the Best Feature Story for a four part series of teenage pregnancy, and the Simon Rockower Award for Excellence in Feature Writing for an article in Moment Magazine about kosher slaughter. Karas also wrote a regular column for the Boston Herald entitled “Living the Life: Wit, Wisdom, and Woe”. All in all, it was a pretty professionally satisfying life for Phyllis Karas.
However, a trip to Greece to celebrate her 30th wedding anniversary with her husband Jack changed all that. For it was on this trip where Phyllis Karas met Kiki Feroudi Moutsatsos, Aristotle Onassis’s private secretary during his six-year marriage to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Suddenly, the writer of young adult novels was being besieged by major publishers, one of whom paid $1,000,000.00 for the rights to her story about the memoirs of Onassis’s secretary. The finished book, The Onassis Women: An Eyewitness Account, by Kiki Feroudi Moutsatsos with Phyllis Karas, was published on September 28, 1998 and has changed nearly every aspect of Karas’s personal and professional life. The book was the subject of a “Dateline NBC” story and Karas was subsequently interviewed by the New York Times, People, Vogue, Hard Copy and Extra, among others. Even the National Enquirer has featured her book, albeit without her consent. The book, re-titled Jackie O: The Onassis Years: Life After Camelot, was recently released as an eBook.
Phyllis Karas’ professional life took another turn, this time down a road she never expected to travel. A chance meeting with a gangster led her into the underground world of crime and her writing Street Soldier: My Life as an Enforcer for Whitey Bulger and the Boston Irish Mob, the story of a minor Irish mobster named Edward McKenzie, working under Boston mob boss James Whitey Bulger, who had been on the FBI Most Wanted List since 1994. From then on, she felt as if she had become the official biographer of the mob, evidenced by her next book. Brutal: The Untold Story of My Life Inside Whitey Bulger’s South Boston Mob, which made the New York Times Best Seller List and is now available in paperback. Her coauthor on this book, Kevin Weeks, was Whitey Bulger’s top lieutenant for 25 years. The success of Brutal, and the countless stories that were omitted from that book, led her to write a book of fiction with Weeks, entitled Where’s Whitey about the realistic experiences of the mobster’s 16 years on the run. In an incredible example of truth trumping fiction, Whitey was captured two days after Where’s Whitey. Her book HUNTED DOWN: The FBI’S Pursuit and Capture of Whitey Bulger was published in July 2015.
When she is not writing about the world of crime, Phyllis Karas is most comfortable in the world of celebrities, where she wrote stories as a stringer for People magazine. One of her recent works, the memoir of academy award winner Louis Gossett Jr. titled An Actor and a Gentleman, was published by John Wiley & Son in May 1, 2010.
Karas’ newest book is WOMEN OF SOUTHIE: Finding Resilience During Whitey Bulger’s Infamous Reign. WCVB, the ABC affiliate in the Boston area did a story on the book in September of 2018. View the segment here.
Phyllis Karas is married to Jack Karas, a pulmonary physician, and is the mother of their two sons and the grandmother of three. She lives with her husband and balances her professional writing and teaching careers with her love of family, travel and sports.