John "Red" Shea (b. August 12, 1965) is a former Irish-American mobster from Boston who was involved in narcotics and was a lieutenant of crime kingpin Whitey Bulger and the Winter Hill Gang during the 1980's and 90's. He was indicted on cocaine trafficking charges in 1990 and served 12 years in prison.
Shea wrote a book called Rat Bastards; The Story of South Boston's Most Honorable Irish Mobster about his experience with the Winter Hill Gang. The main theme of the book is that he is a "stand-up guy" who refused to accept a plea deal to testify against his associates; and consequently had to serve the full sentence for his conviction. Several top ranking former members of the Bulger crew have dismissed Shea's book as wildly embellished, saying he was a low level criminal who sold drugs under the supervision of the crew, but was nowhere near as powerful in Boston organized crime as Shea alleges in his book. Notable are those who say John was not who he says; they are more than likely the informants he famously addresses in his book Rat Bastards. John was the only one to not become an informant. Actor and Boston native Mark Wahlberg wrote the introduction to his book.
John Shea continued his writing career with the acclaimed young adult novel A Kid From Southie. The story was inspired by John's life, growing up with an alcoholic father, pursuing the dream of becoming a boxer, living a teenage romance as he navigates a world of organized crime in South Boston as by someone who experienced it.
During a game of football with Wahlberg and actor Alec Baldwin on the set of The Departed, Baldwin accidentally fractured Shea's thumb.
John continues to do national and local commentary for the news media, CNN, FOX and others on Whitey Bulger and additional stories about organized crime.