From Publishers Weekly
Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti are among the most famous political martyrs of 20th-century America, convicted of murder by a Massachusetts jury and executed in 1929. Watson (Bread and Roses
) expertly runs through the facts of the case and the basic legal injustices perpetrated against the two men, beginning with their arrest on suspicion of a payroll robbery up to their electrocution, without agitating for either end of the political spectrum. He carefully establishes the context of anarchist terrorism that stirred public sentiment against the two admittedly radical defendants—including the judge at their trial, who made numerous prejudicial remarks outside the courtroom. Fellow radicals (and many moderate liberals) were outraged by the proceedings, but Watson observes that most Americans were too caught up in the amusement park mentality of the 1920s to care about them—a conclusion slightly at odds with the passionate debate to this day over their guilt. Watson quotes extensively from Sacco and Vanzetti's letters, with their imperfect English, to flesh out their personalities (he has also written an introduction to a new Penguin Classics edition of the correspondence). 16 pages of b&w photos. (Aug. 20)
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Even after 80 years, claims Bruce Watson, the prejudice and injustice that sentenced Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti to death "haunt American history." Though he presents no new evidence, Watson uses extensive research to offer a judicious and compelling description of the trial and its far-reaching aftermath. Only the Wall Street Journal
, which nevertheless described Watson's narrative as "vivid" and "smoothly written," complained that he distorted or ignored facts to suit his "liberal conscience"; other critics considered Sacco and Vanzetti
an honest account that neither romanticizes nor vilifies the duo. Watson clearly sympathizes with his subjects, and one gets the feeling that he believes in their innocence. Still, he doesn't dismiss the questions raised by the evidence.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.