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The riveting true story of one of the nation�s most infamous trials and executions When the state of Massachusetts electrocuted Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti on August 23, 1927, it concluded one of the most controversial legal cases in American history. In the eight decades since, debate has raged over what was probably a miscarriage of justice. In the first full- The riveting true story of one of the nation�s most infamous trials and executions When the state of Massachusetts electrocuted Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti on August 23, 1927, it concluded one of the most controversial legal cases in American history. In the eight decades since, debate has raged over what was probably a miscarriage of justice. In the first full-length narrative of the case in thirty years, Bruce Watson unwinds a gripping tale that opens with anarchist bombs going off in a posh Washington, D.C., neighborhood and concludes with worldwide outrage over the execution of the �good shoemaker� and the �poor fish peddler.� Sacco and Vanzetti mines deep archives and new sources, unveiling fresh details about these naïve dreamers and militant revolutionaries. This case still haunts the American imagination. Authoritative and engrossing, Sacco and Vanzetti will capture fans of true crime books and everyone who enjoys riveting American history.


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The riveting true story of one of the nation�s most infamous trials and executions When the state of Massachusetts electrocuted Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti on August 23, 1927, it concluded one of the most controversial legal cases in American history. In the eight decades since, debate has raged over what was probably a miscarriage of justice. In the first full- The riveting true story of one of the nation�s most infamous trials and executions When the state of Massachusetts electrocuted Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti on August 23, 1927, it concluded one of the most controversial legal cases in American history. In the eight decades since, debate has raged over what was probably a miscarriage of justice. In the first full-length narrative of the case in thirty years, Bruce Watson unwinds a gripping tale that opens with anarchist bombs going off in a posh Washington, D.C., neighborhood and concludes with worldwide outrage over the execution of the �good shoemaker� and the �poor fish peddler.� Sacco and Vanzetti mines deep archives and new sources, unveiling fresh details about these naïve dreamers and militant revolutionaries. This case still haunts the American imagination. Authoritative and engrossing, Sacco and Vanzetti will capture fans of true crime books and everyone who enjoys riveting American history.

30 review for Sacco and Vanzetti: The Men, the Murders, and the Judgment of Mankind

  1. 4 out of 5

    Doreen Petersen

    Fascinating book! Would definitely recommend this one.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Patrick Sprunger

    John Dos Passos astutely wrote that Americans are two people: those capable of contextualizing what they read and hear with their republican values and those hopelessly distracted by base prejudice at the expense of good citizenship. Dos Passos's quote is repeated two or three times in Sacco and Vanzetti and is the base of the book itself. I find it interesting that one could also say about Bruce Watson's monograph that Sacco and Vanzetti is two books: one that contextualizes the trial with Amer John Dos Passos astutely wrote that Americans are two people: those capable of contextualizing what they read and hear with their republican values and those hopelessly distracted by base prejudice at the expense of good citizenship. Dos Passos's quote is repeated two or three times in Sacco and Vanzetti and is the base of the book itself. I find it interesting that one could also say about Bruce Watson's monograph that Sacco and Vanzetti is two books: one that contextualizes the trial with American values and the times and one that gets bogged down in detail. The 1920s is a fascinating and under-served period in American history. If for no other reason than we became the people we are today in the 1920s, since... "Nearly every amusement that would dominate the twentieth century - radio, TV, sporting spectacles, pop psychology, home appliances, youth culture, crazy fads, 'talking pictures,' Madison Avenue, Mickey Mouse - got its start during this frantic decade." Much more than the 50s or 60s, the 20s gave us the features we identify ourselves by today. While it may have been Fenno's Gazette of the United States (at the earliest) or Hearst's New York Journal (more likely) that started the shrieking, manic, panicky news cycle, it wasn't until the 20s that polemic causes celibrés ignited international markets with the antics of a certain sample of an unusually reactionary American public. The first part of the book doesn't say as much, but I got a real vibe from Watson that he considers Islamophobia and the right's too cool for brains posture a continuation of the lessons we failed to learn eighty years ago. In the 1920s, some Americans believed that all Italian and Italian-American Catholics were depraved bomb-throwers in a number that approximately corresponds to the number of Americans who believe all Muslims are suicide bombers. Or all African-Americans are lascivious sub-humans with loose morals... Or that all Japanese-Americans are Tojo's spies... Pick your year; it's sort of the same. The pathological defect in the national character believes a small number of loosely related crimes is justification for wholesale racism and bigotry. Not that terrorism is often justified, but America has to re-learn the lesson that further antagonizing the terrorists by abusing the innocent is the wrong way to quell terror. Watson doesn't say it, but the reason Italians, leftists, and the international proletariat stopped planting bombs when Italian-Americans and Catholics were eventually admitted into the American franchise on a more-or-less equal basis with WASPs and the vicious red-baiting of the early 20th century yielded to the Bill of Rights. It didn't stop because our legal and political system really stuck it to the reds. I digress. Someone else wrote a review complaining that Watson seems to believe in Sacco and Vanzetti's innocence because of a personal, liberal agenda. Not really. The case of Sacco and Vanzetti is routinely taught in American classrooms as an example of government corruption in the age of the Harding and Coolidge heydays. The perception of a "frame-up" and political persecution is the standard academic interpretation. So if Watson is speculating on the context of corruption and prejudice in the 1920s, the reader is not out of line finding parallels in the intervening years. That's all I'm saying. And with that, Watson has a pretty good book, here. But the author doesn't rest on sound historiography. He goes into detail of the minutes of the trial and rounds of appeals that is, frankly, grueling. While Watson isn't uncommonly long-winded, he doggedly documents each move in a grim dance involving judicial incompetence, judicial indiscretion, and judicial gridlock. Redundant points aren't consolidated together for maximum effect. Instead, they're cited separately, in chronological order. It makes reading a breezy work of non-fiction a little bit like reading actual court transcripts (which I have to do occasionally, and while it may thrill some it definitely isn't for everyone). This approach is thorough, and cannot be fairly called bad scholarship. But it slows down the tempo and makes a good book suddenly, decidedly. much less fun. That's a shame, because I think Watson has written a book that will be the go-to for undergrads, history enthusiasts, and general interest on the subject for years to come. It's a shame that it doesn't hold the reader as rapt as its subject deserves.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Rose

    In August 1927, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts electrocuted Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti for an April 1920 payroll robbery that ended in murder. During the intervening years between their arrests and executions, the two Italian immigrants became a worldwide cause celebre. Public figures like Dr. Felix Frankfurter, who became Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, and socialist poet Edna St. Vincent Millay argued that both men, who were active anarchists, were condemned In August 1927, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts electrocuted Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti for an April 1920 payroll robbery that ended in murder. During the intervening years between their arrests and executions, the two Italian immigrants became a worldwide cause celebre. Public figures like Dr. Felix Frankfurter, who became Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, and socialist poet Edna St. Vincent Millay argued that both men, who were active anarchists, were condemned on the basis of their radical political beliefs instead of the evidence. This viewpoint is neither idealistic nor naïve when the political climate of the years leading up to Sacco and Vanzetti’s trial is examined. Public buildings (i.e. the Los Angeles ‘Times’ building) and the homes of those hostile to the radical labor movement were bombed with alarming frequency, leading to the Palmer Raids and a clampdown on ‘un-American’ activity. Americans were in the throes of a Red Scare, and as anarchists accused of murder, the two Italians were crucified for the sins of their more violent colleagues. They had the misfortune of being tried in a state that was, even in the liberal Twenties, a stronghold of Yankee conservatism. The trial judge, Webster Thayer, referred to the defendants outside the courtroom as ‘anarchist bastards’, and the jury foreman sneered to his fellow jurors, “Damn them, they ought to hang them anyway.” Although he is clearly sympathetic to the plight of the ‘good shoemaker and the poor fish peddler’, as Sacco and Vanzetti were sometimes called, Bruce Watson refrains from turning his book into one long argument for their innocence. He lets the evidence speak for itself. When he ventures an opinion, it’s on the basis of solid fact, not conjecture. For example: ballistics experts asserted that one of the bullets that killed the payroll guard came from a gun found on Nicola Sacco. But four bullets were dug from the guard’s body, and witnesses testified that the same man fired all four shots. So why do the other three not match? Is it possible that a bullet shot from Sacco’s gun during ballistics testing was surreptitiously included with the prosecution evidence? The clear discrepancy between the evidence and the guilty verdict set off a series of demonstrations worldwide. American embassies were the targets of picketers and bombings. The Sacco-Vanzetti affair is one of the earliest examples of mass protests being employed to change the fate of a convicted person. I particularly enjoyed Watson’s handling of the personal lives of Sacco and Vanzetti. Without yielding to gush or sentiment, he demonstrates that Nicola Sacco was a devoted husband and father who really believed in fair treatment for workers, while Bartolomeo Vanzetti was a deep thinker whose intelligence impressed all who met him. Even Governor Alvan T. Fuller admitted, “What an attractive man.” They were hostile toward their accusers, but with some justification, as they were prosecuted for what they were instead of what they were formally accused of. Those with an interest in knowing more about their inner worlds should read “The Letters of Sacco and Vanzetti” (Penguin Classics).

  4. 5 out of 5

    Bookmarks Magazine

    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 con 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.This is an excerpt from a review published in Bookmarks magazine.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Fishface

    An excellent, wide-ranging study not only of the arrest, trial and execution of the two anarchists, but of the temper of the times. The author makes a good case for his position that the two men are extremely unlikely to have committed the crime they were executed for. He even says the bullets in the victims don't match their gun -- but we happen to know from the police that this is untrue. Overall, though, he helped me understand why people doubt their guilt no matter how many years go by. An excellent, wide-ranging study not only of the arrest, trial and execution of the two anarchists, but of the temper of the times. The author makes a good case for his position that the two men are extremely unlikely to have committed the crime they were executed for. He even says the bullets in the victims don't match their gun -- but we happen to know from the police that this is untrue. Overall, though, he helped me understand why people doubt their guilt no matter how many years go by.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Tom Mueller

    At the very least, Sacco and Vanzetti should have been granted a new trial. Spences Sacco (grandson) stood next to Michael Dukakis in 1977 as Dukasis said "high standards of justice . . . failed Sacco and Vanzetti". See Upton Sinclair's "Boston" and many others. At the very least, Sacco and Vanzetti should have been granted a new trial. Spences Sacco (grandson) stood next to Michael Dukakis in 1977 as Dukasis said "high standards of justice . . . failed Sacco and Vanzetti". See Upton Sinclair's "Boston" and many others.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Florence

    The facts are murky and unproven. Capital punishment can never be undone and should be abolished.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Camille Plemmons

    This book is stunning. It absolutely knocked the wind out of me. There are lots of books about Sacco and Vanzetti, and I’m glad this is the one I ordered. Most of it reads more like a crime novel or a thriller, but with all the detail and commitment to fact of good non fiction. Despite knowing exactly how the story would end, there was plenty of suspense to keep me fascinated. I was a sobbing wreck by the end, and I’m still wondering why I don’t remember hearing about this case at all in school. This book is stunning. It absolutely knocked the wind out of me. There are lots of books about Sacco and Vanzetti, and I’m glad this is the one I ordered. Most of it reads more like a crime novel or a thriller, but with all the detail and commitment to fact of good non fiction. Despite knowing exactly how the story would end, there was plenty of suspense to keep me fascinated. I was a sobbing wreck by the end, and I’m still wondering why I don’t remember hearing about this case at all in school. Sacco and Vanzetti are each so vivid in this book - hard-working Sacco deeply in love with his wife, Rosina, and passionate Vanzetti writing beautiful prosaic letters from prison. This quote from the epilogue sums up the tragedy of this case so well: “No one should be sent to the electric chair on gut feelings, which are the essence of reasonable doubt.”

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kea

    If you have doubts that history repeats itself, this book might change your mind. A horrifying and fascinating moment in American history that I was surprised to discover I knew nothing about, especially considering its international coverage at the time, the story of Sacco and Vanzetti presented a detailed, up-close look at how real people's bias, backgrounds, politics, and preferences affected their behavior surrounding this very famous murder trial. I found myself alternately discouraged abou If you have doubts that history repeats itself, this book might change your mind. A horrifying and fascinating moment in American history that I was surprised to discover I knew nothing about, especially considering its international coverage at the time, the story of Sacco and Vanzetti presented a detailed, up-close look at how real people's bias, backgrounds, politics, and preferences affected their behavior surrounding this very famous murder trial. I found myself alternately discouraged about some of the characters' ignorance and pride, and then yet hopeful about others' willingness to place the concept of "truth" above the rest of the noise. Really interesting commentary on democracy, free speech, and the American justice system.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Roger

    I had heard these names before but didn’t realize the whole story took place in Massachusetts. Sacco and Vanzetti were two local Italian men with anarchist political beliefs who get caught up in a murder case that drags through trials, appeals, and finally their executions for 8 long years after starting their incarceration. The trial and appeals captured world wide attention then and 80+ years later, leaving Massachusetts with a black eye over how the legal proceedings were flawed. Interesting I had heard these names before but didn’t realize the whole story took place in Massachusetts. Sacco and Vanzetti were two local Italian men with anarchist political beliefs who get caught up in a murder case that drags through trials, appeals, and finally their executions for 8 long years after starting their incarceration. The trial and appeals captured world wide attention then and 80+ years later, leaving Massachusetts with a black eye over how the legal proceedings were flawed. Interesting local history!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Cathy

    Tag yourself, I’m Vanzetti’s mustache. This book felt as drawn-out as Sacco and Vanzetti’s trial… Descriptive to a fault, especially in the middle where it lulled. But yeah these anarchists made some points. I’m all for anti-capitalism rhetoric.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Alyse Thompson

    Well reported and well written. It's a little slow in the middle, but the end more than makes up for it. Well reported and well written. It's a little slow in the middle, but the end more than makes up for it.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Greg Heaton

    Courts have changed, but it doesn't seem like America has too much. Courts have changed, but it doesn't seem like America has too much.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Joe

    Really interesting book - especially for someone from the Boston area - that would have got 4 stars if not for the unnecessary length. I think this could have been 275-300 pages instead of 350.

  15. 5 out of 5

    WHS1949

    By far the most detailed and persuasive account of the tragedy of Sacco and Vanzetti. Watson's research is exhaustive, his prose sharp and entertaining and his objectivity flawless. By far the most detailed and persuasive account of the tragedy of Sacco and Vanzetti. Watson's research is exhaustive, his prose sharp and entertaining and his objectivity flawless.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Bap

    On April 15, 1920 in the town of Braintree, mass. Just outside of Boston a payroll clerk with a strong box and a guard,were approaching several shoe factories to deliver the weekly payroll. A large car with four or five occupants came along side the pair, who were both murdered and the cash stolen. Months later two Italian immigrants, both of them Anarchists, came up to a garage holding a large car that might have been used in the hold-up and were arrested, tried and convicted. Seven years later On April 15, 1920 in the town of Braintree, mass. Just outside of Boston a payroll clerk with a strong box and a guard,were approaching several shoe factories to deliver the weekly payroll. A large car with four or five occupants came along side the pair, who were both murdered and the cash stolen. Months later two Italian immigrants, both of them Anarchists, came up to a garage holding a large car that might have been used in the hold-up and were arrested, tried and convicted. Seven years later they were executed having aroused the conscience of the world. This book is an even handed account of the crime, the trial and the cause .there is little doubt that they were not afforded a fair trial. Judge Thayer was determined to convict e "two anarchist bastards". The trial was riddled with irregularities. The jury foreman pronounced his hatred of Wops. The Yankee jury shared the antipathy towards Italians and any Italian speaking witness was completely discounted as being clannish and biased, willing to say anything to absolve one of their own. When the judge was unable to enpanel jurors wiling to serve, the Marshall was ordered to round up a jury from the street. The two defendants had no history of prior crimes, the stolen money was never found or linked to the two defendants, one a shoemaker and the other a fish peddler. Acriminal gang from Providence RI, was later implicated in the heist and had a history of violent crime. Two of the Rhode Island crew later confessed to the crime only to later recant. The head of the crew bore a striking resemblance to Sacco. Despite the abundant doubt of the guilt of the two men who steadfastly professed their innocence, they both were heavily armed at the time of their death and were followers of an anarchistic leader responsible for a spate of bombings that killed dozens. One of the bullets from the murdered men was linked to Sacco's weapon though there is some thought that this bullet may have been planted. Sacco and Vanzetti became cause Celebes in this county and around the world ranging from Felix Frankfuter a Harvard law school professor and later supreme court justice to John Dos Passos, Katherine Ann Porter, Michael Musmanno who later became chief justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. All championed the cause as did the anarchists and the communists. Stalin called it the greatest miscarriage of justice of the century. And the letters of the two were later collected and printed revealed that these two uneducated men were gifted writers especially Vanzetti, which caused conservatives to claim incorrectly that they were ghost written. Ninety years later, right Wing revisionists claim they were both guilty, others continue proclaim their innocence, and still others have a split decision claiming Sacco was guilty but not Vanzetti . This is a very fine book that captures the time, the crime, the trial and the cause.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Alex Shrugged

    The crowds said, when Sacco and Vanzetti were found guilty of murder, "We will not forget!" Yet it seems we have forgotten. You don't convict people of murder simply because "you know they did it". You have to prove it with REAL evidence. Not made up evidence. I was reminded of this during the Zimmerman Trial which prompted this review. Zimmerman was found not guilty of murder. Regardless of what people may think of his guilt or innocence, if you are going to convict someone for murder you must P The crowds said, when Sacco and Vanzetti were found guilty of murder, "We will not forget!" Yet it seems we have forgotten. You don't convict people of murder simply because "you know they did it". You have to prove it with REAL evidence. Not made up evidence. I was reminded of this during the Zimmerman Trial which prompted this review. Zimmerman was found not guilty of murder. Regardless of what people may think of his guilt or innocence, if you are going to convict someone for murder you must PROVE IT! Above all, black people MUST understand this because so many black men were hung by the neck until dead on the word of a white woman who didn't want to admit she was sleeping around. And Jews MUST understand this since so many Jewish communities were wiped out during Easter after the Christians brought false charges against us so that now, during the Passover Seder, we shout out to G-d... "Pour out Your wrath..." (I am Jewish, BTW.) You must PROVE IT! You can't assume. That is what we must remember from "Sacco and Vanzetti". The book was well done and I was glad I read it. Although the reader will not be provided proof of their guilt or innocence, the book really helped me understand what happened and why we will never know.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

    The story of two men who were not treated well by the Massachusetts court system, it is a cautionary tale. You know how "they" say, "if you're not guilty, you have nothing to be afraid of"? This story shows us that you do, indeed have something to fear: and it is not just fear itself! The author plays an even hand and shows how the politicization of the trial prevented the men from a just outcome, which would have been a second trial under an impartial judge. One side claims that the trial was fa The story of two men who were not treated well by the Massachusetts court system, it is a cautionary tale. You know how "they" say, "if you're not guilty, you have nothing to be afraid of"? This story shows us that you do, indeed have something to fear: and it is not just fear itself! The author plays an even hand and shows how the politicization of the trial prevented the men from a just outcome, which would have been a second trial under an impartial judge. One side claims that the trial was fair, the other says not. Remarkable to me was the feeling of fear that pervades the conservative side. Anarchists were attacking and blowing up targets around the US. Communists were taking over Russia. And the flu pandemic was taking its toll. People were afraid and these two men were the scapegoats. Unfortunately, by allowing the men to be electrocuted without every opportunity of a fair trial, the United States proved itself as evil as any other bad guy ideologue. Somewhat like engaging in preemptive war...

  19. 4 out of 5

    Erin Hamilton

    Although nothing new is revealed here, this is an excellent survey of a very complex and confusing legal railroading in 1920s Boston. Like the Haymarket anarchists before them, Sacco & Vanzetti were convicted more for their beliefs and associations than deeds. The Watson book did make clearer the culpability of Judge Webster Thayer, as opposed to the jury--many of whom seem to have genuinely believed the perplexing ballistics "evidence." Previously, I had thought that one or both may have been g Although nothing new is revealed here, this is an excellent survey of a very complex and confusing legal railroading in 1920s Boston. Like the Haymarket anarchists before them, Sacco & Vanzetti were convicted more for their beliefs and associations than deeds. The Watson book did make clearer the culpability of Judge Webster Thayer, as opposed to the jury--many of whom seem to have genuinely believed the perplexing ballistics "evidence." Previously, I had thought that one or both may have been guilty, although still worthy of a new trial. Having presented their personal letters and the case, I'm now convinced both were innocent of the Braintree murders. This was an astonishing miscarriage of justice that still resonates in the current anti-immigrant environment.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Yvonne

    Although it to a bit to get through this, because my interests tend to wander, I admire the effort that went into this piece of work. Nearly 27 years ago I wrote a history paper on this particular case and there didn't seem to be more than a vague paragraph or two readily available is easily obtainable print. Even with the abundance of information available now and after finalizing my reading of this book the question still remains unequivocally unanswered in the positive or the negative as to t Although it to a bit to get through this, because my interests tend to wander, I admire the effort that went into this piece of work. Nearly 27 years ago I wrote a history paper on this particular case and there didn't seem to be more than a vague paragraph or two readily available is easily obtainable print. Even with the abundance of information available now and after finalizing my reading of this book the question still remains unequivocally unanswered in the positive or the negative as to their guilt. It seems to be a question of ballistics, had science been as advanced as today, and had this crime not come on the tails of anarchist activity then just maybe then the trial might have taken another turn. Could it be biased opinion because of race as well.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Chickens McShitterson

    "To the anarchist, all defects in society and human nature spring from an oppressive class system protected by government, sanctioned by the church, and enforced by militias" (Watson 26). Yup. Truer words were never written. Welcome to the flawless oligarchy. The state cannot afford to admit wrong-doing, cannot acquiesce to such pedestrian notions as logic and reason- to do so would mire her in a cloud of fallibility, thus providing the hoi polloi with a micrometer of dignity and a ti "To the anarchist, all defects in society and human nature spring from an oppressive class system protected by government, sanctioned by the church, and enforced by militias" (Watson 26). Yup. Truer words were never written. Welcome to the flawless oligarchy. The state cannot afford to admit wrong-doing, cannot acquiesce to such pedestrian notions as logic and reason- to do so would mire her in a cloud of fallibility, thus providing the hoi polloi with a micrometer of dignity and a titch of power. And heaven forbid that a constituent harbors beliefs of what true liberty and freedom look like. And here we are nearly ninety years later and hardly anything's changed. The same fate would meet these two today.

  22. 4 out of 5

    JoeM

    The book is well thought out although a bit confusing (which may be more of how I read than how it was presented). The author presents the information as clear as possible through the lens of history and is able to demonstrate that these two men were innocent of the crimes they were executed for. 70+ years after the state-sanctioned murder, I felt my own anger at the result as if I knew the two people. I find it hard to believe that to this day, people are still up in arms when this is mentioned The book is well thought out although a bit confusing (which may be more of how I read than how it was presented). The author presents the information as clear as possible through the lens of history and is able to demonstrate that these two men were innocent of the crimes they were executed for. 70+ years after the state-sanctioned murder, I felt my own anger at the result as if I knew the two people. I find it hard to believe that to this day, people are still up in arms when this is mentioned and that the State of Massachusetts (where I grew up) has yet to offer these two a pardon and an apology for the abuse these two suffered at the hands of the justice system.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    I finally finished this! I thought this book would be much more entertaining and fast paced than it was because I heard the author on NPR and he seemed really interesting. In fact, I had a really, really hard time getting through this and made myself read it. The legal aspects of the case weren't as interesting or well presented as the social context was. I thought it was really interesting learning about anti-immigrant (especially anti-Italian) sentimentality, the red scare, hyper-Americanism a I finally finished this! I thought this book would be much more entertaining and fast paced than it was because I heard the author on NPR and he seemed really interesting. In fact, I had a really, really hard time getting through this and made myself read it. The legal aspects of the case weren't as interesting or well presented as the social context was. I thought it was really interesting learning about anti-immigrant (especially anti-Italian) sentimentality, the red scare, hyper-Americanism and pro-capitalistic elements in society (All things which are extremely relevant today). Overall, I think there are probably better books out there that capture the time.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Dru

    and a half. I knew nothing of these guys. The account is evenhanded, but it's pretty clear the author believes them innocent. It's really a fascinating piece of history, what with all of the "roaring twenties" atmosphere. There are no real protagonists in this story, just countless flawed human beings caught up in the real world. If I could pick a protagonist, however, I would probably pick Vanzetti. More than anyone else in the book, the reader gets an excellent sense of who he was by the time and a half. I knew nothing of these guys. The account is evenhanded, but it's pretty clear the author believes them innocent. It's really a fascinating piece of history, what with all of the "roaring twenties" atmosphere. There are no real protagonists in this story, just countless flawed human beings caught up in the real world. If I could pick a protagonist, however, I would probably pick Vanzetti. More than anyone else in the book, the reader gets an excellent sense of who he was by the time the saga ends.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Sushud82

    Picked this book up on a whim from the library after sitting for a mock jury pool for the Sacco & Vanzetti case. I didn't know anything about it until then. This is pretty straightforward non-fiction - not true crime, not creative nonfiction - so it was a bit dry at times. The author presents a case casting favorably on Sacco & Vanzetti, which I don't disagree with. It certainly gave me a lot to think about and further solidified my opinion that the death penalty is a dangerous punishment in a j Picked this book up on a whim from the library after sitting for a mock jury pool for the Sacco & Vanzetti case. I didn't know anything about it until then. This is pretty straightforward non-fiction - not true crime, not creative nonfiction - so it was a bit dry at times. The author presents a case casting favorably on Sacco & Vanzetti, which I don't disagree with. It certainly gave me a lot to think about and further solidified my opinion that the death penalty is a dangerous punishment in a judicial system riddled with problems.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    this is a cracking good read. probably one of the best accounts you'll find, since it somehow turns a stupid long trial into a real pageturner. watson also avoids the guilt/innocence question (which can only be determined by one's own political prejudice, considering the lack of real evidence and proliferation of rumors) but he still makes it clear that this was one of the worst travesties of justice ever carried out in an american court. this is a cracking good read. probably one of the best accounts you'll find, since it somehow turns a stupid long trial into a real pageturner. watson also avoids the guilt/innocence question (which can only be determined by one's own political prejudice, considering the lack of real evidence and proliferation of rumors) but he still makes it clear that this was one of the worst travesties of justice ever carried out in an american court.

  27. 5 out of 5

    DJ

    I finished the book today, and the overwhelming feeling is of sadness and fury- not only for the injustice and brutality of their execution, but because it feels that so little has changed in the 85 years since. perhaps at some point I'll return with a more substantive review... learning the details of their lives and trial for the first time, it's too stirring, too raw, to find any other words now. I finished the book today, and the overwhelming feeling is of sadness and fury- not only for the injustice and brutality of their execution, but because it feels that so little has changed in the 85 years since. perhaps at some point I'll return with a more substantive review... learning the details of their lives and trial for the first time, it's too stirring, too raw, to find any other words now.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    Very complete and easy-to-read history of the Sacco and Vanzetti case. The author details a lot of information about their lives, the crime they were accused of, the politics and anti-immigrant hysteria of their time (sound familiar?), the unfair trial and the worldwide movement to save them. Very good book.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Scott

    This is a well written and balanced account of the Sacco and Vanzetti's ordeal and the worldwide reaction. While the author never makes a definite statement as to their guilt or innocence, he makes it clear that there were enough problems with the trial that resulted in their conviction that it should have been overturned. This is a well written and balanced account of the Sacco and Vanzetti's ordeal and the worldwide reaction. While the author never makes a definite statement as to their guilt or innocence, he makes it clear that there were enough problems with the trial that resulted in their conviction that it should have been overturned.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Adam

    Well written, very well researched. But a great example of why I don't read pure non-fiction. Watson's work is top notch but boring as fuck and I immediately retreated to the loving embrace of Orwell to remind myself why I read. Well written, very well researched. But a great example of why I don't read pure non-fiction. Watson's work is top notch but boring as fuck and I immediately retreated to the loving embrace of Orwell to remind myself why I read.

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