Obsession Is Not a Perfume

“Why did you decide to write about Sacco and Vanzetti?”

The record of lengthy legal proceedings in the case of Sacco and Vanzetti fills six thick volumes.

This is the question people ask me most frequently, and the truth is: I’m not sure.

I grew up in Providence, Rhode Island, a city with a role in the story of Nick and Bartolo, but the hometown connection doesn’t fully explain my enduring obsession with the case.

I think it had something to do with a drive to try to solve an unsolved mystery, as if the answer just had to be there if I followed the research trail to the end.

It also had something to do with a need to understand the past, because in this case the past—with vexing problems of immigration reform, labor organizing, domestic terrorism, class warfare, and liberal-conservative conflict—is so much like the present.

And it surely had something to do with a desire to understand Sacco and Vanzetti as real human beings, not as the sanitized creatures of hagiographers.

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