Today we’re going live with our new blog for the novel “Suosso’s Lane.”
“Suosso’s Lane” tells a compelling story of ethnic profiling and death row injustice set both in the early decades of the twentieth century and the dawn of the 21st. The novel follows the arrival of Italian immigrant Bartolomeo Vanzetti in Plymouth, Mass., where he was welcomed by the immigrant community of industrial North Plymouth. In 1920, however, Vanzetti was accused with fellow immigrant Nicola Sacco of taking part in a factory payroll robbery in which two men were killed. Condemned largely for their anarchist beliefs in a trial marked by fear-mongering and prejudice toward Italian immigrants, the two were found guilty and executed in 1927 despite worldwide protests by millions of workers and intellectuals for whom the Sacco and Vanzetti affair symbolized the growing oppression of the “have-nots” by the “haves.”
Seventy years later a young history teacher moves to Suosso’s Lane in Vanzetti’s old North Plymouth neighborhood and hears rumors of lost evidence that might prove his innocence. Intrigued by Vanzetti’s story and the lessons it holds for our own day, young Mill Becker risks his academic career in the search for a lost letter, joining forces with a local reporter on a search of his own to clear up a policeman’s suspicious death in the 1940s. Meanwhile his social worker wife tries to find work for a young African immigrant. A then-and-now novel, “Suosso’s Lane” reconstructs the cause that captivated the world’s attention and addresses the still timely issues of immigration, ethnic group prejudice, the widening gap between rich and poor, and failures in our criminal justice system.
How I Came to Write This Story:
As an international cause, the Sacco-Vanzetti case was a big deal everywhere. Many nonfiction books have been written about the case and the highly flawed trial that condemned what most people believed were innocent men. Working for a community newspaper in Pilgrim-happy Plymouth MA, I was surprised to learn that Vanzetti was a Plymouth resident at the time of his arrest. And since I was a local journalist, “Vanzetti in Plymouth” was a local angle on a big, largely forgotten story that intrigued me. Working on a local history for a special issue, I looked into what was known about Vanzetti’s life in Plymouth by scanning through old, microfilmed newspapers and searching for people who remembered, or were told by older relatives, that Vanzetti once lived in North Plymouth.
I also read books on the case. The more I looked into it, and the more I learned about the America that produced the Sacco-Vanzetti case, I grew to believe that the history of Vanzetti’s life in Plymouth offered a multi-faceted opening into a story of what life was like for factory workers in Plymouth, and the rest of industrial America a century ago — as well as a means to examine enduring issues in American society and politics such as the negative stereotyping of immigrant groups, the stark social divisions between rich and poor, bias in the criminal justice system, and the fear that oppressed groups will turn to violence.