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A Tattered Coat Upon a Stick
     

A Tattered Coat Upon a Stick

by William Brennan
 

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Set in 1990, A Tattered Coat Upon A Stick is the first person account of Emmet Magawley, a nonagenarian patient in a veterans hospital where a graduate student is collecting oral histories from the few survivors of World War I.

Magawley relates his youthful experiences in a working class neighborhood that effected his part in the war which

Overview

Set in 1990, A Tattered Coat Upon A Stick is the first person account of Emmet Magawley, a nonagenarian patient in a veterans hospital where a graduate student is collecting oral histories from the few survivors of World War I.

Magawley relates his youthful experiences in a working class neighborhood that effected his part in the war which led, inexorably, to the great event in his life, an unbreakable friendship with Bartolomeo Vanzetti.

In the Great War, Magawley serves in the headquarters of the American Expeditionary Force in France. His duties as a clerk typist provide a unique post from which to observe the conflict's major players and its impact on European nations. The war changes Emmet and the other doughboys and is prologue to the events that revolutionize society and the lives of our characters.

Our young soldier returns home to Boston and, because of his veteran's status and odd circumstances, is set up with a job as guard in the Charlestown State Prison. For warders, the quality of life in the penitentiary is less onerous than the brutish existence expected, and Emmet settles in for a lifetime of working in the office and on the cell blocks.

Everything changes, however, when Vanzetti arrives in Charlestown to serve his sentence for an attempted payroll robbery in Bridgewater, Massachusetts. Bart's mystical qualities enthrall all who come in contact with him, including Emmet.

Boston is in the midst of a Red scare, and Sacco and Vanzetti - immigrant Italian anarchists - charged with murder and another payroll robbery in Braintree become central characters in the hysteria. In this early and true 'Crime of the Century' lines are drawn; the Brahmins seduce leaders of the Irish community and others, including many Italians, into a web of deceit and corruption that can be covered up only with the executions of Sacco and Vanzetti.

On the other side of this cause celebre, socialists, communists, anarchists, and millions of ordinary working men and women all over the world line up on behalf of the condemned pair, further alarming the already paranoid political and social leaders of Boston and the United States. The prison guards are pawns who represent the establishment, but many of them come to believe in Vanzetti's innocence and suffer greatly as the inexorable process plays out.

Magawley, caught between tribal loyalty and belief in Bart, stands, to the limits of his character, with Vanzetti on the side of truth, and he is permanently scarred in the process. In this work, Vanzetti is seen as a flawed human being and not the super martyr or devilish villain of earlier books and plays.

This is a tale of truth at odds with clannish solidarity. Emmet chooses justice but at great cost to the social compact that created and defined him. His actions serve as a minor accelerant for the inflammatory changes in American society unleashed by the Great War.

The novel provides an unsentimental picture of assimilation of the Irish and Italians into the mainstream of American society during the early decades of this century.

The Sacco and Vanzetti trial and subsequent executions was named by the AP as the news story of the Century in Massachusetts. This is the first work of fiction on the subject in many years, and it provides a completely fresh perspective on the events and the times times that culminated in the deaths of the anarchist Italian immigrants.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781462802791
Publisher:
Xlibris Corporation
Publication date:
12/14/1999
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
File size:
703 KB

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