Join us for a special author talk with Jan Brogan, author of The Combat Zone: Murder, Race and Boston’s Struggle for Justice, about the most publicized murder of the 1970s. The victim, Harvard football star Andrew Puopolo, an Italian-American star athlete, had grown up in the city’s North End, then the local headquarters for the mob. Three Black men were charged with the murder in the crime-ridden Combat Zone, the four blocks of downtown Boston designated for adult entertainment. Whispers of Mafia revenge after the murder grew so loud that many in the media didn’t think there would ever be a trial.
There were two. The suspects were tried during the height of the city’s busing violence. Verdicts swung radically in two and a half volatile years. The jury decisions may have said more about the city than about the facts of the case, and left the victim’s family to struggle with the very definition of justice.
While many in Boston and around Harvard remember the murder, few know about the lasting impact the trials had on criminal justice, changing the way juries in Massachusetts and eventually, the nation, are selected by ending the once common practice of striking potential jurors based on race or ethnicity.
Reviewers have said:
“Brogan’s background as a journalist shows in her careful reporting and historical context…The grim history of racism in Boston, the crime and corruption of the Combat Zone, and the legal permutations of the case take up the bulk of the book. But its heart lies in a character who wasn’t even in the Combat Zone that fateful night – the victim’s brother, Danny Puopolo.” —Andy Smith: Special to the Providence Journal, USA TODAY NETWORK.
“Based on hours and days spent with the people at the center of the case, and years researching the facts, Brogan's work brings us into heart-wrenching, jaw dropping contact with the reality of the crime and its times. It's the best form of narrative nonfiction, in that it covers race, class, busing, criminal justice reform and courtroom drama, but never strays far from the emotional reality of the case for both victims and defendants.” —Craig Sandler, Statehouse News
“Brogan writes with empathy for all involved in the events she so capably explores surrounding Puopolo’s death. In doing so, she considers matters of trauma and justice as well as the rights of victims and those of the accused. She also highlights how much Boston has changed in the almost five decades since, while taking pains to emphasize its unjust continuities.” —Joseph Nevins, Dig Boston
Jan Brogan has been a journalist for more than thirty years, working as a correspondent for the Boston Globe, a staff writer for the Worcester Telegram and the Providence Journal, where she won the Gerald Loeb award for distinguished business writing. She is the award-winning author of four mysteries, Final Copy, Confidential Source, Yesterday’s Fatal, and Teaser. Transactional Pictures, (Steven Soderbergh and Philip Fleishman) have purchased the rights to A Confidential Source for development of a television series.
She grew up in Clifton, New Jersey, and moved to New England to study journalism at Boston University. She holds a master’s degree in English from the University of Massachusetts, Boston. She continues to work as a novelist and a journalist, and she teaches writing at the Boston University Summer Journalism Institute. She lives with her husband in a Boston suburb.
This event will be held in-person on the Mezzanine of the Lynnfield Public Library. Please register in advance. Refreshments will be provided. This event is generously sponsored by the Friends of the Lynnfield Library.