BERLIN — Twelve years in the making, local author Susan Tejada recently released, “In Search of Sacco and Vanzetti,” a true crime story of one of Massachusetts’ most brutal multiple murders.
Originally hailing from Providence, R.I., Tejada and her husband Rey have owned a home in West Ocean City near Assateague Island since the early 1980s.
Tejada explained that while she loves Worcester County, New England has always had a special place in her heart, which is why she chose the controversial 1920 Braintree, Mass. double murder and robbery case that sent Nicola Sacco and Bartholomeo Vanzetti to the electric chair as the basis of her book.
The themes of the story, including anger at immigration, reverberated with Tejada because of her own background.
“I grew up in an immigrant household as well in New England,” she said.
Besides the personal connection, Tejada spoke of the parallels that can be drawn between the issues surrounding Sacco and Vanzetti in the early 20th century with many of those seen today. During the 1920’s, the debate over immigration into America, animosity between social classes and emerging labor unions stole as many headlines as those same issues do in 2012.
“It’s really startling to see the way these things come and go,” she said.
A pair of poor Italian immigrants that were part of the labor movement, Tejada also underlines in her book the fact that Sacco and Vanzetti were “anarchists,” a title that held similar undertones to what “terrorist” means today.
“Anarchism of the day was feared as much as terrorism is today,” she said.
However, Tejada explained that being an anarchist didn’t necessarily predicate violence, despite popular opinion at the time.
While those interested in the crime will need to read Tejada’s book for the details, she pointed out that the conviction and subsequent executions of Sacco and Vanzetti were, and continue to be, controversial and sparked massive protests at the time. But the crime itself was only a small and already well covered piece of Sacco and Vanzetti’s lives, said Tejada.
“If I could have avoided covering the trial, I would have,” she said.
Instead, Tejada said that she wanted to focus on the men behind the story.
“Their supporters lionized them,” she said. “Their detractors demonized them. I realized that somewhere in between had to be these living, breathing men.”
The search to find what the two men were like ignited a 12-year process full of research and constant revising.
“The first two years were nothing but research,” said Tejada. “One reason it took so long was that I was pulling from so many sources.”
Tejada made the process even tougher by committing to using as much direct correspondence and as many first hand reports as she could find.
“I wanted to be able to tell as much of the story in the first person as I could,” she said. “For me it was a labor of love. I had no expectations of what would happen after I published. I had this raging curiosity about this case and these people.”
With her work complete, Tejada said that her immediate plans for the future are to rest. However, she admitted that she’s already considering writing another book about true crime.
For more information on, “In Search of Sacco and Vanzetti,” visit www.susantejada.com.