Watson, Bruce 1953-
Watson, Bruce 1953-
Writer and journalist.
The Man Who Changed How Boys and Toys Were Made, Viking (New York, NY), 2002.
Bread and Roses: Mills, Migrants, and the Struggle for the American Dream, Viking (New York, NY), 2005.
Sacco and Vanzetti: The Men, the Murders, and the Judgment of Mankind, Viking (New York, NY), 2007.
Contributor to anthology Best American Science and Nature Writing 2003.
Journalist Bruce Watson's The Man Who Changed How Boys and Toys Were Made tells the story of A.C. Gilbert, who invented the popular Erector Set construction toy. Booklist critic Gilbert Taylor observed that, in "a lively and inquisitive writing style, Watson embeds Gilbert in his times, producing an insightful, fluid narrative."
Bread and Roses: Mills, Migrants, and the Struggle for the American Dream takes a look at the 1912 strike that shut down the textile mills in Lawrence, Massachusetts, and the effect this had on laborers and industry alike. The phrase "bread and roses" refers to the workers' insistence that they deserve to have both the necessities of life and some of the pleasures as well. Elsa Dixler remarked in the New York Times Book Review that the book "is packed with facts, but Watson, a journalist …, makes it an exciting read." Gilbert Taylor, writing for Booklist, called the work "a stirring but studiously balanced narrative."
In Sacco and Vanzetti: The Men, the Murders, and the Judgment of Mankind, Watson revisits a still-controversial criminal case from the early twentieth century that involved murder, domestic terrorism, ethnic prejudice, and a likely miscarriage of justice that ended with two men executed for a crime they might not have committed. In 1919, a plot to mail bombs to some thirty prominent Americans failed when the bombers neglected to put enough postage on their deadly packages. This instance of homegrown terrorism resonated throughout the United States. In this volatile atmosphere, a pair of payroll guards in Braintree, Massachusetts, were gunned down during a brazen daylight robbery in 1920. Arrested for the murders were Italian immigrants Nicola Sacco, a worker in a shoe factory, and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, a fish peddler, apprehended by police when they came to claim what was believed to be the killers' getaway car. Sacco and Vanzetti were incarcerated for seven years while their case worked its way through the system and gained national attention. Proclaiming their innocence until the end, Sacco and Vanzetti were executed in August 1927.
Watson recounts the complicated, often inflammatory, and hotly disputed case against Sacco and Vanzetti. He describes the national atmosphere of distrust and ethnic prejudice that worked against the two Italian immigrants. He presents evidence that the judge in the trial, Webster Thayer, was virulently biased against the men and manipulated the case to ensure convictions. He outlines the legal aspects of the case, including how witnesses changed their stories and evidence was tampered with; the ineffectiveness of the defense attorney; and how attempts at appeals were unsuccessful. Prominent intellectuals, writers, politicians, and legal figures rose to defend the two men, and protests on their behalf occurred throughout the country, to no avail. Watson also covers a number of circumstances that cast some doubt on Sacco and Vanzetti's claims of total innocence. When they came for their car, they were carrying loaded guns. Both were confirmed anarchists involved with a group implicated in several bombings and domestic terrorism incidents. To this day, the question of their innocence or guilt in the murders remains cloudy. However, Watson leaves no doubt that their first trial was grossly unfair, and that at the very least Sacco and Vanzetti deserved a second trial.
"Many readers will conclude, as did this reviewer, that whatever their sins, Sacco and Vanzetti were railroaded to the chair," observed Walter Barthold in the New York Law Journal. "That of itself is a tragedy. That it happened to members of a then-disfavored minority, a pair possessed of offensive political views, makes of the tragedy a disgrace," Barthold concluded. Christian Science Monitor contributor Terry Hartle called Watson's book an "extensive, even-handed and detailed summary of the case and its aftermath." A Kirkus Reviews critic remarked that Watson's account is "likely to become for a new generation of readers the definitive account of a case that still arouses controversy."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Lawyer, October, 2007, Brian Baxter, review of Sacco and Vanzetti: The Men, the Murders, and the Judgment of Mankind, p. 102.
Booklist, October 15, 2002, Gilbert Taylor, review of The Man Who Changed How Boys and Toys Were Made, p. 370; August, 2005, Gilbert Taylor, review of Bread and Roses: Mills, Migrants, and the Struggle for the American Dream, p. 1975; June 1, 2007, Gilbert Taylor, review of Sacco and Vanzetti, p. 30.
Boston Magazine, August, 2007, Joe Keohane, "History Repeating," review of Sacco and Vanzetti, p. 60.
Christian Science Monitor, November 6, 2007, Terry Hartle, review of Sacco and Vanzetti, p. 15.
Forbes, November 11, 2002, Susan Adams, "Boy Toy," review of The Man Who Changed How Boys and Toys Were Made, p. 196.
Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2002, review of The Man Who Changed How Boys and Toys Were Made, p. 1293; June 1, 2005, review of Bread and Roses, p. 630; June 15, 2007, review of Sacco and Vanzetti.
Library Journal, July 1, 2007, Karen Sandlin Silverman, review of Sacco and Vanzetti, p. 104.
National Post, August 25, 2007, review of Sacco and Vanzetti, p. 9.
New Yorker, October 8, 2007, review of Sacco and Vanzetti, p. 95.
New York Law Journal, September 14, 2007, Walter Barthold, review of Sacco and Vanzetti.
New York Times Book Review, August 28, 2005, Elsa Dixler, "The Fruits of Labor," review of Bread and Roses, p. L18; August 15, 2007, William Grimes, "Prejudice and Politics: Sacco, Vanzetti, and Fear," review of Sacco and Vanzetti.
Publishers Weekly, August 19, 2002, review of The Man Who Changed How Boys and Toys Were Made, p. 73; June 27, 2005, review of Bread and Roses, p. 52; May 14, 2007, review of Sacco and Vanzetti, p. 39.
Penguin Group USA Web site,http://us.penguingroup.com/ (March 17, 2008), biography of Bruce Watson.
Pomona College Magazine Online,http://www.pomona.edu/Magazine/ (March 17, 2008), Steve Brewster, "Taking the American Dream."