Mark Binelli reads from his novel Sacco and Vanzetti Must Die!

The Nic Sacco and Bart Vanzetti of Mark Binelli’s debut novel Sacco and Vanzetti Must Die! are not exactly the infamous anarchists sentenced to death by the United States government. Instead, they are silent film stars, slapstick comedians, and this is the story of their rise to fame, from a seedy New York vaudeville club to huge Hollywood movies. As their careers decline amid controversy and as the characters grow out of their on-screen roles, slapstick becomes a stand-in for anarchic freedom, and the fictional Sacco and Vanzetti begin to merge with their namesakes. In the process, Binelli offers a rollicking, albeit bittersweet, alternative history of the twentieth century, where liberty remains elusive.

“A sweeping narrative encompassing everything from the struggles of Italian-American immigrants to the social dynamics of pie fights. . . [with] joyful nostalgia, pinpoint characterizations and postmodern brio.”

New York Times Book Review