A Death in Belmont

Sebastian Junger

A compelling portrait of 1960s America that takes as its starting point the brutal events of 11 March 1963, the day on which the lives of three complete strangers – a black handyman, an Italian-American carpenter and a second-generation Jewish housewife – collided in the leafy Boston suburb of Belmont.

These three people did not know one another, but, by the end of the day, the housewife had been raped and strangled, the handyman had been arrested on suspicion of being the notorious Boston Strangler, and the real Boston Strangler – carpenter Al DeSalvo – had returned home to his wife and children. It was not until two years later that DeSalvo admitted to the gruesomely violent murders of thirteen women. Also unwittingly drawn into the drama were one-year-old Sebastian Junger’s own family, who posed for a photograph with DeSalvo the day after the Belmont strangling, at the completion of his work on their studio.

Taking the chilling family snap as his inspiration, Junger explores the worlds of the three protagonists and, in so doing, creates a portrait of America in the 1960s that touches on the historic themes of the era: the assassination of JFK, the rise of the immigrants and the troubling race relations that prefigured the death of Martin Luther King.

This new work by Sebastian Junger, the acclaimed author of ‘Perfect Storm’ and ‘Fire’, is as enlightening as it is haunting. Taking as its foundation the events that shocked a quiet community in 1963, ‘A Death in Belmont ‘expands to encompass an entire nation at a time of extraordinary social turmoil.

Reviews of A Death in Belmont

    • ‘Junger is a wonderful quirky narrative historian…Junger grippingly tells the story of the murder and the lives damaged in its wake, creating a memorable portrait of 1960s America and the troubling race relations that pre-figured the death of Martin Luther King. At its worst history makes us over-familiar with death. It is salutary to be reminded of the historical weight of just one murder.’ Ruth Scurr, The Times
    • ‘(Junger) presents a fascinating slice of history…Reading Junger, one cannot help being reminded of Truman Capote’s brilliant reconstruction of another brutal slaying, In Cold Blood, and noting that he stands the test of comparison.’ The Daily Mail
    • ‘A well-balanced study of an infamous part of American history, and an intriguing snapshot of an American criminal.’ The Word magazine
    • ‘It is written in the beautifully cool, precise, easy style of the best American journalism. There is a fascinating detail on every page.’ Mail on Sunday
    • ‘An interesting meditation on the American judicial and penal systems and, in particular, their attitude to the issue of race’. Daily Telegraph
    • ‘Junger masterfully draws out his narrative out of the labyrinthine investigation.’ Observer