Harvard/North End Football Player Combat Zone Murder (1976) Book in the Making

By Phil Orlandella

Author Jan Brogna is researching the possibility of writing her second book, “Murder in the Combat Zone”, the killing of a Harvard student and football player, a very popular North End resident whose life was stripped from him in 1976.

Andrew Puopolo, a talented athlete, was in the prime of his life when he was murdered celebrating with many of his teammates.

Andrew participated in all the North End sports programs, and played them all extremely well. He was also a popular person in the neighborhood.

The book is a narrative, non-fiction account of the Harvard football player and the two trials relating to the murder.

At the time of the murder, the so-called Combat Zone for years was a hotbed for all sorts of crime including, prostitution, and late night-early morning activities. It was Boston’s Red Light District.

The frustration over court-ordered busing, racial tension and police corruption in Boston was at its peak when upwards of 40 Harvard football players descended on the city’s scandalous red-light District in what has become an end-of-the season ritual after the breakup dinner. When two of the football players were stabbed, one fatally, police arrested three black men at the scene, and the story made headlines in nearly every newspaper in the nation.

The story quickly became about privilege versus poverty even though the victim, Andrew Puopolo, wasn’t a privileged Harvard boy at all, but a talented athlete who had grown up in one of the city’s poor white neighborhoods, the Italian North End. Ultimately, the story became about race.

The two trials would both be heavily influenced by the raw emotions of a city boiling with rage. Although the case would have a possible impact and make an important change in the way juries were chosen in Massachusetts, it would also leave the family and mourners of the victim to struggle with the very definition of justice.

Murder in the Combat Zone will be published by University Press of New England’s ForeEdge imprint in 2018.

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