If Bernie Lambek’s new novel “An Intention to Engage” was a TV show, the promo for it would most certainly be “ripped from the headlines.” The novel combines fact and fiction to tell the story of the free speech debate surrounding the display of the Black Lives Matter flags in U-32 and Montpellier high schools.
Some of the events described in the novel are so close to what actually happened, in its author’s note Lambek thanks the Times Argus reporters, and he lists the dates of the articles that appeared on the newspaper’s cover.
âThe flag-raising events (in the novel) at MHS and U-32 follow the way they were reported (The Times Argus). Most of the quotes from students and administrators of these events are from (newspaper) articles, âLambek said.
Despite the similarities to what actually happened, âAn Intention to Engageâ is a work of fiction.
The main character, Sarah Jacobson, an organizer of the fictional Green Mountain Black Lives Matter working with high school students in Vermont, is kidnapped by a right-wing hate group. Her partner, Ricky Stillwell, must stand up against hatred and fear to find her.
The Black Lives Matter debate was inspired by real events, while the kidnapping and other criminal elements are fictional.
An “intention to engage” includes characters who first appeared in Lambek’s previous novel, “Uncivil Liberties”, which is about a high school student found dead at the foot of a rocky ledge on the outskirts of Montpellier. . Both novels deal with hate speech, free speech and cyberbullying.
âAfter completing my previous novel, I wanted to continue exploring these characters and this type of fiction that incorporates constitutional theory into an engaging and entertaining mystery,â Lambek said.
“Intent to Commit” frequently quotes Vermont laws and publishes actual wording of state law and discusses court cases, both state and federal, to explain the complex and often confusing laws regarding free speech.
âI wanted to create a fiction around constitutional legal issues and constitutional theory and these two books do,â he said.
Retired Vermont Supreme Court Judge James Morse agrees. âThis should be required reading in the first year of law school,â he said.
One of the goals of the book, said Lambek, was to create âa realistic representation of how lawyers work and discuss constitutional issues and legal theory. I also wanted to show how social justice activists work.
The book got the thumbs up from Kirkus Reviews. âThe First Amendment remains at the center of this legal thriller. The cast is made up of an eclectic group of complex characters with intriguing stories. And Lambek, a lawyer from Vermont, is a meticulous writer who stages even relatively minor scenes with the same descriptive precision he uses in his legal arguments. A gripping, thoughtful and disturbing drama aimed at fans of constitutional debates.
Lambek grew up in Montreal, studied philosophy at Dartmouth College, lived on a communal farm, and taught fourth grade for several years. He then attended Yale Law School, where he published articles on civil disobedience and international human rights. He has been practicing law at Zalinger Cameron & Lambek in Montpellier for 30 years. He represents a number of school districts in Vermont, occasionally dealing with student speech and religious issues in schools. Lambek sits on the board of directors of the ACLU of Vermont. Readers of “The Bridge” in Montpellier know him for his many stories about his father.
The launch date for the novel, published by Rootstock Publishing, of Montpellier, was November 16. The novel is available at all local bookstores, online retailers and at Rootstock. A book launch event was scheduled for Thursday, November 18 at the Lost Nation Theater in Montpellier.
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