Photo: Lambek

Bernie Lambek, of Montpelier, in his office.

If Bernie Lambek’s new novel “An Intent to Commit” were a television show, the promo for it most assuredly would be, “Ripped from the headlines.” The novel combines fact and fiction to tell the story of the free speech debate surrounding the posting of Black Lives Matter flags at U-32 and Montpelier high schools.

Some of the events depicted in the novel are so close to what actually happened, in his author’s note Lambek thanks The Times Argus reporters, and he lists the dates the articles that appeared in the newspaper coverage.

“The flag raising events (in the novel) at MHS and U-32 track the way it was reported in (The Times Argus). Most of the student and administrator quotes from those events are drawn from the (newspaper) articles,” Lambek said.

Despite the similarities to what actually happened, “An Intent to Commit” is a work of fiction.

The lead character, Sarah Jacobson, an organizer with the fictional Green Mountain Black Lives Matter working with Vermont high school students, 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, whereas the kidnapping and other criminal elements are fiction.

An “Intent to Commit” includes characters who first appeared in Lambek’s earlier novel, “Uncivil Liberties,” which is about a high school student who is found dead at the bottom of a rock ledge on the outskirts of Montpelier. Both novels deal with hate speech, free speech and cyberbullying.

“Having finished my previous novel, I wanted to keep exploring these characters and this type of fiction that incorporates constitutional theory in an engaging and entertaining mystery,” Lambek said.

“Intent to Commit” frequently cites Vermont statutes and posts actual wording from state law and discusses court cases, both state and federal, to explain the complex and often confusion laws concerning free speech.

“I wanted to create fiction around constitutional legal issues and constitutional theory and both of these books do that,” he said.

Retired Vermont Supreme Court Justice James Morse agrees. “It should be required reading in the first year of law,” he said.

One goal for the book, Lambek said, was to create “a realistic portrayal of the way lawyers work and argue about constitutional issues and legal theory. I also wanted to show how social justice activists work.”

The book got thumbs from Kirkus Reviews. “The First Amendment remains front and center in this legal thriller. The cast is comprised of an eclectic group of complex characters with intriguing backstories. And Lambek, a Vermont attorney, is a meticulous writer who stages even relatively minor scenes with the same descriptive precision he uses in his legal arguments. An engrossing, thoughtful, and disturbing drama that caters to 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 later attended Yale Law School, where he published articles on civil disobedience and international human rights. He has practiced law at Zalinger Cameron & Lambek in Montpelier for the past 30 years. He represents a number of school districts around Vermont, occasionally dealing with issues of student speech and religion in the schools. Lambek serves on the board of directors of the Vermont ACLU. Readers of “The Bridge” in Montpelier know him from his numerous stories about his father.

The launch date for the novel, published by Rootstock Publishing, of Montpelier, is Nov. 16. The novel is available for pre-order at all local bookstores, online retailers and at Rootstock. A book launch event is scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 18, at 6 p.m. at Lost Nation Theater in Montpelier.

To register for the reading go to www.rootstockpublishing.com

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