Historian and journalist Francis Russell wrote on a wide range of topics, from art to popular and juvenile history. One of his better known works is the controversial Tragedy in Dedham, concerning the murder trial of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti during the 1920s.
Russell attended Bowdoin College from 1928-1932, spending a portion of 1931-1932 enrolled at the University of Breslau in Germany. He also received an MA degree from Harvard University in 1937. Russell married Sharon Soong in 1966; the pair had one daughter, Sara.
During the Second World War, he served as an intelligence officer with the Canadian Army and was discharged in 1946.
In addition to his book on Sacco and Vanzetti and his later treatment of the subject, Sacco and Vanzetti: the Case Resolved (1986), Russell's other works include: Three Studies in Twentieth-Century Obscurity: Joyce, Kafka and Gertrude Stein (1953), The World of Durer (1967), and The Shadow of Blooming Grove: Warren G. Harding in His Times (1968). Russell received two Guggenheim fellowships during his lifetime, and was awarded the Edgar Allen Poe award by the Mystery Writers of America for Tragedy in Dedham.