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The Man Who Never Died: The Life, Times, and Legacy of Joe Hill, American Labor Icon
     

The Man Who Never Died: The Life, Times, and Legacy of Joe Hill, American Labor Icon

3.7 4
by William M. Adler
 

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In 1914, Joe Hill was convicted of murder in Utah and sentenced to death by firing squad, igniting international controversy. Many believed Hill was innocent, condemned for his association with the Industrial Workers of the World-the radical Wobblies. Now, following four years of intensive investigation, William M. Adler gives us the first full-scale biography of

Overview

In 1914, Joe Hill was convicted of murder in Utah and sentenced to death by firing squad, igniting international controversy. Many believed Hill was innocent, condemned for his association with the Industrial Workers of the World-the radical Wobblies. Now, following four years of intensive investigation, William M. Adler gives us the first full-scale biography of Joe Hill, and presents never before published documentary evidence that comes as close as one can to definitively exonerating him.


Joe Hill's gripping tale is set against a brief but electrifying moment in American history, between the century's turn and World War I, when the call for industrial unionism struck a deep chord among disenfranchised workers; when class warfare raged and capitalism was on the run. Hill was the union's preeminent songwriter, and in death, he became organized labor's most venerated martyr, celebrated by Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan, and immortalized in the ballad "I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill Last Night."


The Man Who Never Died does justice to Joe Hill's extraordinary life and its controversial end. Drawing on extensive new evidence, Adler deconstructs the case against his subject and argues convincingly for the guilt of another man. Reading like a murder mystery, and set against the background of the raw, turn-of-the-century West, this essential American story will make news and expose the roots of critical contemporary issues.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Many readers may know the moving folk song "I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill Last Night." In 1915, labor activist Joe Hill was executed in Utah for a murder it remains doubtful he committed. Adler (Mollie's Job: A Story of Life and Work on the Global Assembly Line) reexamines the murky circumstances of the crime and trial. Hill, a proud member of the Industrial Workers of the World (Wobblies), was known for his humorous yet aggressive protest songs. Set to popular tunes and featured in the IWW's Little Red Songbook, they were pointed attacks on the establishment. Hill's famous "The Preacher and the Slave" mocks the hypocrisy of offering spiritual advice before worldly sustenance and introduced into the American lexicon the phrase "pie in the sky." Adler references newspapers, archival sources, and related significant biographies to tell Hill's story. He speculates why Hill refused to testify at his trial and highlights the criminal record and weak alibi of another likely murder suspect, introducing a letter of somewhat shaky provenance that he believes exonerates Hill. VERDICT Highly recommended. Appropriate for students and lay readers, this biography is an easy read, provides necessary historical context, and may successfully revive Hill in American popular consciousness.—Laura Ruttum, Denver
Kirkus Reviews

Well-researched revelations about the union martyr and prolific protest songwriter.

If Labor Day were a gift-giving occasion, this biography of Joe Hill by freelance writer Adler(Mollie's Job: A Story of Life and Work on the Global Assembly Line, 2000, etc.) would top this year's holiday list. As the author notes, the man who was executed in 1915 for a murder he didn't commit now seems "to float with Paul Bunyan and John Henry and Johnny Appleseed in a celestial realm somewhere between fiction and legend." The Swedish immigrant was complicit in that mythmaking, insisting he defend himself against charges of killing a grocer (where there was no motive or evidence tying him to the scene), then offering little defense and finally demanding a new trial rather than settling for the pardon he might well have received (his thousands of advocates included President Woodrow Wilson and Helen Keller). But somewhere during his incarceration, Hill decided that he was worth more to the labor movement dead than alive. He refused to explain the only evidence against him, a gunshot wound suffered on the night of the crime, most likely inflicted by a friend who had been engaged to a woman they both coveted; her letter explaining the details is one of the keys unearthed by the Adler's five years of research. Hill's story remains inextricably linked with that of the IWW—the International Workers of the World (or "Wobblies")—notorious as America's most radical union of the early 20th century. Not only did it embrace the foreign and unskilled, but rather than campaigning for better wages, it urged the abolishment of the wage system. Yet what ultimately distinguished the Wobblies was their celebration of "the power of song" in galvanizing a movement. While the Wobblies are a dim memory, and Hill has become better known through a song eulogizing him than any he wrote, he remains a seminal influence on musical activism from Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger through Bob Dylan.

Stronger in research than storytelling, Adler reveals the man beneath the myth, detailing the life that spawned the legend.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781608192854
Publisher:
Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
08/31/2011
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
448
File size:
5 MB

Meet the Author

William M. Adler is a freelance writer who has contributed to numerous publications, including Esquire, Rolling Stone, Mother Jones, Texas Monthly, and the Texas Observer. He is the author of Land of Opportunity, about the rise and fall of a crack cocaine empire, and Mollie's Job, following the flight of one woman's factory job from the U.S. to Mexico. Adler lives with his wife and son in Denver, Colorado.
William M. Adler is a freelance writer who has written for numerous publications, including Esquire, Rolling Stone, Mother Jones, Texas Monthly, and the Texas Observer. He is the author of two previous books, Land of Opportunity, about the rise and fall of a crack-cocaine empire, and Mollie's Job, following the flight of one woman's factory job from the U.S. to Mexico. Adler lives with his wife and son in Denver, Colorado.

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The Man Who Never Died: The Life, Times, and Legacy of Joe Hill, American Labor Icon 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a good read, very interesting. It is scary to read the similarities with the fight between rich and poor with Joe Hill's time and ours. Joe Hill received a very unfair trial and this book does an excellent job chronicaling that. However, I am not convinced of his innocence.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
OldWahoo More than 1 year ago
A well written and interesting account of the life, trial and execution of Joe Hill the Wobblie song writer. Adler makes a strong case for Joe's innocence of the murder of a Utah storekeeper.