Reviews

Write Phoenix Brown and Lars Vigo in their blog post: “William Adler’s new book is… destined to displace Gibbs Smith’s 1969 biography as the definitive work on the subject.” The pair go on to discuss the author’s contention that Hill died an innocent man. “Bottom line: even if you don’t buy into the Hill-as-martyr image, Adler’s is still the best book ever written on Joe Hill.

 

-- Off-Center Views, May 7, 2012

“[A] biographical act of courage…. Against all odds, the author uncovers evidence ranging from unpublished cartoons to [Hill’s] prison-booking photographs…..”  “[Adler] uses a richly layered historical approach.” — Laura Hapke

-- WorkingUSA: The Journal of Labor and Society, Mar. 2012

Bill Adler’s definitive biography of rebel labor legend Joe Hill not only solves the mystery of Hill’s conviction and 1915 execution by the state of Utah – uncovering documentary evidence that confirms Hill’s innocence of murder – it vividly portrays an entire era of U.S. and working-class history in astonishing detail. Just as in his previous revelatory books – Land of Opportunity (1995) and Mollie’s Job (2000) – Adler recounts his central story of Hill and the Wob­blies (Industrial  Workers of the World) so that it opens up a period of extraordinary exploitation and heroic rebellion among the immigrant miners, dockworkers, pickers, and their millions of fellows at the turn of the century. It’s a gripping read, an indispensable book, and a wonderful gift for the 99 Percenter on your list. – Michael King

-- Austin Chronicle, Dec. 16, 2011

“Adler’s book is indispensable for anyone who wants to get a clearer picture of the life and times of Joe Hill.”

Click here for the full review in Swedish.

-- Svenska Dagbladet (Sweden), Nov. 19, 2011

“Intriguing… a fast-paced chronicle of a life that would have gone unsung if not for Hill’s martyrdom in the wake of a mockery of a trial.”

-- Chicago Tribune, Oct. 26, 2011

“Exhaustively researched. The story of Joe Hill is popular among Western and labor historians, but The Man Who Never Died may be the best biography of the lot. An absorbing narrative.”

-- Denver Post, Oct. 30, 2011

“In his well-researched and tightly woven new book, The Man Who Never Died, William Adler produces the most complete account yet of Joe Hill’s life. Like a detective, he follows Hill’s trail from his birthplace in Gavle, Sweden, to his final days in Utah.” — Dave Elsila in Solidarity

-- Solidarity (UAW) magazine, Nov./Dec. 2011

“Adler delves into the case’s evidence, motives and lack thereof with the spirit of a private investigator,  combined with the detachment of an historian and the passion of an activist. The result is a multi-layered who-dun-it that ultimately, he thinks, exonerates Hill and raises the more mysterious question of why Hill accepted execution without ever trying to prove his innocence.” —Kari Lyderson in In these Times

-- In These Times, Oct. 17, 2011

“Author William M. Adler spent more than five years of his life researching the labor icon, Joe Hill. It was very much worth his time. … Those who love history, a little bit of mystery and a beautifully written story … should enjoy The Man Who Never Died.”

-- (Salt Lake City) Deseret News, Oct. 15, 2011

 

“[A] fascinating and groundbreaking biography. Adler… has used the life of Hill to provide a sweeping portrait of militant labor activism in the period leading up to World War I.”

–Gabriel Thompson, “Joe, We Hardly Knew Ya

-- The Brooklyn Rail, Oct. 2011.

“Until Adler’s 2011 book, there were enough troubling aspects to the story that even some of Hill’s admirers and biographers allowed that he could have killed Morrison. Adler has produced a fully realized picture of the man, but also a gripping detective story that comes close to exonerating Hill. Adler’s discovery of the 1949 letter from Hilda Erickson… made national news last month. But Adler deserves credit for turning up enough new material on [another suspect] to indict him as the likely killer.”

–from Pat Bagley’s editorial column, “Living History: Book makes a strong case for executed man’s innocence.”

-- Salt Lake Tribune, Oct. 1, 2011

“Through meticulous research, Mr. Adler provides strong evidence that the case against Hill was flimsy and the chief reason he was brought to trial was because ‘he had a Wobbly membership card in his pocket.’”

-- Washington Times, Sept. 23, 2011

“[Adler] tells the story with rare intelligence and verve….   [He] goes beyond earlier authors by not only persuasively arguing Hill’s actual innocence, but also naming the likely perpetrator of the brutal and seemingly random slaying of John and Arling Morrison.”

Hugh Iglarsh in Newcity Lit, Sept. 21, 2011

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Joe Hill we have in plenitude, as working class symbol and literary icon. Yet none of Hill’s earlier biographers deal convincingly, nor to biographical satisfaction with the question of innocence or guilt. Now comes a book – the product of five years of intensive research – in which new, intimate secrets of Joe Hill’s life are revealed. William M. Adler’s excellent work, The Man Who Never Died, provides significant, previously unpublished information. Adler walked the ground, poked into the dark places, and discovered long-hidden truths. He traveled to Sweden to meet Joe’s family, to explore the work of Swedish biographers, and to research Hill’s childhood. Adler then followed Joe to America, to California and Canada, through his brief role in the Mexican Revolution, and subsequently, to the bitter end in Utah.

Industrial Worker, Sept. 2011

 

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Legendary songwriter and union activist Joe Hill, who died in 1915 at the hands of a firing squad, seems as relevant today as ever. With historically high unemployment, plummeting union membership, and a political system in which corporate money talks louder than ever, unions and workers are on the defensive, trying to hold on to gains they made decades ago…. As this splendid, sympathetic biography makes clear, Joe Hill spent his life on the run from the dark realities of capitalism, but Hill’s true genius was his refusal to surrender to despair.

-- Boston Globe, Sept. 5, 2011

Were Hill alive today, he would be disappointed to see how few Americans belong to a union. But he would be pleased that his defiant last message still serves the beleaguered labor movement as a rallying cry. “I will die like a true-blue rebel,” he told his comrades. “Don’t waste any time in mourning—organize.”

-- The Wall Street Journal, Sept. 3, 2011

In his news feature on the front page of the national section, New York Times reporter Steven Greenhouse writes:

[Adler’s] new biography makes the strongest case yet that Hill was wrongfully convicted of murdering a local grocer, the charge that led to his execution at age 36.

…. “His research is just incredible — it expands what we know in really dramatic ways,” said John R. Sillito, co-author of a new book on radicalism in Utah and a retired archivist at Weber State University in Ogden.

-- From “Old Letter Sheds New Light on Joe Hill Murder Case,” The New York Times, August 27, 2011

“Highly recommended. This biography … provides necessary historical context, and may successfully revive Hill in American popular consciousness.”

 

-- Library Journal, August 15, 2011 (starred review)

“Mr. Adler concludes that Hill came to believe that he was worth far more to his cause as a symbol than as an individual. His rousing last words show him to be a man mindful of his legacy: ‘Don’t waste time in mourning. Organize!’”

-- The Economist, August 6, 2011

“Presenting Hill as man and symbol, Adler contributes vitally to labor history.”

-- Booklist

“Adler has produced a fully realized picture of the man, but also a gripping detective story that comes close to exonerating Hill.”

-- Salt Lake Tribune