Kirkus Star


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An extraordinary book- an exciting book, but its reception is unpredictable because of the reluctance of the general reading public to allow its emotions to be stirred in the cause of Labor. For Stegner has chosen as his central character one of Labor's martyrs, ""Joe Hill"" whose I.W.W version of Janes first brought nationwide recognition in the workers' ranks. A strange, illusive and fascinating personality, as Stegner has portrayed him, Swedish born, he came into Labor by roundabout ways, and found there his niche as an organizer. He had no gift for soapbox oratory; he won adherents instead through his songs, his cartoons, his undercover activities, his pervasive inspiration, for the cause of industrial organization became a flaming passion, a religion, fanatically adhered to. He lived from hand to mouth; he could raise money for the cause but not for himself. A salutary influence in his life was the evangelist preacher, Lund, but they always parted on Lund's religious partisanship -- and Joe's adherence to the militant cause of labor. There are scenes in the jungles of the down and outers, in the doss houses, in the hiring halls; there's grim, crude ribaldry and tough talk, much of which will shock the thin-skinned. It's not a pretty story -- nor intended to be, either in its broader sweep or its flashes of indictment of a capitalistic society that could allow the migrant camp conditions, the conditions along the water front, the mines, the factories. And yet the book is intensely personal and human- rather then a documentary soundtrack. There's a tense undercurrent of excitement, and yet an almost quiet pace of writing. It is a difficult book to evaluate and it almost demands to be read in order to be recommended. Certainly not everybody's meat, but don't bypass it.

Pub Date: Sept. 5th, 1950
Publisher: Houghton, Mifflin