Monthly Archives: November 2011

The Gilded Shroud: (A Lady Fan Mystery #1)

By Elizabeth Bailey

Berkley/Prime Crime, $15, 368 pages

Who is this author?

Elizabeth Bailey, who lives in England, has gained fans for her historical romances, set in the late 18th century, known as the Regency or Georgian period of English history. Now she has branched out to Regency mysteries, and “The Gilded Shroud” is the first of a planned series. Bailey is a longtime fan of romance novel queen Georgette Heyer, whose influence has been fruitful.

Bailey has an exotic back story herself, having grown up in what is now Malawi in Africa and later becoming an actress, drama teacher, playwright and director, but always writing poetry and fiction. Now she concentrates on writing novels and also directs an arts festival in Sussex, where she lives.

What is this book about?

It’s not your typical heavy-breathing bodice-ripper romance, although it does have heavy breathing and a ripped bodice or two, I am sure. It begins when the licentious Lady Emily Fanshawe (Regency novels are replete with great names) is found strangled by her maid, much to the distaste of her mother-in-law, the dowager marchioness of Polbrook, who is worried that her son, randy Randal, might just have done it. He, suspiciously, has just fled the estate.

Someone has to figure out who did what to whom and why, and that falls to the marchioness’s good friend and companion, a widow named Otillia Draycott (but you can call her Tillie). Tillie, it turns out, has a thing for Francis, Randal’s brother. There also are subplots involving stolen jewelry and family secrets and plenty of crimes and passion to titillate the reader.

Why you’ll like it:

Reviewers are praising Bailey for creating lovable characters, such as Otillia and the marchioness, and for creating amusing repartee between the servants and the nobles. She also gets credit for bringing this volatile period to life without making it sound like a history lesson.

What others are saying:

Library Journal says: A light upstairs-downstairs affair with clever dialog. Georgette Heyer is a strong influence on Bailey, and Bailey does it well, deftly mixing her detecting with a gentle romance. Terrific crossover appeal for Georgian romance readers who crave a corpse with their love stories.”

“Fans of romantic historicals will welcome Bailey’s solid debut, a Regency mystery. A satisfying solution and well-chosen period detail will leave readers eager for the sequel,” says Publishers Weekly.

“First in a Regency suspense series from newcomer Bailey, who’s a trifle long-winded but has the scenery and the upstairs-downstairs characters down pat,” says Kirkus Reviews.

When is it available?

“The Gilded Shroud” is available now at the Hartford Public Library.

Tag Man: A Joe Gunther Novel

by Archer Mayor

(St. Martin’s Press, $25.99, 304 pages)

Who is this author?

Folks who live in Vermont have the reputation of being self-reliant, hard-working people. That perception would surely apply to Archer Mayor, of Newfane, who, besides being a successful novelist with a long list of popular mysteries to his credit, also works as a death investigator for Vermont’s chief medical examiner, a sheriff’s deputy for Windham County, a volunteer firefighter and EMT. He was also a  journalist and historian, not to mention a scholarly editor, a researcher for TIME-LIFE Books, a political advance-man, a theater photographer, a newspaper writer/editor, a lab technician for Paris-Match Magazine in Paris, France, and a medical illustrator. Whew.

In 2004, Mayor won the New England Booksellers Association award for best fiction — the first such honor for a writer in the crime genre.

Mayor has now written 22 mystery novels about Joe Gunther, the head of the (fictional) Vermont Bureau of Investigation.. “Tag Man” is the first of the Gunther novels to appear on the New York Times best-seller list.

.What is this book about?

Someone is breaking into the homes of rich residents of Brattleboro, despite their electronic watchdogs, and leaving sticky notes saying “Tag!” on their night tables. Disconcerting, to say the least. While nothing appears to have been stolen, except some midnight snacks, these mysterious events are making both victims and lawmen uneasy. The press eats the story up, of course, but things take a darker turn when the Tag Man steals some papers from a guy involved with the mob and a series of murders is revealed. Now the Tag Man is “it,” and Joe Gunther has to solve the mystery and perhaps save the life of the mysterious and likeable tagger.

Why you’ll like it:

Because of his real-life experience as an investigator, Mayor knows crime from the inside out, which gives his writing a solid authenticity. He’s also blessed with the ability to create fascinating characters, such as his team of investigators, menacing bad guys and quirky souls like the Tag Man himself.

The Chicago Tribune has called Mayor’s mysteries “the best police procedurals being written in America,” and many are saying “Tag Man” is the best of this rich series. If you like this one, you will have nearly two dozen more of his books to enjoy.

What others are saying:

Kirkus Reviews says: “…Joe Gunther and his Vermont Bureau of Investigation team find themselves in an anomalous position. They have to catch a thief, all right, but in order to protect him. It’s hard to imagine a more likable thief than Mayor’s Tag Man–or, for that matter, a more companionable lawman than the time-and-trouble-tested Sage of Brattleboro.”

“Multiple games of cat-and-mouse ensue as the Tag Man tries to elude both police and a determined killer. Vermont’s history and geography again serve Mayor well in this deadly and highly entertaining entry,” says Publishers Weekly.

“Mayor writes an intelligent mystery. His characters are real, the things that happen to them are logical, and the plot is believable. It’s a pleasure to find a story that captures readers’ attention, makes them care about the characters — and offers such dark chills,”  says the Associated Press.

When is it available?

The Hartford Public Library has it now.

“And Nothing but the Truthiness: The Rise (and Further Rise) of Stephen Colbert”

By Lisa Rogak

(Thomas Dunne Books, $25.99, 304 pages)

Who is this author?

Lisa Rogak, an author and magazine journalist who has published more than 40 books, knows her way around complex personalities. Her biography of America’s premiere contemporary horror-meister, “Haunted Heart: The Life and Times of Stephen King,” earned her nominations for such mystery genre awards as the Edgar and the Anthony.

On her website, she says:

“I’ve covered everything from sabbaticals to baby names to funeral food customs, though in the last few years I’ve focused on writing biographies….

“After all this time, it never ceases to amaze me that I have been able to make my living by indulging my curiosity and asking total strangers really nosy questions.”

That is no easy task, but her readers are glad she does.

What is this book about?

Here’s what Stephen Colbert….let’s see, is that pronounced “ColBEAR” or “ColBERT”?…has to say about himself:

“My name is Stephen Colbert, but I actually play someone on television named Stephen Colbert, who looks like me and talks like me, but who says things with a straight face [that] he doesn’t mean.”

Got that? To be sure, most of us need no introduction to the star of “The Colbert Report,” the wildly popular, deeply satirical and brilliantly written Comedy Channel cable TV show. For those who have never seen it, Colbert the comedian/actor/writer plays Colbert the arch-conservative bigmouth pundit, who may remind you of such outsize media personalities as RushBo, Bill O’ and, on the other side of the political aisle, Keith O. Colbert also coined the term “truthiness,” which he defined this way in an interview with The Onion’s AV Club:

“Truthiness is ‘What I say is right, and [nothing] anyone else says could possibly be true.’ It’s not only that I feel it to be true, but that I feel it to be true. There’s not only an emotional quality, but there’s a selfish quality.”

What Rogak does is to give us the personal history, or perhaps historiness, of the actual Colbert, which enlightens us as to how a Southern boy, the last-born in a devout Catholic family of 11 kids who lost his dad and two brothers in a tragic plane crash, went on to become a mainstay of “The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart and now one of America’s wittiest entertainers and a serious political commentator at the same time.

Why you’ll like it:

Rogak researched Colbert far and wide –- the book has 40 pages of bibliographical notes — tracing his personal and professional life from childhood through mid-2010. Writing seriously about being funny is difficult, as introspection tends to dampen humor, but Rogak avoids that pitfall and presents the multi-talented, likeable guy behind the pompous TV persona. Best of all, she quotes Colbert extensively, which helps us understand how he got to be one of America’s sharpest satirists.  As he explains:

“I grew up in a humorocracy where the funniest person in the room is king,” he said. “There was a constant competition to have the better story and be the funniest person in the room, and I wasn’t a particularly funny kid.”

Truth, or truthiness?

What others are saying:

“Special attention is paid to landmarks like the tragic plane crash that claimed the life of his father and two brothers, his success at Second City, and his ongoing Comedy Central reign—as well as his brief presidential bid, being named assistant sports psychologist for the 2010 U.S. Olympic speed skating team, and having a $5 million treadmill on the International Space Station named for him… this is the first major biography of Colbert and one fans will appreciate,” says Library Journal

“…enthusiastic fans will delight in Rogak’s lengthy, detailed behind-the-scenes coverage of both the show and Colbert’s controversial keynote speech at the 2006 White House Correspondents’ Dinner. [An] engaging, entertaining biography, which succeeds in capturing Colbert’s anarchic, iconoclastic spirit,” says Publishers Weekly.

“As close to a bio of the man — rather than the persona who hosts ‘The Colbert Report’ — that we’ll see anytime soon,” says the New York Daily News.

When is it available?

It’s on the Hartford Public Library’s new books shelf now.

The Outlaw Album: Stories

By Daniel Woodrell

(Little, Brown and Company, $24.99, 176  pages)

Who is this author?

If you saw the harsh but gripping 2010 film “Winter’s Bone,” a quadruple Academy Award nominee about a teenage girl in the Ozark Mountains who’s trying to find her meth-making daddy in order to save her family home, then you already know the work of novelist Daniel Woodrell, who wrote the 2006 novel on which that film was based.

If not, you can take a rewarding trip into Woodrell’s world in his story collection, “The Outlaw Album.” This author grew up and still lives in the Missouri Ozarks, but don’t dismiss him as a hillbilly: rural sophisticate is more like it. Woodrell himself uses the term “country noir” to describe his dark, often violent stories. He’s published eight novels, and five of them gained the coveted designation of “New York Times Notable Book of the Year.”

What is this book about?

“The Outlaw Album” is composed of a dozen stories, and death, despair and desperation figure prominently in their plots: a girl temporarily shelters a rapist, a husband enacts revenge for the killing of his wife’s pet, an angry neighbor burns down a stranger’s fancy new house. But please don’t let that keep you from sampling Woodrell’s dark country brew: while these are not happily-ever-after stories, they are compelling tales of good people breaking bad. What you get ihere, critics say, is what you might read if authors like Raymond Carver or Cormac McCarthy spent some serious time in the hills and hollers.

Why you’ll like it:

Fascinating, heartbreaking characters are Woodrell’s specialty, along with an insider’s look at a tightly-knit, isolated part of the country quite different from the urban and suburban Northeast we know so well. He has that precious thing all authors strive for: an original voice. As reviewer Donald Harrington put it in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, “the music coming from Woodrell’s banjo cannot be confused with the sounds of any other writer.”  These stories are a fine introduction to an American writer who should be better known to American readers.

What others are saying:

Publishers Weekly says: “The characters in this collection of short fiction, Woodrell’s first, lead hard, desperate lives that can erupt into violence and tragedy. Despite the simmering tensions among family members, between friends and neighbors, and, especially, towards strangers, however, the criminals in these 12 tales always maintain a simple code of honor as they seek their own brand of justice against those who’ve crossed them.”

“Woodrell’s Old Testament prose and blunt vision have a chilly timelessness that suggests this novel will speak to readers as long as there are readers,” says The New York Times.

“The lineage from Faulkner to Woodrell runs as deep and true as an Ozark stream in this book…his most profound and haunting work yet,” says The Los Angeles Times.

When is it available?

“The Outlaw Collection” is on the shelves at the Hartford Public Library.

The Taste of Salt

by Martha Southgate

(Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, $13.95, 288 pages)

Who is this author?

Martha Southgate, an African American writer, is a graduate of Smith College who is both a journalist and author of novels. Her magazine experience includes being an editor at Essence and a reporter for Premiere, and she also has been a reporter for the New York Daily News and a contributor to The New York Times. Her earlier novels, “The Fall of Rome” and “Third Girl from the Left,” won praise from book critics, as has her latest, “The Taste of Salt,” which was named One of O: The Oprah Magazine’s “10 Titles to Pick Up Now.”

What is this book about?

“The Taste of Salt” is a story about addiction and how it can bedevil but also bind a family over several generations. Josie Henderson has left her family in Cleveland for a prestigious position as a marine biologist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute on Cape Cod, but her professional rise is tempered by the personal challenges of dealing with the alcoholism of her father, Ray, and beloved younger brother, Tick. Josie’s husband is white and their marriage isn’t perfect: she’s familiar with addiction of the romantic kind. The story is narrated by several voices: Josie, her parents, brother and husband, who see the same events, but through their own personal prisms. Should this sister try to be her brother’s keeper, and is it even possible for her to help him to help himself? Those are questions that any family afflicted by addiction might ask. The answers are far harder to come by.

Why you’ll like it:

As we head into the season of family gatherings, many of us find that tensions old and new must be confronted or controlled, and “The Taste of Salt” explores family dynamics in a way that is easily understood. Southgate’s writing is strong on dialogue and compassion, and this novel, which has an autobiographical feel, reminds us that closeness has its costs as well as its rewards.

What others are saying:

With compassion and quiet grief, Southgate examines the ways families self-destruct even as they try to hold together,” says BookPage.

“The story of a family pushed to its limits by addiction over the course of two generations… Weaving four voices into a beautiful tapestry, Southgate charts the lives of the Hendersons from the parents’ first charmed meeting to Josie’s realization that the ways of the human heart are more complex than anything seen under a microscope,” says

Says Essence: “One of our favorite authors delves into a taboo topic: alcoholism in the Black community . . . Southgate is one of our most reliable tour guides inside the minds of fictitious Black rebels and outsiders . . . In a virtuoso balancing act, [she] tells [a] poignant story.”

When is it available?

You can find “The Taste of Salt” now at the Hartford Public Library.

Chango’s Beads and Two-Tone Shoes

By William Kennedy

(Viking, $26.95, 337pages) 

Who is this author?

You may know William Kennedy from his Albany Cycle of novels, set in the city where he was born and grew up. Or perhaps you recall “Ironweed,” which won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1984 and was adapted as a film. That cycle of  books also includes “Legs,” “Billy Phelan’s Greatest Game,” “Quinn’s Book,”  “Very Old Bones,” “The Flaming Corsage” and “Roscoe.” “Chango’s Beads and Two-Tone Shoes” is the latest to explore the fictional Phelan family and the real history of Albany, N.Y.

Kennedy began his writing career as an investigative journalist and covered the civil rights movement and the revolutions in Cuba. He also is a MacArthur Fellow, having received one of the foundation’s coveted and prestigious “genius grants” for his work.

What is this book about?

“Chango’s Beads and Two-Tone Shoes” is a sprawling, complex novel about Daniel Quinn, who is a journalist like the author and has a Cuban wife, Ernest Hemingway, mysticism, revolutions, corrupt politicians, criminals in the drug trade and race riots. And let’s not forget Fidel Castro.

Set in the 1950s and in 1968, partly in Cuba and partly in Albany – could any two places be less alike? – it is also a tale of love and loyalty and is peopled by a rambunctious crew of unforgettable characters – a Kennedy specialty.

Why you’ll like it:

The book’s great appeal is its quirky characters, who nearly jump off the page. Kennedy is praised for his ability to write vividly and humorously, with a musicality in his style that is very engaging. His experiences covering the Cuban revolution and the American civil rights turmoil give a strong real-world underpinning to his fictional tale.

What others are saying:

“Thick with backroom deal making and sharp commentary on corruption, Kennedy’s novel describes a world he clearly knows, and through plenty of action, careful historical detail and larger-than-life characters, he brilliantly brings it to life,” says Publishers Weekly.

“The book is a masterly blend of a serious examination of the people’s inherent right to fight oppression (and the dangers involved) and a political romp. Kennedy again proves that he is among our finest writers and that the American literary novel thrives. Bravo!” says Library Journal.

“”Written with such brio and encompassing humanity that it may well deserve to be called the best of the bunch… In Mr. Kennedy’s Albany, as in William Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County, the past is never past,” says the Wall Street Journal.

“A jazzy, seductive, historically anchored novel of politics and romance, race and revolution…Music, rapid-fire dialogue, lyrical outrage, epic malfeasance, trampled idealism, and a bit of autobiography drive Kennedy’s incandescent and enrapturing tale of the heroic and bloody quest for justice and equality and the gamble of love,” says Booklist.

When is it available?

“Chango’s Beads and Two-Tone Shoes” is available now at the Hartford Public Library.

The Buddha in the Attic

By Julie Otsuka

(Knopf Doubleday, $22, 144 pages)

Who is this author?

Julie Otsuka, 49, is a native Californian of Japanese heritage who was born in Palo Alto, California. She hoped to become a painter and earned degrees from Yale and Columbia universities, but it turns out that she paints with words.

Her first novel, “When the Emperor Was Divine,” was based on her family’s experiences during World War II: her grandfather was arrested as a suspected Japanese spy the day after the Pearl Harbor attacks and her mother, uncle and grandmother were placed in internment camps in Utah. It won her great praise: it was a New York Times Notable Book, San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year, and a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers finalist. Her new novel is “The Buddha in the Attic.” In a Barnes & Noble interview, she said:

“I came to New York to be a painter, and failed. My background in the visual arts, however, has definitely influenced the way I work—the process of painting is not all that different from that of writing. You wake up, go to your studio or your desk, you sketch out a scene, it’s all wrong, you make it a little warmer, a little cooler, it’s still wrong…Because I’d failed as a painter, I felt that I had nothing to lose when I began writing, which made it easier, somehow.”

What is this book about?

“The Buddha in the Attic” is about a group of Japanese “picture brides,” sent here in the early 1900s to marry total strangers: American men. The book is divided into eight parts, beginning with their journey to California by boat, during which they imagine what their new lives will be like and share pictures of the men who are waiting for them. Then we see them as new wives, often in troubled marriages, as field workers picking fruit, as servants to white families, as mothers whose children often reject their Japanese roots and finally as captives in those internment camps during World War II.  It is a moving story of a search to find community and a new home. Some of the women enjoy successful marriages and lives and begin to feel like Americans, but when the war begins they find they are no longer sure they can trust each other. The book was a finalist for a National  Book Award in fiction this year.

Why you’ll like it:

Reviewers call Otsuka’s writing poetic and artistic, praising its “economy and precision” and its precise imagery and intimacy. She tells this story in women’s voices, who speak like a chorus, narrating what happens to the group. Then she writes in the voices of white people who do not understand the women’s feelings or their lives. While the book is set in the past, it can be read as a meditation on a very current concern: the difficulties of immigrant’s lives, no matter what their nationality.

What others are saying:

“Otsuka’s prose is precise and rich with imagery. Readers will be inspired to draw their own parallels between the experiences of these women and the modern experience of immigration. By the time readers realize that the story is headed toward the internment of the Japanese, they are hopelessly engaged and will finish this exceptional book profoundly moved,” says Publisher’s Weekly.

Library Journal calls the book “unforgettable and essential both for readers and writers.”

“A lovely prose poem that gives a bitter history lesson,” says Kirkus Reviews.

“Otsuka’s incantatory style pulls her prose close to poetry,” says The New York Times Book Review.

 “A stunning feat of empathetic imagination and emotional compression, capturing the experience of thousands of women,” says Vogue.

When is it available?

“The Buddha in the Attic” is available now at the Hartford Public Library.

Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend

by Susan Orlean

(Simon & Schuster, $26.99, 336 pages) 

Who is this author?

I had the pleasure of meeting Susan Orlean some years ago at one of the Hartford Courant’s annual (and late and lamented) National Writers Workshops. Three things struck me: she was tiny, she was intense and she was one hell of a writer.

A staff writer at The New Yorker since 1992, Orlean has published seven books, including “Saturday Night,” for which she roamed the country to find things that Americans typically enjoyed doing on that precious weekend evening, and her No. 1 best-seller “The Orchid Thief,” which became the film “Adaptation.” (A local note: the screenwriter for the surreal plot of “Adaptation” was Charlie Kaufman, a graduate of Hall High School in West Hartford.)

Orlean is known for her intensive research and getting deeply involved in the subject. This passionate approach gives her non-fiction a compelling immediacy that draws readers in, no matter what the subject.

What is this book about?

A dog. Well, not just any dog, and not just a dog. The book is a historical biography of  Rin Tin Tin, the handsome and talented German shepherd, believed to have been born on a World War I battlefield and later brought to Hollywood where he became one of the early stars of the burgeoning film industry. Trained and deeply loved by his master, former soldier Lee Duncan, who evidently preferred the dog’s company his wife’s, Rin Tin Tin first went on to become an international canine hero and star. Besides saving actors as the melodramatic plots of his movies demanded, the dog also is said to have saved Warner Brothers from going bankrupt. Orlean makes the case that this dog could actually act, rather than just follow commands.

Orleans tells not only the story of Rinty (as he was nicknamed) and Duncan, who went on to become a, well, top dog among trainers, but also of Hollywood, radio and TV in their early years and how they affected American culture, as well as the history of dogs in wars and as household pets.  The book is a portrait of America between World Wars I and II and into the 1950s, an examination of pop culture in those years and a loving tribute to a creature who embodied the highest ideals.

Why you’ll like it:

As mentioned above, Orlean is that rare author who gets so deeply immersed in what she is writing about – she spent 10 years researching this book —  that her readers follow happily and willingly. As the Barnes & Noble review puts it: “Neither heavy nor scholarly but trustworthy and true, she makes us want to follow wherever she leads.” Orlean is also adept at linking the strands of a story. Here, she combines the history of a single dog and his master with fascinating explorations of how dogs evolved and became “the best friend” of man, how the film, radio and TV industries evolved from mere entertainment to shapers of culture and influencers of life. (She credits Rin Tin Tin and Lassie with popularizing German shepherds and collies as household pets.) Lovers of dogs, American history and the creativity and craziness of the American entertainment industry will find much to admire about this book.

What others are saying:

The New York Times Book Review says: “…by the end of this expertly told tale, [Orlean] may persuade even the most hardened skeptic that Rin Tin Tin belongs on Mount Rushmore with George Washington and Teddy Roosevelt, or at least somewhere nearby with John Wayne and Seabiscuit.”

Says Library Journal: “This is a thoroughly researched and masterfully written work that will please a wide audience, especially those who remember this noble canine hero. It is also an important addition to the literature of cultural, entertainment, and animal history.”

 “Stunning . . . A book so moving it melted the heart of at least this one dogged Lassie lover . . . Don’t let the book’s title fool you. Calling Rin Tin Tin the story of a dog is like calling Moby-Dick the story of a whale. Orlean surfs the tide of time, pushing off in the 1900s and landing in the now, delivering a witty synopsis of nearly a century of Rin Tin Tins and American popular culture. The result is a truly exceptional book that marries historical journalism, memoir, and the technique of character-driven, psychologically astute, finely crafted fiction: a whole far greater than the sum of its parts,”  says Meredith Maran in The Boston Globe.

When is it available?

“Rin Tin Tin” is at the Hartford Public Library now.

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

By William M. Adler

(Bloomsbury, $30, 448 pages)

Who is this author?

William M. Adler, who lives in Colorado, is a freelance writer whose work has been published in many major magazines, such as Esquire, Rolling Stone, Mother Jones, Texas Monthly and the Texas Observer. Adler also has written two other books. He traced the success and subsequent failure of a black family’s cocaine distribution business in “Land of Opportunity: One Family’s Quest for the American Dream in the Age of Crack.” In “Mollie’s Job: A Story of Life and Work on the Global Assembly Line,” he shows problems of the global economy and free trade by chronicling three women who held the same factory job that moved from New Jersey, where it paid $8 an hour, to Mississippi, where it paid less and finally to Mexico, where it paid $4 an hour.

What is this book about?

BItter class warfare, capitalism under attack, embattled unions, unhappy workers: they’re all in the news today, but they are nothing new. About 100 years ago, these issues were making headlines too, and one controversy was about Swedish immigrant Joe Hill, a protest song writer, labor union organizer and supporter of the Industrial Workers of the World, or Wobblies, as they were known. Hill is known mainly today as the hero of the folk ballad “I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill Last Night,” with the famous line, “I never died, says he,” often sung by Pete Seeger, Joan Baez and others.

He was convicted of murder in Utah in 1914 and sentenced to death by firing squad. Many suspected he was being railroaded, and “The Man Who Never Died” provides strong evidence that was indeed the case. But though Hill had the support of such important figures as Pres. Woodrow Wilson and Helen Keller, he turned down the chance at a pardon and demanded a new trial, evidently feeling he was more important to the labor movement as a dead martyr than a live free man. Perhaps he was right.

Why you’ll like it:

History may not precisely repeat itself, but it does spiral around similar concerns, and reading about how labor issues played out some 100 years ago can help us understand the current controversies about unions, the Occupy Wall Street movement and the eternal clash between rich and poor. Adler is strong on research, having spent four years delving into newspaper accounts of the day, archival material and other biographies of Joe Hill to illuminate the man and the context of his life and death. Often it is easier to understand historical events if they are focused on one person’s life story. Adler provides that opportunity to his readers.

What others are saying:

“Joe Hill is a mythic, martyred figure in the history of American radicalism, part-labor organizer, part-songster. Bill Adler has done a fine job of rediscovering the man as well as the legend,” says Princeton history professor and author Sean Wilentz.

“William Adler, an investigative historian, delivers a controversial verdict… 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!’” says Economist magazine.

“The Man Who Never Died” reminds us that it took a people’s movement to create America’s middle class, and that people must get moving pronto — for the bosses, bankers, BS-ers, and bastards are going all out to kill it….Don’t mourn, read this book, get out of the La-Z-Boy, and join the action,” says Jim Hightower, best-selling populist author, radio commentator and editor of the “Hightower Lowdown” newsletter.

When is it available?

“The Man Who Never Died” is available now at the Hartford Public Library.