Friday, April 22, 2011

So I wrote a book...

In between babies, work and now study, I've been quietly trying to find out what happened to Joe Hill's ashes in New Zealand. It's been a form of escapism which has rewarded me with new skills and new knowledge—plus it's been fun trawling archives. Now that I've come to the close of my research, it's going to be coming out as a book. Here's the blurb for Remains to be Seen: Tracing Joe Hill's ashes in New Zealand:

"On the eve of his execution in 1915, Joe Hill — radical songwriter, union organiser and member of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) — penned one final telegram from his Utah prison cell: “Could you arrange to have my body hauled to the state line to be buried? I don’t want to be found dead in Utah.” His fellow ‘Wobblies’, remaining faithful to his Last Will, did one better. After two massive funerals, Hill’s body was cremated, his ashes placed into tiny packets and sent to IWW ‘Locals’, sympathetic organizations and individuals around the world. Among the nations said to receive Hill’s ashes, New Zealand is listed.

Yet nothing is known about what happened to the ashes of Joe Hill in New Zealand. If some kind of ceremony had taken place, there are no oral or written records that recall such an event. Were Hill’s ashes really sent to New Zealand? Or was New Zealand simply listed to give such a symbolic act more scope? If they did make it, what happened to them?

‘Remains to be Seen’ traces the ashes of Joe Hill, from their distribution in Chicago to wartime New Zealand. Evidence is provided to suggest Hill’s ashes were not scattered around the World on May Day 1916 as commonly believed, and draws on previously unseen archival material to examine the persecution of anarchists, socialists and Wobblies in New Zealand during the First World War. It also examines how intense censorship measures — put in place by the National Coalition Government of William Massey and zealously enforced by New Zealand’s Solicitor-General, Sir John Salmond — effectively silenced and suppressed the IWW in New Zealand."

Thanks to the peeps at Rebel Press, the thing is going to be published very soon. They've also been cool with me doing all the design myself, which is rad. Check back for more updates—hopefully there will be a bit of a book launch/tour (really an excuse to go to Wellington...), but in the meantime, here's a spread from the book.

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