Publisher's Description

Hemingway’s Second War is a much-needed and terrific book. Whether shedding critical light on Hemingway’s experiences during the Spanish Civil War, explaining his role in the filming of The Spanish Earth, or clarifying his political positions during this period, Alex Vernon intelligently and comprehensively delivers, providing much-needed factual details in the process. I do not know of any other book, either already published or in process, that matches the thorough and keen treatment of this subject. It will easily be the definitive work on Hemingway and the Spanish Civil War.”—James H. Meredith, president, Ernest Hemingway Foundation and Society

In 1937 and 1938, Ernest Hemingway made four trips to Spain to cover its civil war for the North American News Alliance wire service and to help create the pro-Republican documentary film The Spanish Earth. Hemingway’s Second War is the first book-length scholarly work devoted to this subject.

Drawing on primary sources, Alex Vernon provides a thorough account of Hemingway’s involvement in the Spanish Civil War, a messy, complicated, brutal precursor to World War II that inspired Hemingway’s great novel For Whom the Bell Tolls. Vernon also offers the most sustained history and consideration to date of The Spanish Earth. Directed by Joris Ivens, this film was a landmark work in the development of war documentaries, for which Hemingway served as screenwriter and narrator.

Contributing factual, textual, and contextual information to Hemingway studies in general and his participation in the war specifically, Vernon has written a critical biography for Hemingway’s experiences during the Spanish Civil War that includes discussion of the left-wing politics of the era and the execution of José Robles Pazos. Finally, the book provides readings of For Whom the Bell Tolls both in historical context and on its own terms.

Marked by both impressive breadth and accessibility, Hemingway’s Second War will be an indispensable resource for students of literature, film, journalism, and European history and a landmark work for readers of Ernest Hemingway.


▪ Linda Wagner-Martin, Hemingway’s Wars: “Filled with new information, Vernon’s work provide[s] essential insights into the prolegomenon that shaped Hemingway’s writing, and his political beliefs, from the mid-1930s to the very visible end of the Spanish conflict” (U. Missouri P., 2017).

▪ Laurence W. Mazzeno, The Critics and Hemingway, 1924-2014: "Certainly Vernon's study, particularly in his careful comparison of [For Whom the Bell Tolls] with A Farewell to Arms, went far in restoring the book to a place of prominence among Hemingway's novels....Vernon's book is an example of what a scholar committed to careful, exhaustive research--and blessed with what reviewer Earl Rovit called 'quicksilver creative agility'--can produce. Like Mike Reynolds's groundbreaking study Hemingway's First War: The Making of 'A Farewell to Arms,' from which Vernon derived his title, Hemingway's Second War is likely to have notable influence on future generations of scholars" (Camden House, 2015, p.221).

Resources for American Literary Study: "Hemingway's Second War should become a foundational critical text for scholars examining Hemingway's life and work in the 1930s, as well as that of his contemporaries. This is a smart, well-researched book." (v36, 2011 [2013]).

  ▪ Modern Fiction Studies:  “Hemingway's Second War is grounded in a thorough understanding of the whole of Hemingway's work and the critical discourse surrounding it, the politics and broader culture of the time, and the literature of Hemingway's contemporaries….[A] book making use of this much archival material is rich and rare. Vernon's eye in choosing and arranging the material is flawless, and his narrative voice is active,   straightforward, intelligent, and comprehensible throughout. He excels at spotting and working through discrepancies and clarifying factual information. If the book gives us access to a number of archives, Vernon is our guide through them, pointing out the most pertinent bits and giving us the context with which to make use of them.…Literary history depends on scholars' reinterpreting the evidence in such a manner, and Vernon makes such valuable contributions to the literary historical record. … The information on [The Spanish Earth] is rich, dealing with complicated questions of authorship,….on just how groundbreaking The Spanish Earth was for cinematic arts, [and on the] thematic parallels between the movie and [For Whom the Bell Tolls]….Vernon's book is an important contribution to literary historical record, and should interest and please scholars of Hemingway, American literature, Modernist literature, and twentieth-century literature, as well as those interested in cinema, gender studies, and historical and political approaches to literature.” (v59n1, Spring 2013, 224-227)                        

Hemingway Review: “[A] brilliantly concise and extraordinarily informative narrative of Hemingway’s journalistic contributions, the details of the production and an analysis of the film and book versions of The Spanish Earth, and a critical discussion of For Whom the Bell Tolls—all solidly within the context of the war….From the beginning we are immediately caught up, along with Hemingway, in the labyrinth of political ideologies, battle strategies, corruption, comradeship, and deep-seated rivalries that characterized the war….Vernon has provided more information on the inception, production and distribution of The Spanish Earth—including Hemingway’s involvement with the project and details surrounding the print version by Jasper Wood—than has ever been amassed in one book…..[This] unprecedented scholarship…. offers an in-depth overview of Hemingway’s political, professional and personal involvement with the Spanish Civil War and can be appreciated both for its coverage of the war’s complexities and for its outstanding scholarship. Perhaps more importantly, Vernon’s book will encourage casual readers and literary scholars alike to open up new discussion on this fascinating topic.” (v31n1, Fall 2011, 128-130)                        

Metapsychology Online Reviews:  “[A] fine study of the relationship between reporting and fiction writing. By studying…various source materials…Vernon is…able to shine a light on the novel that comes from this war. As a literary critic he is insightful, careful, and respectful of the novel -- reading out and not into the text …. The notes and sources provided are a boon to Hemingway scholars and provide a strong foundation for the opinions and interpretations presented by Vernon in his delightful reading of the novel. His approach seems to produce a wealth of new information and keen criticism …. to provide the reader with a broad   and deep understanding of the time, the conflict, the people, and the process of creating art from experience. This is a book for the Hemingway aficionado, but also for the general reader with a curiosity about history, literature, film, and politics.” (v16i16, 17 Apr 2012,

▪ Sewanee Review: “[B]y setting Hemingway’s developing perspective and on-the-spot observations within the larger, carefully detailed context of Franco’s overwhelming and ultimately victorious campaign, Vernon has made a significant and solid contribution to Hemingway studies. Vernon’s explorative interpretations of character and theme—many of which I disagree with—are intelligent, often brilliant, always provocative, and persuasively argued, at times, from both sides of the issue, in fact. Vernon is a researcher of Stakhanovite stature and patience and a critic with quicksilver creative agility. In his close readings of Hemingway, he is determined—as the current cliché states—to connect all the dots.” (v119n4, fall 2011)                  

▪   American Library Association: “This volume fits nicely into the extensive critical corpus on Hemingway and the Spanish Civil War. Highly Recommended.”   (Choice v49n03, Nov 11).     

Other Recognition

▪   solicited for the Best Journalism and Mass Communication History Book Award by the award coordinator (Jan 2012)