Tuesday, August 2, 2016

American Heiress By Jeffrey Toobin

Author: Jeffrey Toobn
Release: August 1, 2016
Publisher Doubleday
Pages: 368
Genre: Nonfiction, History, True Crime, Legal History

Buy from Amazon:

On February 4, 1974, 19-year-old Patricia Campbell Hearst, a junior, majoring in art history at Cal Berkeley and heiress to the Hearst family fortune, was kidnapped by a motley group of self-proclaimed revolutionaries known as the Symbionese Liberation Army.
The sensational and shocking story that unfolded over the next year and half would take many peculiar turns. The immense media attention surrounding the case transfixed the nation and was an integral piece of the puzzle that helped define the 1970s, a decade of perverse violence, political failures, and extreme pessimism. Jeffrey Toobin, bestselling author of Run of His Life: The People v. O.J. Simpson, CNN senior legal analyst and a staff writer at The New Yorker tackles this fascinating and complex story in American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst.

Riveting and definitive American Heiress is the story of one the most notorious crime cases of the 20th century. In an easy and captivating style Toobin describes the peculiarities, madness, psychology, and legal maneuverings of the events that surrounded the kidnapping, crimes, and trial of Patty Hearst and others.

The reader is taken on a wild ride that vividly captures the atmosphere and craziness of the SLA radicals and their lethal mix of politics, violence, and sex that shrouded Hearst throughout her entire ordeal. Although she did not cooperate with the book, generally, it is a fairly sympathetic chronicle of her plight. Her fear, tenacity, and ideological conversion are dramatically conveyed within its pages.
“Disoriented, frightened, cold, and alone, Patricia, had no idea where they were going or why. Still, it was in her nature to resist. A more timid teenager might have remained frozen in terror, but Patricia, while still in the dark of the trunk, shucked off her restraints and blindfold. As Bill Harris learned when she howled for help and nearly escaped in her driveway, this woman was a fighter.”

From Randolph and Catherine Hearst’s make shift news conferences to their ill-advised attempt to secure their daughter’s freedom by feeding all the people of Oakland and San Francisco for free; to the astonishing photographs capturing Patty or “Tania” brandishing a machine gun during a bank robbery and her stress-filled year on the lam; to the largest police shoot-out in American history and the first news event to be broadcast live on television; and Patty’s ultimate capture and circuslike trial in which the phrase "Stockholm syndrome" entered the modern vocabulary.

Toobin’s dramatic and engaging style of writing brings to life the many characters and truly bizarre and astonishing events. His meticulous examination and analysis of the evidence is based on hundreds of interviews and thousands of previously unpublished documents.

As Toobin powerfully writes, “The legacy of the SLA itself may be nonexistent, but its story provided a kind of trailer for the modern world. The kidnapping of Patricia Hearst foretold much that would happen to American society in a diverse number of fields.”

Few people in American history have been subjected to as dramatic a transformation of circumstances as Patricia Hearst. In an instant, her life of privilege was gone, replaced by a nightmare of unadulterated horror. And then, most oddly, she reacted to this trauma with ferocious tenacity by becoming a full-fledged member of the very group that had kidnapped her rejecting the very principals with which she was raised.

“Patricia, in the grip of a cold fury, wanted revenge, even more than her remaining captors turned colleagues. She lived off cigarettes and snacks. Days and nights of hiding in grimy motels and squalid apartments gave her a sickly pallor, but adversity for the woman called Tania, made her stronger. In this, there was, despite everything, a hint of her former life.”

Was Hearst a willing participant in the SLA or did she pretend for over a year to keep herself alive? Did her family's money and political connections help her avoid a lengthy jail sentence despite armed robbery, bombings, attempted murder, and felony murder? These questions that have doggedly shadowed the case were unfortunately left mainly unanswered which was somewhat disappointing.
Overall, Jeffrey Toobin’s American Heiress is an informative, compelling, and insightful summer read. A thrill ride that will mesmerize anyone who is fascinated with the social and political complexities of the 1970s, legal history, American crime, or anything related to Patty Hearst.

Michael Thomas Barry is a reviewer for the New York Journal of Books. He is also the author of seven nonfiction books that includes In the Company of Evil: Thirty Years of California Crime, 1950–1980. He is also a columnist for CrimeMagazine.com.

The Hemingway Thief by Shaun Harris


Author: Shaun Harris
Release: July 18, 2016
Publisher: Seventh Street Books
Pages: 240
Genre: Fiction, Historical Thriller, Humor

Buy from Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Hemingway-Thief-Shaun-Harris/dp/163388175X

In early December 1922, Ernest Hemingway was in Switzerland on assignment as a correspondent for the Toronto Daily Star, covering the Lausanne Peace Conference. The journalist and editor Lincoln Steffens was also there. Apparently, Steffens was impressed with Hemingway’s writing and asked to see more.

Hemingway cabled his wife, Hadley in Paris and asked her to bring all of his writings to Switzerland. She quickly packed all of his fiction and poetry, including carbon copies that she could find and hurried off to Gare de Lyon train station. At the station, she got a porter to carry her luggage to the train compartment. During the very brief period when the bags were out of sight, the valise with the manuscripts was stolen.

So what did the thief do with the valise once he realized it only contained the scribblings of an unknown writer? Did he throw it into the Seine? Burn them? Hide them away in an attic? Or is there a more provocative and unforeseen twist? Of course, this is one of literatures great mysteries, these lost manuscripts of one of America’s greatest authors that today would be worth more than their weight in gold. But what if they did survive? Shaun Harris tackles this literary “what if” in his debut novel The Hemingway Thief.

Henry “Coop” Cooper is a successful but discontented romance novelist who is questioning the trajectory of his career. He yearns to become a serious writer and is in need of a jumpstart that will propel his literary credibility.

To clear his mind he’s taken refuge at a low budget beach resort in Baja, Mexico, where he befriends the motel’s eccentric owner, Grady Doyle. The duo soon become entangled in a deadly escapade involving the theft of Ernest Hemingway’s original manuscript to A Moveable Feast, a rare piece of literary history that reveals provocative and unpublished clues to the possible location of a suitcase which contains a treasure trove of the author’s early unpublished works that were stolen in 1922.
In this suspense filled and surprisingly humorous novel of cat and mouse, Coop and company trek across the cartel-laden Sierra Madre in a ramshackle RV in search of Hemingway’s fabled suitcase, finding themselves out of their element at every turn. For Coop this experience could become the storyline of a book of a lifetime . . . that is if he can live long enough to write it.

On a whole the plot construction of this south-of-the-border historical themed thriller was a little silly and occasionally confusing, although it most certainly was not predictable, which is always a pleasant surprise with a debut novel.

The story is filled with stereotypical crime thriller type characters, which is not a bad thing. The overall tone of sarcasm of the good guy protagonists Coop, Grady, and their cohorts (who are always ready with a witty wisecrack), reveal them to be more smart alecky than tough guys was a little bit over the top. Many readers will find the bloodthirstiness of antagonist, Newton Thandy, a conman, gunrunner, and rare book collector to be particularly unique and entertaining given that these “vocations” normally don’t coexist.

On a whole the narrative moves swiftly along and is filled with numerous comical and poignant pop culture references. The premise of the book is quite exceptional, a blend of literary history and suspense, mixed with a pinch of comedy, buddy adventure, and crime thriller. Overall, The Hemingway Thief is a quick and worthwhile read for anyone interested in an amusing crime thriller or anything relating to Ernest Hemingway.

Michael Thomas Barry is a reviewer for the New York Journal of Books and is the author of seven nonfiction books. His most recent book is In the Company of Evil: Thirty Years of California Crime, 1950–1980. Michael is also a columnist for CrimeMagazine.com.

The original review appeared at the New York Journal of Books website on July 18, 2016 and can be found at the following link: http://www.nyjournalofbooks.com/book-review/hemingway-thief