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American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst Paperback – April 4, 2017
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A New York Times Bestseller
"The abduction and subsequent radicalization of Patricia Hearst is one of the most bizarre but illuminating episodes of that tumultuous era of protest...and in American Heiress Jeffrey Toobin retells the story with a full-blown narrative treatment that may astonish readers too young to remember it themselves...Toobin spins this complex chapter of recent history into an absorbing and intelligent page-turner."
—The Washington Post
"[A] clever companion piece to The Run of His Life (1996), his book about the O. J. Simpson case. Mr. Toobin has used the same winning formula of delving deeply into an American crime story that had tremendous notoriety in its day and retelling it with new resonance. Ms. Hearst’s tale is much more bizarre than Mr. Simpson’s... [I]n an age of terrorism, the chronicle of how a sedate heiress named Patricia morphed into a gun-toting, invective-spouting revolutionary calling herself Tania holds a definite fascination."
—Janet Maslin, The New York Times
“[R]iveting… American Heiress is a page-turner certainly, but Toobin, a gifted writer, infuses it with much more…Even if he ridicules the ideas and condemns the violent deeds of this ragtag group of revolutionary wannabes, they emerge not as cardboard villains but flesh and blood protagonists.”
—The Boston Globe
“Toobin has crafted a book for the expert and the uninitiated alike, a smart page-turner that boasts a cache of never-before-published details...Toobin’s book successfully captures the unrivaled spectacle of the Hearst drama.”
—San Francisco Chronicle
“Terrifically engrossing…Toobin uses his knowledge of the justice system and his examination of the evidence to pierce the veil of spectacle…As for Patty Hearst herself, Toobin treats her as a person, not a tabloid phantasm.
—New York Times Book Review
“[A] spell-binding retelling … In the end the real test of a writer’s worth is…how well they can tell a story that’s already been told many times before by many different people, including — in this case — by some of the main characters themselves. By that standard Toobin gets an A-plus for American Heiress… Everything about this book feels right: the structure, the style and the tone, which is the New Yorker meets Raymond Chandler. As always with great writing, it comes down to a strong, distinctive narrative voice spiced with the judicious use of juicy details.
About the Author
JEFFREY TOOBIN is the bestselling author of The Nine, for which he won the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize, The Oath, Too Close to Call, A Vast Conspiracy, and The Run of His Life, which was made into the critically acclaimed FX series The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story. He is a staff writer at The New Yorker and the senior legal analyst at CNN.
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And who was Patricia Hearst? As Toobin describes her, she was the heiress to a fortune but was sort of drifting through life, so far. The daughter of mismatched parents, she was the middle of five daughters, raised by her mother to aim for the conventional wealthy woman's life - marriage to an eligible man and a life raising children of her own. In stark contrast to the free-living members of the SLA, Hearst at 19 was living with a much older man - Steven Weed - in a married-like life, while studying at the Berkeley campus of the University of California. On the night of February 4, 1974, Patricia Hearst was kidnapped from the town house in Berkeley by the SLA and forcibly turned into a "revolutionary" by her kidnappers. Or, did she join in the ensuing mayhem willingly?
There began an almost two year spree by the SLA, with Hearst - now called "Tania" - as an active participant. Bank robberies, shootouts, and blackmailing for food distributions to the poor were all part of mid-1970's in San Francisco and Los Angeles. This group - which literally and thankfully couldn't shoot too straight - made headlines. I can still remember where I was when I heard Patricia Hearst had been found and rescued. But what was she rescued from? And what was her role in the SLA's crime spree?
Author and attorney Jeffrey Toobin does an excellent job in relating the people, the times, and the effects this rag-tag group - with its "prize" member - had on California and society at large in those years. Hearst has now became the settled society matron her mother had groomed her to be, raising daughters and prize-winning dogs. The others who are still alive are living with various degrees of revolutionary fervor. His book is beautifully written with much less sensationalism than you might expect on the subject.
I forgot many details of this case. The author taught me many facts that I did not know. I also enjoyed the actual pictures that were included at the end of the book.
I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the history of the Patricia Hearst case.