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Dossier: The Secret History of Armand Hammer Paperback – January 1, 1999
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It comes as little surprise that Armand Hammer, the chairman and tyrant of Occidental Petroleum who molded himself into a modern Medici, was a philanderer, a sycophant to American Presidents and Soviet leaders alike, and an avid art collector who cared not a fig for art. The surprises in this absorbing biography by Edward Jay Epstein, with Armand Hammer, come from long-buried sources: that Hammer financed Soviet espionage in the United States, that he forced his long-time mistress to change her appearance and her identity to throw his wife off the track, and that Hammer was neither an astute businessman nor anything near the billionaire he portrayed himself as. Hammer's secret history, and his repellent yet fascinating character, deserve the exhaustive, acerbic treatment Epstein provides. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
After spending six months in 1981 traveling with Hammer while researching what he thought would be a friendly magazine article, Epstein (Legend: The Secret World of Lee Harvey Oswald) began to suspect that just about everything the self-promoting billionaire said or wrote or paid to have written about himself was untrue. Later, further interviews with Hammer's family and business associates, as well as research into newly available Soviet archives and FBI files gained via the Freedom of Information Act, confirmed those suspicions. Though it covers the range of Hammer's life, this is not so much a biography as it is an expose. Epstein's charges against Hammer are vast: performing illegal abortions at his father's "clinic" (a fatal operation that Hammer performed while a medical student at Columbia sent his father to Sing Sing for manslaughter); laundering money that financed espionage for the Soviets in the 1920s and '30s; being a bad businessman (for the laundering to work, his ventures in the U.S.S.R. and the U.S. had to appear to be money-makers); peddling fraudulent "Romanoff treasures" and fake Faberge Easter eggs through his art gallery; bribing his way to success both in the oil business and at the White House; blackmailing enemies and fabricating friendships with people in high places; bilking the rich widow who was his third wife; reneging on financial commitments he made to several mistresses and an illegitimate daughter; hiding his Jewishness until he was at death's door; and, finally, mounting a shameless, self-serving and unsuccessful publicity campaign to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Although his father was a dedicated Communist, ideology seems to have had nothing to do with Hammer's Soviet connections. The goal, as it was throughout his life, was money and power. Epstein is a persuasive?if somewhat repetitious?reporter. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Armand Hammer was my Dad's "hero". The guy was smart, and my Dad owned OXY shares and thought the world of AH.
This expose, although published in 2000 reads like a dossier rather than a saga or novel or biography.
If you are interested in reading the unvarnished version of AH, this is an excellent work to begin the revelation.
Dossier is the only biography of Hammer written with reference to both the U.S. government's records on the man, made available under the Freedom of Information Act after he died, and Soviet records, made available after the collapse of the U.S.S.R. It is therefore the only book that comes close to explaining the nature of Hammer's ties to the Soviet Union. (Spoiler: In the early 1920s, he set up some companies that were used as channels by the Soviets for financing secret operations abroad).
Unfortunately, Epstein was not satisfied with these records, and turns to some really marginal sources to sex up the story. The book contains a number of particularly shocking accusations that, if you follow through the footnotes, all come from a woman who claims to have been Hammer's mistress, decades ago. Take for example Epstein's rendition of the well-known 1920 conviction of Hammer's father for manslaughter. Hammer's father had performed an abortion after which the woman had died. Among those who testified at the trial were the woman's maid, who had been present when the operation took place. Every other source on Hammer treats this as the start of Hammer's business career -- with his father incarcerated, Hammer had to take the reins of the family business.
Epstein, on the other hand, writes that it was the 21-year-old *Hammer himself* who had committed the abortion, not his father, and that he had allowed his father to go to jail for the crime. Epstein bases this remarkable claim on the 1990s recollection of a woman who claimed to have been Hammer's mistress in the 1950s, and who said that Hammer confessed to this crime (along with a string of other appalling things) to her. He ignores the fact that much more credible contemporary witnesses testified to the contrary.
Repeatedly in the book, Epstein takes credit for "discovering" things that have been widely known for decades, and which are discussed in detail in previous Hammer biographies. Meanwhile, his discussion of Hammer's 70-year-long business career is cursory.
If you do read the book, be sure to check the footnotes on any novel claim; some of the sources are really weak. See Weinberg's biography of Hammer for a much better treatment of everything except the early Soviet material.
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