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Sinatra: The Lifeby Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan
"[A]lthough Summers and Swan have laid some important groundwork for the considered and sprawling biography their subject merits, this slackly written, cobbled-together book is third-rate Vanity Fair fodder, not a biography (in fact, the heavily and deftly reworked excerpt in that magazine is far better than this book). The authors devote a mere handful of pages to what was, after all, the one constant in and the main preoccupation of Sinatra's life — his music." Benjamin Schwarz, the Atlantic Monthly (read the entire Atlantic Monthly review)
Synopses & Reviews
From the best-selling author of Goddess: The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe, the first fully documented, comprehensively researched, birth-to-death biography — the definitive life — of Frank Sinatra.
Sinatra is the story of an American icon who held the imagination of millions for more than fifty years and whose influence in popular music was unsurpassed in the twentieth century. As a child, he said, he had heard "symphonies from the universe" in his head. No one could have imagined where those sounds would lead him. Tracing the arc of this incredible life, from the humble beginnings in Hoboken to the twilight years as a living legend in Malibu, Sinatra follows a career built on raw talent, sheer willpower — and criminal connections.
Drawing on a treasure trove of documents and interviews, Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan reveal stunning new information about Sinatra's links to such Mafia figures as Sam Giancana and Lucky Luciano. And we see for the first time where the Mafia connection began, how and why it lasted, and how it impinged on others, not least President John F. Kennedy.
Here, too, is the core of the private Sinatra — alternately caustic and sympathetic — that the singer so long concealed. The heartbreaking truth about his passion for Ava Gardner emerges from never-before-published conversations with Gardner herself. In exclusive, intimate interviews, the women who loved Sinatra — some of them unknown to the public until now — share memories of the joy and pain of their relationships with him. And we learn what it was like to be the friend of a man who was generous and loyal to a fault, yet — as some of his fellow Rat Packers discovered — who could turn abruptly into a vindictive brute.
Dramatic, eye-opening, and unfailingly fair-minded, Sinatra is masterful biography: the revelatory story of a brilliant artist and an infinitely complex man.
"The second collaboration for the husband-and-wife team (after their Nixon bio, The Arrogance of Power) is hardly the first book about Frank Sinatra, and despite their claim to be the only objective biographers to address the crooner's final years, the book's later chapters feel rushed compared with the lengthy passages covering Sinatra's well-trod glory days. Furthermore, since Sinatra's musical genius and acting skills have been thoroughly analyzed by previous writers, Summers and Swan put in minimal effort there. Where their work does stand out is in firming up the evidence of organized crime's 'continuing interest' in Sinatra, from affirming that the famous scene in The Godfather only slightly exaggerates how he got his breakthrough role in From Here to Eternity to exploring his possible role as a go-between for the mob and John F. Kennedy. The pair also break new ground in depicting what they describe as Sinatra's alcoholism, pointing out that he frequently drank all night long, and his abusive treatment of women, for which they cite cases. Yet even when the authors say Sinatra raped a woman or fathered another woman's child out of wedlock — and they make good cases for both — their delivery is a lot closer to objective biography than tabloid sensationalism. A&E's airing of a linked documentary, timed to coincide with the book's publication, as well as a first serial in Vanity Fair, will create significant interest in this latest Sinatra saga. 32 pages of photos." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Sinatra: The Life offers a well-researched, detailed analysis of the famous singer....But it fails to explain why Sinatra the singer lives on..." USA Today
"In focusing so relentlessly on the possible role that the mob played in Sinatra's career, Mr. Summers and Ms. Swan play down the singularity of his talent, and they elbow the magic of his music to the sidelines." New York Times
"Sinatra is certainly thorough, a massive undertaking that nonetheless falls curiously flat. Sadly, it doesn't sing....Frank Sinatra deserves better.Washington Post
"Sinatra: The Life will likely remain definitive for years to come...[the authors] give Frank Sinatra his due." Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Book News Annotation:
Sinatra fans will relish this biography, though they should prepare to learn about Frank's darker side. Much material is included on the singer's marriages, Mafia connections, Rat Pack years, the Kennedys, and his later career, richly told with excerpts and quotes from interviews and other sources.
Annotation ©2004 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
This fully documented, massively researched, birth-to-death biography of Frank Sinatra contains much new information and startling revelations.
About the Author
Anthony Summers, a former BBC journalist, is the author of six best-selling books, including The File on the Tsar, on the fate of the Romanovs; Conspiracy, on the assassination of President Kennedy; Official and Confidential, on J. Edgar Hoover; and The Arrogance of Power, on Richard Nixon.
Robbyn Swan worked with Summers on the Hoover and Nixon biographies, and both authors have contributed to Vanity Fair and PBS's Frontline.
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