I thought I knew the story of Patty Hearst: heiress, kidnap victim, and possible terrorist. Toobin brings his excellent journalist's instinct to an old story and clearly illuminates a troubled time in American history that still has meaning in today's world. Deftly sifting through a mass of detail, Toobin tells an outrageous story peopled by a huge cast of larger-than-life characters. The reporting is balanced and insightful. This is an amazing, compelling read. To quote Warren Zevon, "Patty Hearst heard the burst of Roland's Thompson gun and bought it." Or did she? Recommended By Kathi K., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
From New Yorker staff writer and bestselling author of The Nine and The Run of His Life: The People v. O. J. Simpson, the definitive account of the kidnapping and trial that defined an insane era in American history
On February 4, 1974, Patty Hearst, a sophomore in college and heiress to the Hearst family fortune, was kidnapped by a ragtag group of self-styled revolutionaries calling itself the Symbionese Liberation Army. The already sensational story took the first of many incredible twists on April 3, when the group released a tape of Patty saying she had joined the SLA and had adopted the nom de guerre "Tania."
The weird turns of the tale are truly astonishing—the Hearst family trying to secure Patty’s release by feeding all the people of Oakland and San Francisco for free; the bank security cameras capturing "Tania" wielding a machine gun during a robbery; a cast of characters including everyone from Bill Walton to the Black Panthers to Ronald Reagan to F. Lee Bailey; the largest police shoot-out in American history; the first breaking news event to be broadcast live on television stations across the country; Patty’s year on the lam, running from authorities; and her circus-like trial, filled with theatrical courtroom confrontations and a dramatic last-minute reversal, after which the term "Stockholm syndrome" entered the lexicon.
The saga of Patty Hearst highlighted a decade in which America seemed to be suffering a collective nervous breakdown. Based on more than a hundred interviews and thousands of previously secret documents, American Heiress thrillingly recounts the craziness of the times (there were an average of 1,500 terrorist bombings a year in the early 1970s). Toobin portrays the lunacy of the half-baked radicals of the SLA and the toxic mix of sex, politics, and violence that swept up Patty Hearst and re-creates her melodramatic trial. American Heiress examines the life of a young woman who suffered an unimaginable trauma and then made the stunning decision to join her captors’ crusade.
Or did she?
"[A] detailed but swiftly moving account of the 1974 kidnapping that mesmerized the nation....[T]he author's considerable legal knowledge propels the narrative....[A] a well-informed, engaging work from a highly capable author." Kirkus Reviews
"In American Heiress, 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. Throughout, Toobin’s book successfully captures the unrivaled spectacle of the Hearst drama." San Francisco Chronicle
"Toobin...has written an outstandingly detailed and insightful account of the Hearst case and its impact." Booklist (Starred Review)
"[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
"[D]efinitive and nuanced....[Toobin's] thorough research, careful parsing of all the evidence, and superior prose make the book read like a summertime thriller." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
About the Author
Jeffrey Toobin is the bestselling author of The Oath, The Nine, Too Close to Call, A Vast Conspiracy, and The Run of His Life, which was made into the critically acclaimed FX series American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson. He is a staff writer at The New Yorker and the senior legal analyst at CNN.