Despite a myriad of unidentified sources (virtually everyone close to Hunt was reluctant to talk), much hearsay, and...



Despite a myriad of unidentified sources (virtually everyone close to Hunt was reluctant to talk), much hearsay, and acknowledged reliance on what historian Sir Lewis Namier called ""an intuitive sense of how things do not happen,"" one has the feeling that this is the first book to penetrate ""Hunt-legend journalism."" The legend has successfully obfuscated the oilman of fabled riches, the propagandist of right-wing save-America causes who died in 1974. Burrowing into Hunt's early life, Brown pieces together a circumstantial but psychologically convincing portrait of a land speculator and fast-shuffling professional gambler who used his poker-smarts to make millions in the East Texas oilfield boom of the Twenties. A drifter who conned the local con men, Hunt fathered two families by two wives in this early period (a third came later); Brown finds no evidence that prior to 1948 Hunt had any politics whatever. He did have a mentally unstable son, Hassie, whose ""recovery"" H.L. sought via two frontal lobotomies. Just what led to Hunt's postwar conversion to the ""anti-Communist support industry"" remains obscure--but Brown is convinced that despite Fact Forum and 300-plus radio stations pumping anti-Red propaganda, Hunt was never anything like a sinister, conspiratorial force. Politically--except perhaps for the McCarthy heyday--Brown sees a ""naive and ineffectual"" man, a man ignorant and self-deluded enough to believe his own myth. Except for Hassie--whom H.L. may have helped destroy--Brown has trouble focusing on Hunt as caring deeply about anything or anyone. And he confesses that the ""magnetic force"" many associates found in Hunt eludes him completely. Subtle, deflating, this is both more and less than a biography. Rather, Brown has insinuated himself into the ""fast action"" world of the Arkansas-Texas ""independent"" oil fields, the brokers, con men, gamblers, and hustlers who spawned H. L. Hunt. It rings absolutely true.

Pub Date: July 1, 1976


Page Count: -

Publisher: Playboy

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1976