AUCTION MADNESS: An Uncensored Look Behind the Velvet Drapes of the Great Auction Houses by Charles Hamilton

AUCTION MADNESS: An Uncensored Look Behind the Velvet Drapes of the Great Auction Houses

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Sketchy anecdotes from the dealer-author of American Autographs, Scribblers and Scoundrels, etc. Hamilton spends a fair portion of this small book attacking his big competitors--Christie's and Sotheby Parke Bernet. He accuses them of ""sloppy, careless and irresponsible cataloging""; of writing ""ghoul letters"" to the recently bereaved; of hiring receptionists who've attended ""a special school for snobs."" This sort of thing can only occupy so many pages, however, So the book is filled out with a very miscellaneous assortment of gossip, advice, and personal testimony. There are bits on evil practices by both auctioneers and bidders: ""the auction-buying crook must have the cunning of a polecat, the ethics of a Gabon viper, and the acquisitive drive of a dung-beetle."" (All of the techniques are familiar ones, especially to readers of art-caper fiction.) There are somewhat tasteless accounts of auction-history curiosities--like ""The Peregrinations of Napoleon's Penis"" or ""The Skull of Adolf Hitler."" There are random remarks on famous letters which Hamilton has handled; on Lincoin-iana; on a brush with ""this Nazi-like FBI, the J. Edgar Hoover gang,"" when Hamilton was dealing in items stolen from Nazi Germany. And there are two unpleasant episodes of Hamilton vs. Jackie: he bought Jackie Kennedy letters from poverty-stricken Basil Rathbone (Jackie was gracious); he later bought Jackie Onassis letters from her friend Roswell Kilpatric and (""one of the biggest mistakes of my career"") leaked them to Maxine Cheshire. Plus: rules for bidders, an auction glossary, and other would-be comical lists. A spotty--and distinctly un-classy--potpourri.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1981
Publisher: Everest