DOSSIER by Edward Jay Epstein


The Secret History of Armand Hammer
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 A revealingly revisionist biography of Armand Hammer who, before his death at 92 in 1990, had made a considerable name for himself as an industrialist, patron of the arts, philanthropist, and unofficial envoy to Communist seats of government. Drawing on a wealth of previously classified material from KGB files and other sources, Epstein (Deception, 1989, etc.) documents the substantive disparities between reality and his subject's carefully cultivated public image. While sojourning in the USSR during the early 1920s, the Bronx-born Hammer met Lenin and became a Comintern agent responsible for laundering the money used to pay undercover operatives in North America. Returning to the US during the Depression, the would-be magnate did not strike it rich until 1956, when he used his third wife's money to latch on to Occidental Petroleum, which, with a little luck and a lot of bribes, he turned into a transnational energy colossus. Taking advantage of auld acquaintance with long-dead Red luminaries, he also became a vocal advocate of unrestricted East/West trade during the height of the Cold War. A gifted and tireless self-promoter, Hammer was a gleeful forger as well; with the connivance of his Kremlin accomplices, he flooded the global art market with fake FabergÇ objets. While shamelessly lobbying for a Nobel Peace Prize in his twilight years, moreover, he picked up a conviction for violations of US election law. In addition he faced constant accuations of wrongdoing by the FBI, IRS, SEC, State Department, and other federal agencies. Nor, by Epstein's tellingly detailed account, was the high-profile Hammer a much better bargain for members of his extended family, friends, and business associates (whose tenure seldom outlasted their usefulness) or Occidental's stockholders. A dirt-dishing, painstakingly corroborated life story that sets the record straight on a master con man who fooled most of the people most of the time. (16 pages b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-679-44802-0
Page count: 448pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1996


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