THE HEARSTS: Family and Empire, The Later Years by Lindsay & Michael Cieply Chaney
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THE HEARSTS: Family and Empire, The Later Years

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Probably nobody has been wondering what the Hearsts were up to between the demise of old W.R., in 1951, and the abduction of Patty; after all, the second generation was undistinguished, the newspaper empire was folding--to no regrets. It was even the impression, when Patty's father Randolph was trying to meet her captors' demands, that he wasn't really all that rich. But the L.A./S.F. team of Chaney and Cieply has stitched together some old Hearstiana, smartened-up, and a good bit of new material, some of it quite extraordinary, into a saga that could pass as dynastic fiction--all the more because it's really inconsequential. The Hearsts, that is, have no collective weight. But they do, today, have a great deal more money than W.H. intended when he drew up his will--and they came into it (according to the admittedly speculative reconstruction here) just when Patty was being kidnapped. They also have formal control of Hearst enterprises, something W.R. didn't intend either--and under new, rejuvenative management, Hearst non-newspaper enterprises (Cosmo, Avon Books, etc.) are thriving. Everything, moreover, is once again family-owned: no one--government, stockholders--need be accounted to. But neither does a single family member hold a position of responsibility any longer (now that Randolph is out as editor of the S.F. Examiner); and the authors strongly, even savagely, imply that--given the Hearsts' congenital weaknesses and the corporate executives' clout--none of them ever will. This tangle of ironies is laid out in three sections. The first begins with the death of W.R., the family's cold-shoulder to Marion Davies (even her daily Hearst paper was cut off), and the charade of the funeral ""reconciling"" him--after 30 years--with his estranged wife; it ends (after reviewing his buccaneering career, opportune marriage, alternate pushing-and-deriding of his five sons) with the family's discovery that Marion D., ""that woman,"" has been left in control of their fortune--lest she be treated discourteously. The second, something of a slog, covers the sons' follies and the newspaper closings. The third takes in the multi-media comeback (if Cosmo could do it. . .) and, most prominently, the Patty case: how it was covered by the Examiner (post-Randy), what-all Patty--mercilessly shown ""holding court"" in prison--is making of it. The authors conclude that all the Hearsts, from her grandfather to Patty, ""are PR""--as once-promising cousin Willie put it. The conclusion seems engineered--to supply the book with a point of view; some of it is written in a relentlessly attitudinizing, hip vernacular (the Patty and Willie sections in particular); and much is drawn, without specific ascription, ""from the authors' personal interviews""--rendering it unverifiable. But the combination of personal dirt and publishing scuttlebutt does make for juicy reading.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1981
Publisher: Simon & Schuster