Howard Hughes was a true American original: legendary lover, record-setting aviator, award-winning film producer, talented inventor, ultimate eccentric, and, for much of his lifetime, the richest man in the United States.
His desire for privacy was so fierce and his isolation so complete that even now, 25 years after his death, inaccurate stories continue to circulate, and many have been published as fact. Hughes explodes the illusion of his life and exposes the man behind the myth. He was a playboy whose sexual exploits with Hollywood stars were legendary. He was a man without compassion; an entrepreneur without ethics; an explorer without maps; and ultimately, an eccentric trapped by his own insanity, sealed off from reality, who died a lonely and - until now - mysterious death.
Newly uncovered personal letters, over 110,000 pages of sealed court testimony, recently declassified FBI files, never-before-published autopsy reports and exclusive interviews reveal a man so devious in his thinking, so perverse in his desires, and so influential that his impact continues to be felt even today. From entertainment to politics, aviation to espionage, the influence and manipulation of this billionaire has left an indelible and unique mark on the American cultural landscape.
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"In the most exciting bio of the year, Hack presents the American dream curdling into the American nightmare, personified in a legend who at last has an accounting worthy of him." (Publishers Weekly)
"A fascinating, captivating listen." (AudioFile)
The book is very good at detailing the life of Hughes on a personal level. Hack has uncovered all the girlfriends, marriages (real and sham), and bizarre behaviors of Hughes himself.
What the book does not do, is tell one how Hughes actually accomplished his incredible business career. How did he do it? This is the main question I was hoping to have answered, and the book provides very little information or insight into this.
Compare, for example, "Lawrence in Arabia," by Scott Anderson. For me, Anderson really cleared up that mystery for me -- how did someone like TE Lawrence have such a huge (or "Hughes") impact on the Middle East?
Somehow, for example, Hughes Aircraft goes from a garage shop business, producing a few stunt airplanes, to a major high-tech defense contractor, with tens of thousands of employees, and an ability to build such things as satellites, or retrieve sunken nuclear submarines.
Also, how did Hughes Tool, the golden goose of the Hughes fortune, keep operating at such an industry-leading position for so many decades? I've never heard of a company, particularly a company as large as Hughes Tool, that can just run on autopilot.
Hughes must have had an amazing ability at picking capable people, and then, somehow, keeping them motivated, year after year.
How did someone who had so little formal education, teach himself to navigate the most sophisticated upper-reaches of the American capitalist system?
I think Hack would have written a truly great book, if he had edited out a lot of the details, of Hughes' bizarre and mentally-ill personal behavior. Ultimately, such details become repetitive and pointless -- yes, we understand Hughes had serious mental issues, but then what?
If Hack insists on giving so much detail, on Hughes' mental illness, he should at least offer some insight into it. It is only at the very end of the book, where Hack presents just one psychological evaluation of Hughes. This one psychological evaluation is very limited and offers almost no insight, other than to say that Hughes seems to have internalized the fear of illnesses his mother had -- a totally obvious observation, that doesn't require a psychology degree to deduce.
Given that Hughes was so incredibly secretive and bizarre, Hack does deserve great credit, for unearthing and re-assembling, the broken and scattered pieces of Hughes' shattered life.
However, the process of just assembling all this information seems to have exhausted Hack, or at least the patience of his publisher, with no time left to really analyze the material he collected. That is the next step, and that is when the "definitive" biography will be written.
This is a somewhat cheesily-written (no one just goes away when they can "vanish into the night") but absolutely amazing story that appears to be extremely well researched. It's a bit reticent about what Hughes' psychiatric problems really were and what role drugs played in them, but otherwise it's filled with detail and at the same time fast-moving and always interesting. I always feel a lack with audio biographies because there aren't photos or an index, but I was sorry when this one ended.
I thought the reader did a great job. As has been pointed out, he makes a handful of pronunciation errors over the course of 19 hours or whatever, but I didn't find these significant. Meanwhile, he does Hughes voice whenever reading actual documents by Hughes that it is very effective at conveying who's saying what and also adds nice atmosphere.
I couldn't stop listening. I knew Hughes was at least eccentric and OCD but those descriptions are too vague. I don't think there is a psychological or physiological category that he would fall in to. Fascinating. Well written, credible and though I thought a few words were misread, narration good.
As a young woman, I read Howard Hughes' adventures, or misadventures, in the tabloids. Later, when he died, I read about his peculiarities. Intrigued by Hughes' life, I bought this audiobook, it is very well written, read by a great narrator, and goes into great detail about the absurdity surrounding his early years and how it affected his adult life. Good read if you'd like to know what molded an outstanding man. I found way too much detail of the absurd and while "reading" it had the same queasy feeling when, as a small child, I went into a carnival booth showing the "spider woman" - revolted yet at the same time fascinated
This is an excellent first read as an introductory into Hughes' life. I really enjoyed the close attention to detail of his early life and his relationship with his parents. The only reason this gets 4 stars is due to the skip of many of the details about Hughes' mental life. This book dealt only with facts collected for legitimate sources, and that was greatly appreciated. However the attention to his mental issues (specifically the details) seemed to be skipped over in many cases. I suppose this is difficult to write about, especially given Hughes' desire for isolation, but it would have been nice to hear a few tidbits of the first hand accounts of interactions with Hughes. There were small blurbs about such information scattered through the book (a good example would be his memo regarding the preparation of canned fruit), but much of this information was not given the attention most people would expect from first reading about Hughes.
What an amazing life Hughes had. He went totally whacko in the last half of his life and was way out of touch with the real world as evidenced by his crazy operational memos and his obsession with germs. For a man so wealthy, I was amazed that he lived such a deprived, narrow, unhealthy, unclean and depressing life - he was a billionaire living in squalor. I'm just an average Texas working class guy but found this book inspiring inasmuch at it made me appreciate the great life I have with my family and the fact that it doesn't take money enjoy life. As an aside, this book was extremely well narrated by Dan Cashman, so much so that my next book selections have been influenced by taking a look to see what other books he has narrated. Get and listen to this book ? I guarantee that you won?t be disappointed.
Many people were introduced to the story of Howard Hughes through the 2004 film, The Aviator. Martin Scocese covered highlights from the 1920s - 1940s. However, those wanting the whole story will definitely appreciate this audiobook! In great detail, Richard Hack tells of Hughes' curious dealings in business and his odd personal relationships. What I found most interesting was Hughes' accomplishments as an aviator and businessman (many of which were ommitted in the movie) and his ongoing battles with the government - which included censorship, anti-trust lawsuits, federal surveillance. My only critism, if any, is how long this book is(17.5 hours!). Yet the narrator does a good job at keeping you hooked to the story.
Hi! I'm Casey Keller, semi-retired TV writer, avid cyclist, husband and father. I'm also a guy who devours audio books.
Richard Hack did a fine job researching the enigmatic and always fascinating Howard Hughes. The story is fascinating, at least at the beginning, before Hughes descends into addiction and mental illness.
Sadly, even a fine book can be ruined by a poor reading. And this is an especially poor one. Dan Cashman apparently does not share Mr. Hack's penchant for research. He may not even own a dictionary. As a result, words and names are constantly mispronounced. In Mr. Cashman's reading, director George Cukor becomes George Sue-core. The Glomar Explorer is the Glommer. The city of Tonapah, Nevada becomes tuh-NO-puh. When Mr. Hughes gets a haircut, he is described as freshly coy'fed.
There is nothing wrong with Mr. Cashman's voice, but his unwillingness to do his homework created a major distraction that took away much of the pleasure from this book.
The life story of Hughes is like a fictional soap opera itself. This detailed biography really brings things to life. A must read.
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