Jeffrey Toobin has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1993 and is the senior legal analyst for CNN. In 2000 he received an Emmy Award for his coverage of the Elian Gonzalez case. He is the author of The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court, which spent more than four months on the New York Times best seller list. Before joining The New Yorker, Toobin served as an assistant United States attorney in Brooklyn, New York. He lives in Manhattan.
©2016 Jeffrey Toobin (P)2016 Random House Audio
"Accomplished narrator Paul Michael hits all the right notes in Toobin's detailed account of heiress Patricia Hearst's notorious 1974 kidnapping.... Michael is an excellent choice to deliver the myriad facts and critical analyses of the proceedings...this elegantly written book, paired with Michael's excellent narration, makes for absorbing listening." (AudioFile)
Normally I'm not bothered by the occasional butchering of a person's or a place's name by a narrator. However, Cinque (Donald DeFreeze) is such a central figure to this story, the endlessly repeated mispronunciation of his nom de guerre got a little infuriating. Those of us who lived in the Bay Area when this truly bizarre story played out (bizarre even for those days) can't forget that Cinque was pronounced sin-CUE ... not SIN-kay. Obviously, this is a mistake effecting listeners and not readers of the book. It is, overall, a petty complaint. The book is great, regardless ...
As a teenager, living in the middle of the country, I followed the story of Patty Hearst with curiosity and sympathy for Patty. As an adult, who has now lived half my life in the Bay Area, I frequently encounter people and legacies from the unsettling 60's and 70's. I selected this book because I thought it would deepen my understanding of the events and the time which have long held my interest. While I know much more about the chronology and details of the SLA I can't say I have a better understanding of what brought the radicals together. Toobin does not psych-analyze the characters and sometimes I wish he would have because, even though I am familiar with the time and setting, I find myself thinking, "WTF were these people thinking?". Ultimately I had no empathy for the unlikable and bumbling members of the SLA . There is of bay area trivia in this nicely paced story and it was worth my time even though Toobin does not uncover any themes which added to my understanding of the events that fascinated me so long ago.
This is an excellent book, with many new insights, and a gripping narrative. I'm familiar with the other books (none of them very recent) about these events, and this one is well worth having too. Well written, and well read. The author puts these events into their historical context very well. He offers a clear, well supported assessment of many controverted points, including whether this was really a case of prolonged Stockholm Syndrome, the quality of Ms Hearst's legal representation, whether she might have been acquitted with different lawyers, how she procured first commutation and then a pardon, and just how guilty she really was of the crimes she was convicted of, and the murder for which she, unlike other SLA members at the Crocker Nat'l Bank, was never prosecuted. One of the best of the year.
Excellent recounting of the events of 1974-on, combined with explanations of the SLA organization, its development, and its personalities. It reads like a grand adventure/mystery thriller. While Toobin has clearly stated notions of culpability, as well as of the causes for the motivations of the characters, he is never heavy-handed in pushing a personal point of view. A tremendous picture of the times.
Lover of ideas who feels no guilt at all about her pleasures.
I almost didn't buy this book, because I thought (correctly, as it happens) I knew everything about Patty Hearst already. I read Hearst's book, I saw both movies, I saw it spoofed on Drunk History, I heard Dave Anthony tell it on the Dollop (twice- SLA episode and SWAT episode), I read Days of Rage, I mean... enough already.
But then, I thought: Hey! I knew a lot about O.J. and I still liked that book, right?
So, I bought America's Heiress, imagining I'd get the same fresh pithy insightful top-notch journalistic prose.
Instead, I got the 400 page wikipedia entry I was afraid I'd get. There is nothing at all new here, and no insight. Okay - Toobin thinks Stockholm syndrome is a joke, and that Patty made bad, armed, criminal decisions uncoerced, He is sick to death of her lame "I got kidnapped, locked in a closet, and raped" excuse. Huh, thats..... nothing. I don't care enough about it to decide if I agree with him or not because it's a non-issue at this point. Where is the relevance?
O.J. was good because Toobin nails the fancy lawyers in the story. Why shouldn't he? They are of his class and his profession. He's writing what he knows.
Not so the scruffy weirdos of the SLA. Toobin gives them all the human depth of a cage full of badgers. It's hard for me not to see a touch of class-blindness there. It also means we're in the wiki-world of here's what happened, step by step. I found it pointless.
So here's my last beef: Toobin concludes by criticizing the fact that Hearst got a commuted sentence and a pardon based on her wealth and position. Well... Does Jeffrey Toobin honestly think his personal success has nothing to do with his privileged background? Because I think having a famous network newscaster mom and news producer dad might have had something to do with the success he now enjoys. Somewhere there's a poor unconnected writer in Nowheresville not getting her 400 page historical rehash published, thanks to people like him.
Oh - PS: If you don't know anything about the story, go ahead, cause it's a good one.
I liked the book and would recommend it. She was a tough one alright. Author writes a compelling story. You don't want to take your headphones off, which sounds like a stupid phrase. Let's say you don't want to put book down.
This was an extremely interesting, detailed, suspenseful, insightful recounting of an incredible crazy story. Brought back lots of memories of the time. No fiction can match the fascination of this non-fiction saga. The narration was excellent. I really enjoyed it.
This is a very well written and read book (although one must chuckle when Mr. Toobin wryly comments on a participants lust for attention) and a story I didn't fully understand. I now appreciate why my parents, and all their friends, we're so incensed when President Clinton included Patti Hearst in his notorious pardon spree. If you want to know the full and true story of Patti Hearst this read will be well worth your time. Only reason I didn't give it 5 stars was the condescending tone of Mr. Toobin when describing certain actors (although, to be perfectly honest, with Mr. Francis Lee Bailey he hit it right on the head), what I perceive as his hypocrisy for nettling some for being attention hounds (just once can there be a legal case Mr. Toobin doesn't give his opinion on?) and the writing style of inferring something but not fully telling you the whole detail until later.
But overall it was was well written, well performed and in all honesty, shows the dishonest chameleon that is Patti Hearst.
World Champion Parallel Parker
It's rare to hear the unhappy 1970s described - like the present GenX, it was an unfortunate generation (and mine). I was a teen then and never heard Hearst's full story, so was glad to listen. Minus one star for the sometimes too-complex descriptions of minor characters and minus one star for the performance because sometimes my mind wandered . . .
I'm a book lover who enjoys reading about history, as well as biographies, and research on NDEs. Just not novels.
How on earth has this amazing, incredible, hilarious, tragic, frustrating, entertaining full story of Patty Hearst's kidnapping and trial never been told?? I can only assume that it's party because most Americans think they know the details of the Hearst saga, but oh boy, are they wrong.
This book reads like equal parts Shakespearean drama and Cohen Brothers screwball comedy, and it take the reader through the looking glass and into the minds of America in the mid-1970s. The revolutionary radicals, the last gasp of guided age billionaires, and a rudderless FBI following Hoover's death.
But beyond the truth-is-stranger-than-fiction drama of this story, it also sits at the nexus of several technical and cultural phenomena that 21st century Americans take for granted. This includes coverage of the Hearst kidnapping as the first-ever news story covered live on television, thanks to the introduction of the "mini-cam,"s microwave transmission of broadcast signals, and the TV news helicopter.
And it doesn't end there. The SLA shootout with LAPD in May 1974 marked the very public coming out party for the LAPD's Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team, led at the time by future LAPD Chief Darryl Gates.
This epic made-for-live-TV clash of leftist revolutionary terrorists with the nation's first SWAT team and 500+ uniformed officers resulted in what is still considered the largest gun battle in US history, with as many as 10,000 rounds of ammunition fired. And as Marv Albert would say, "...And nobody got hurt!" Unbelievable.
Sure, the six SLA members holed up in a small Compton, CA house that day ended up dead, but it's believed they likely died either from the resulting fire that burned their hideout to the ground when the police resorted to highly flammable US military grade tear gas when they ran out of ordinary law enforcement-grade tear gas, or from self-inflicted gunshot wounds.
Gates went on to lead the LAPD in high profile fashion during the arrest and trial of OJ Simpson two decades later, and in yet another bizarre coincidence, Hearst was represented in her trial on bank robbery and weapons charges by the bombastic F. Lee Bailey. Then there's the nearly direct link between cult leader Rev. Jim Jones (of Kool-ade fame) and Hearst's release from prison.
And this barely scratches the surface. I can't recommend this book any more highly. Toobin's understated style never condescends, and he has a somewhat dead-pan style of describing preposterous events that lets readers feel they're discover some of the more implausible details on their own. American Heiress book is immensely entertaining and full of solid historical research.
Finally, I think Toobin subversively Americans to compare today's hyper-vigilant, post 9/11 society with the 1970s:
Because one question we must ask ourselves as Americans is whether we're really safer today than we were in the 70s? The unquestionably violent actions of the Weather Underground, the SLA, the Black Panthers and many other like-minded ... well, terrorists of that decade planted and exploded (literally!) 1000s of actual bombs on businesses, law enforcement facilities, universities and even the US Capitol building.
Yet these "terrorists" are barely a part of our collective memory -- defeated thanks to dutiful law enforcement and courts who leveraged the same US Constitution it had for 200 years.
So the question needs t be asked: In the 21st Century, is our American way of life really under such imminent threat of annihilation that stripping Americans of their Constitutional rights via the Patriot Act, an unchecked NSA and the surveillance nation we've become our only hope? Really? Only time will tell.
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