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American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of… (2016)

by Jeffrey Toobin

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4783540,251 (3.85)25
From New Yorker staff writer and bestselling author of The Nine and The Run of His Life: The People v. O. J. Simpson, the definitive account of the kidnapping and trial that defined an insane era in American history On February 4, 1974, Patty Hearst, a sophomore in college and heiress to the Hearst family fortune, was kidnapped by a ragtag group of self-styled revolutionaries calling itself the Symbionese Liberation Army. The already sensational story took the first of many incredible twists on April 3, when the group released a tape of Patty saying she had joined the SLA and had adopted the nom de guerre "Tania." The weird turns of the tale are truly astonishing--the Hearst family trying to secure Patty's release by feeding all the people of Oakland and San Francisco for free; the bank security cameras capturing "Tania" wielding a machine gun during a robbery; a cast of characters including everyone from Bill Walton to the Black Panthers to Ronald Reagan to F. Lee Bailey; the largest police shoot-out in American history; the first breaking news event to be broadcast live on television stations across the country; Patty's year on the lam, running from authorities; and her circuslike trial, filled with theatrical courtroom confrontations and a dramatic last-minute reversal, after which the term "Stockholm syndrome" entered the lexicon. The saga of Patty Hearst highlighted a decade in which America seemed to be suffering a collective nervous breakdown. Based on more than a hundred interviews and thousands of previously secret documents, American Heiress thrillingly recounts the craziness of the times (there were an average of 1,500 terrorist bombings a year in the early 1970s). Toobin portrays the lunacy of the half-baked radicals of the SLA and the toxic mix of sex, politics, and violence that swept up Patty Hearst and re-creates her melodramatic trial. American Heiress examines the life of a young woman who suffered an unimaginable trauma and then made the stunning decision to join her captors' crusade. Or did she?From the Hardcover edition.… (more)
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» See also 25 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 35 (next | show all)
Even though I was already well aware of how this story would end, I still found the book really interesting, exciting and easy to read. After reading my first Jeffery Toobin book, it definitely wont be my last. Now if only we can keep him from masterbating on Zoom calls with his coworkers we'll be ok. ( )
  swmproblems | Aug 8, 2021 |
Toobin has a real skill at writing these non-fiction books and I really enjoyed this one. I feel like I learned quite a bit about the Hearst saga, something that I followed in real time back in the 70s. I do wonder about some of the attribution of dialog and actions for things that occurred between people either dead or not cooperating with him but I think he generally has a factual backup for what he writes. ( )
  MarkMad | Jul 14, 2021 |
This is a good read. Toobin tells the story of the Patty Hearst kidnapping and the Symbionese Liberation Army well in this book. He also provides a glimpse of some memorable and bizarre aspects of the politics and culutre of the 1970s. For those of us old enough to remember the Hearst case, it will stimulate reflections on that time. For those who are younger, it might be hard to believe that some of these events actually happened. ( )
  STLreader | Aug 15, 2020 |
An interesting saga, but there was something about Toobin's style that I didn't connect with. Though I understand that the SLA members were criminals, I thought his tone towards them and Patty was a bit unnecessarily condescending. Maybe Toobin never had an impressionable or politically active phase, or maybe he just forgot what it was like to be young, but I think more context about the political mood of the era and less context about specific cops and FBI agents involved would have deepened the story for me. ( )
  nancyjean19 | Jun 3, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 35 (next | show all)
In the end, Toobin returns to the specific mystery of Patricia Hearst, whom he finds fascinating even when incredible. Now an establishment matron attending dog shows, with all evidence of “Tania” seemingly erased, she remains complex, capable of simultaneously being a sincere convert to her surroundings and a savvy protector of her own interest.
added by rybie2 | editNew York Times, Dana Spiotta (Aug 1, 2016)
 
She wound up serving minimal prison time and receiving special treatment from two presidents: commutation of sentence from Jimmy Carter and a pardon from Bill Clinton. Note the “Heiress” in the title. Mr. Toobin points out that American prisons are full of people who are led astray and wind up committing criminal acts. They have no chance at one act of clemency, let alone two.
added by rybie2 | editNew York Times, Janet Maslin (Aug 1, 2016)
 
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The doorbell rang at 9:17 on the evening of February 4, 1974.
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From New Yorker staff writer and bestselling author of The Nine and The Run of His Life: The People v. O. J. Simpson, the definitive account of the kidnapping and trial that defined an insane era in American history On February 4, 1974, Patty Hearst, a sophomore in college and heiress to the Hearst family fortune, was kidnapped by a ragtag group of self-styled revolutionaries calling itself the Symbionese Liberation Army. The already sensational story took the first of many incredible twists on April 3, when the group released a tape of Patty saying she had joined the SLA and had adopted the nom de guerre "Tania." The weird turns of the tale are truly astonishing--the Hearst family trying to secure Patty's release by feeding all the people of Oakland and San Francisco for free; the bank security cameras capturing "Tania" wielding a machine gun during a robbery; a cast of characters including everyone from Bill Walton to the Black Panthers to Ronald Reagan to F. Lee Bailey; the largest police shoot-out in American history; the first breaking news event to be broadcast live on television stations across the country; Patty's year on the lam, running from authorities; and her circuslike trial, filled with theatrical courtroom confrontations and a dramatic last-minute reversal, after which the term "Stockholm syndrome" entered the lexicon. The saga of Patty Hearst highlighted a decade in which America seemed to be suffering a collective nervous breakdown. Based on more than a hundred interviews and thousands of previously secret documents, American Heiress thrillingly recounts the craziness of the times (there were an average of 1,500 terrorist bombings a year in the early 1970s). Toobin portrays the lunacy of the half-baked radicals of the SLA and the toxic mix of sex, politics, and violence that swept up Patty Hearst and re-creates her melodramatic trial. American Heiress examines the life of a young woman who suffered an unimaginable trauma and then made the stunning decision to join her captors' crusade. Or did she?From the Hardcover edition.

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