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The Chief


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About the Author

David Nasaw is the author of Going Out: The Rise and Fall of Public Amusements and two other books. He has served as a historical consultant for several television documentaries and teaches at City University of New York. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Nation, Cond Nast's Traveler and other periodicals. He resides in New York City.


The outsized life of William Randolph Hearst is a challenge to any biographer. The son of a miner who made a fortune in Western gold fields, he transformed American journalism as a publisher. He was a force in Hollywood's first golden age, and Marion Davies, his longtime mistress, was an early star. In politics, he served in Congress and sought the presidency, an office Franklin Roosevelt attained with the help of Hearst, who then became an arch-critic while corresponding with world leaders such as Mussolini and Hitler. As a collector, he filled warehouses with art objects he could not fit into the castles he built and bought. It may be inevitable that no biography could do full justice to each aspect of such a life, but CUNY historian Nasaw (Going Out: The Rise and Fall of Public Amusements) has done an admirable job. Enjoying the cooperation of family members and access to new primary sources, Nasaw has written a richer biography than the previous standard, W.A. Swanberg's Citizen Hearst (LJ 10/15/93), and a comparable book to Ben Proctor's two-volume work-in-progress, of which William Randolph Hearst: The Early Years (LJ 4/1/98) is Volume 1. Highly recommended for general collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 2/15/00.]DRobert F. Nardini, Chichester, NH Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

It has been 40 years since the last major Hearst biographyÄthus this new volume has inherent value in portraying anew the great forerunner of Rupert Murdoch and other modern-day media moguls. This long-winded tome, however, often bogs down in trivial details of Hearst's tangled personal and professional life. Nasaw (Going Out: The Rise and Fall of Public Amusements) is the first to have had access to the formerly closed Hearst archives, but he doesn't really offer any surprises. On the big questions, the author only confirms what we already knew: that it was a lack of academic diligence that lay behind Hearst's failure at Harvard; that, like countless other well-heeled young men of his generation, he kept a mistress before marriage; that he was na‹ve in his dealings with Hitler. Neither is it a revelation that Hearst's financial collapse in the late 1930s was the result of spendthrift habits combined with the dour economic climate of the times. But the Hearst whom Nasaw portrays in such extraordinary (and excessive) detail is still the fascinating figure we've known for years: the self-absorbed genius equally addicted to power and possessions, the press baron interested not just in reporting news but in making and manipulating it. Photos not seen by PW. BOMC alternate selection. (June) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

"Nasaw's "The Chief" works on a large, even heroic, canvas and, thanks to Nasaw's exhaustive research, moves on a level of detail that would satisfy even Theodore Dreiser." The Los Angeles Times

"[Nasaw] has given his biography an immediacy that almost makes the reader forget that the author . . . was not there as the story unfolded." --Orville Schell The New York Times

..".the Hearst whom Nasaw still the fascinating figure we've known for years: the self-absorbed genius equally addicted to power and possessions..." Publishers Weekly

..".absorbing and sympathetic portrait of an American original, the first full-scale biography of the publishing giant and politician in nearly 40 years." The Chicago Tribune

"In this exhaustively researched biography [Nasaw] has allowed us finally to understand . . . the father of the modern media conglomerate." The Chicago Tribune

"Nasaw's judicious and comprehensive biography sensibly seeks to understand its subject, not to judge him." The New Yorker

"Unlikely to be surpassed as the definitive study of its subject." The Wall Street Journal

"A highly readable portrait of a fascinating individual." The San Francisco Chronicle

"Nasaw keeps his subject human and believable, no easy task when writing about such a colorful and forceful man." The Seattle Times

"The large and in-charge William Randolph Hearst's flirtations with Hitler, Mussolini, and Louis B. Mayer are documented in David Nasaw's utterly absorbing bio." Vanity Fair

"The Chief is both an informative piece of scholarship and a pleasure to read." The San Diego Union-Tribune

"Nasaw's intriguing study is a must-read." The Nation

"A thoroughly researched volume that must be regarded as the definitive work...It's hard to imagine a more complete rendering of Hearst's life." Business Week

"Mr. Nasaw makes Hearst a regular guy . . . and often likable or sympathetic, if far from a universal hero." The New York Times

..".the best biography I read in 2000." -- Jonathan Yardley The Washington Post

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