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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Most people who were around in the mid-1970's will remember the kidnapping of Patty Hearst by a hapless band of revolutionary players, the Symbionese Liberation Army. This group, whose main members were - as Jeffrey Toobin puts it in his new book, "American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst" - as differentiated as a fox-hole in a war-time movie. There was the black revolutionary - "Cinque" or Donald DeFreeze - the white revolutionaries - Emily and William Harris, the gay revolutionaries - Camilla Hall and Patricia Soltysik, and various, other hangers-on. The SLA was a group of urban guerillas, who seemed determined to wreck the system, but were stymied on what to put in it's place.
And who was Patricia Hearst? As Toobin describes her, she was the heiress to a fortune but was sort of drifting through life, so far. The daughter of mismatched parents, she was the middle of five daughters, raised by her mother to aim for...
Patty Hearst and I are exactly the same age. (OK, in the interest of accuracy, she is 17 days older than I am.) So when she was kidnapped on February 4, 1974 during her (and my) sophomore year of college, I paid closer attention than I might otherwise have done. But after a few months, her kidnapping faded from the news, and I was otherwise engrossed with college. Whatever happened to Patty Hearst? I knew the basics--she robbed banks with the SLA, she was eventually captured by the FBI, she was convicted, she was pardoned and she married her bodyguard. But what was the backstory? What really happened?
Read Jeffrey Toobin's "American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst" to find out. This meticulously researched book recounts the events from the evening of Hearst's kidnapping by the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) until her presidential pardon by Bill Clinton on January 20, 2001. Although Hearst refused to cooperate with the...
Finally, after all these years, the gaps are filled in. This book is as close as you will ever get to the truth of this case. I was there in Berkeley when the news of the kidnapping broke and this book brought me back to that moment. All I can say is Thanks and highly recommended this book to anyone who craves the missing pieces of this puzzling case.
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