The Uncrowned King
by Kenneth Whyte (Counterpoint, $30)
Time to rewrite the legend of publishing tycoon William Randolph Hearst, said Alan Farnham in Forbes. By focusing on the young Hearst’s breakthrough years in New York’s crowded newspaper wars, this lively work from the editor of Maclean’s “succeeds spectacularly” in showing that vision, daring, and a civic conscience—not mere riches—catapulted Hearst to the top. Whyte will even convince you that Hearst had good reason to beat the drum for a Spanish-American war.
The Man Who Owns the News
by Michael Wolff (Broadway, $30)
Rupert Murdoch remains “disconcertingly spectral” in this mannered close-up of a modern-day Hearst, said David Carr in The New York Times. Though Vanity Fair wiseguy Michael Wolff enjoyed almost unlimited access to the mogul, he seems “too struck by the fragrance of his own prose” to do the hard work of uncovering his subject’s inner life. Even so, there’s enough savory business gossip to provide a “deeply satisfying experience for the media-interested.”
Mrs. Astor Regrets
by Meryl Gordon (Houghton Mifflin, $28)
This “dishy, blow-by-blow recap” of a high-society family feud “reads like a magazine story on steroids,” said Heller McAlpin in Newsday. Author Meryl Gordon seems to have tracked down every witness who had an angle on the alleged swindling perpetrated earlier this decade against the dying New York heiress Brooke Astor. But this “riveting” story of the sad fate of New York’s society queen never really “transcends its dirty details.”
The King’s Messenger
by David B. Ottaway (Walker, $27)
The career of the “swashbuckling” Saudi envoy Prince Bandar bin Sultan proves to be “the perfect vehicle” for studying the failed relationship between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, said Roger Lowenstein in Portfolio. Bandar apparently “charmed almost everyone in official Washington” between his arrival in 1978 and the morning of 9/11. In this “richly complex portrait” of a decades-long diplomatic chess game, author David Ottaway demonstrates that the world-changing alliance Bandar had strived to build was “doomed from the start.”
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