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American Heiress
Cover of American Heiress
American Heiress
The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst
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A National Bestseller
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 Symbonese Liberation Army. The weird turns that followed in this already sensational take are truly astonishing—the Hearst family tried to secure Patty's release by feeding the people of Oakland and San Francisco for free; bank security cameras captured "Tania" wielding a machine gun during a roberry; the LAPD engaged in the largest police shoot-out in American history; the first breaking news event was broadcast live on telelvision stations across the country; and then there was Patty's circuslike trial, filled with theatrical courtroom confrontations and a dramatic last-minute reversal, after which the term "Stockholm syndrome" entered the lexicon.
Ultimately, the saga highlighted a decade in which America seemed to be suffering a collective nervous breakdown. American Heiress portrays the electrifying lunacy of the time and the toxic mic of sex, politics, and violence that swept up Patty Hearst and captivated the nation.
A National Bestseller
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 Symbonese Liberation Army. The weird turns that followed in this already sensational take are truly astonishing—the Hearst family tried to secure Patty's release by feeding the people of Oakland and San Francisco for free; bank security cameras captured "Tania" wielding a machine gun during a roberry; the LAPD engaged in the largest police shoot-out in American history; the first breaking news event was broadcast live on telelvision stations across the country; and then there was Patty's circuslike trial, filled with theatrical courtroom confrontations and a dramatic last-minute reversal, after which the term "Stockholm syndrome" entered the lexicon.
Ultimately, the saga highlighted a decade in which America seemed to be suffering a collective nervous breakdown. American Heiress portrays the electrifying lunacy of the time and the toxic mic of sex, politics, and violence that swept up Patty Hearst and captivated the nation.
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  • Kindle Book
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Languages:-
Copies-
  • Available:
    1
  • Library copies:
    1
Levels-
  • ATOS:
    8.5
  • Lexile:
  • Interest Level:
    UG
  • Text Difficulty:
    7

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Excerpts-
  • From the book Prologue

    The doorbell rang at 9:17 on the evening of February 4, 1974.

    From their perch on the sofa in the living room, Patricia Hearst and Steven Weed looked at each other and shrugged. No one was expected. But it was Berkeley, so who knew?
    Still, visitors were unlikely. Their cozy duplex was one of four apartments at 2603 Benvenue Avenue, a sturdy, well- made structure covered in the chocolate- brown shingles that were a signature of the neighborhood around the University of California, where both Patricia and Steve were students. The apartment offered an unusual degree of privacy. There was no door to the street, only a pair of garage doors, which were open. To enter, one had to walk up an outside stairway along the side and then find the entrance to apartment 4 on an interior walkway. Few did.

    With some trepidation, Patricia and Steve walked to the front hall. Weed pulled open the door a crack and saw a woman he did not recognize. Her clothes appeared slightly disheveled.
    "I'm sorry but I think I backed into your car," the woman said. "I'm sorry. Can I come in and use the phone?" Patricia turned away in disgust, thinking that the visitor had damaged her beloved MG roadster. Then, as she headed back toward the living room, she heard a crash.
    Three people, all bearing weapons, burst into the apartment. The woman at the door was named Angela Atwood, and she had not had a car accident. She was acting, and she was, as it happened, an actress who had recently played a leading role in a local production of Henrik Ibsen's Hedda Gabler. On this night, however, she was using her talents to initiate a kidnapping.

    Two men rushed in behind Atwood. Later, Weed would insist that both were black, but only one was— Donald DeFreeze, who had recently applied a political filigree to a lifetime of petty and not-so-petty crime. The other man was Bill Harris, an agitated, compulsive talker, also a theater person at one time as well as a Vietnam veteran, and currently a revolutionary. DeFreeze knocked Weed to the floor, and Patricia fled toward the kitchen, in the back of the apartment.

    "Where's the safe? Where's the safe?" DeFreeze demanded. He had an almost quaint conception that rich people kept their money at home in safes. Steve and Patricia did no such thing, and Steve protested that there was no safe. "Take my wallet," Weed said. "It's all the money I have. Take anything you want!" DeFreeze, unhappy with this answer, belted Steve across the head with a homemade sap— a leather- covered piece of lead. The pain knocked Weed almost unconscious.

    Atwood chased Patricia into the kitchen and put a black automatic pistol in her face. "Be quiet and nobody'll get hurt," she said. Harris ran after Patricia as well and then dragged her back toward the front door, where he placed her facedown on the floor. Atwood began tying Patricia up. She fought back— Patricia was stronger than her delicate, barely five- foot frame suggested— but Atwood managed to get some nylon cord wrapped around her arms and legs. She also tried to put a gag (actually a racquetball) into Patricia's mouth and a blindfold over her eyes, but her fierce resistance left both restraints hanging loosely around her head. Still, with Weed semiconscious and Hearst trussed, there was a brief moment of silence, which was broken by the arrival of a new face at the door.

    Steve Suenaga, also a Cal student, lived in one of the apartments across the walkway. He was heading out to see his girlfriend, when he noticed some unusual activity inside apartment 4 and poked his nose in the door.
    DeFreeze...
About the Author-
  • JEFFREY TOOBIN is the bestselling author of The Nine, for which he won the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize, The Oath, Too Close to Call, A Vast Conspiracy, and The Run of His Life, which was made into the critically acclaimed FX series American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson. He is a staff writer at The New Yorker and the senior legal analyst at CNN.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from June 27, 2016
    Toobin (The Run of His Life: The People v. O.J. Simpson), a New Yorker staff writer and CNN senior legal analyst, provides another definitive and nuanced look at a notorious crime case—this time, the 1974 abduction of heiress Patty Hearst in San Francisco by the Symbionese Liberation Army, and its sensational aftermath. Two months into the kidnapping, in a tape released by the SLA, Hearst declared that she’d joined the group; two years later, she faced a federal trial for armed bank robbery. Toobin’s rigorous detective work is enhanced by his placement of the Hearst case in the context of its times, with the U.S. shaken by the continuing Watergate revelations as well as the devastating OAPEC oil embargo, and his expert critique of the work of both prosecution and defense in Hearst’s 1976 trial. His thorough research, careful parsing of all the evidence, and superior prose make the book read like a summertime thriller. Agent: Esther Newberg, ICM.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from October 3, 2016
    Audiobook veteran Michael brings his considerable skill to Toobin’s sprawling biographical narrative tackling one of the most controversial criminal cases in American history. Michael adroitly moves back and forth between Toobin’s expository elements and the colorful dialogue among the principal players involved. As Patricia Hearst shifts from diffident young heiress to fiery revolutionary to celebrity defendant eager to return to her former life, Michael doesn’t miss a beat, consistently maintaining vocal mannerisms and personality quirks in his portrayal of her. Michael’s chilling turn as career criminal Donald David DeFreeze leaves a lasting impression. His rendering of crime-scene detail—including multiple bank robberies and Hearst’s infamous sporting-goods store shootout—never fails to enthrall. Yet he also hits the right notes in undertaking the soap opera elements of Hearst and her captors turned comrades, especially the constantly bickering husband-and-wife team of Bill and Emily Harris. Toobin’s writing and Michael’s performance make for an enthralling listening experience. A Doubleday hardcover.

  • Kirkus

    July 1, 2016
    The ubiquitous legal journalist and author returns with a detailed but swiftly moving account of the 1974 kidnapping that mesmerized the nation.Readers of a certain age will be astonished that this case is more than 40 years old. So much has changed, as New Yorker staff writer Toobin (The Oath: The Obama White House and the Supreme Court, 2012, etc.) effectively points out. He reminds us, for instance, that live TV feeds from crime scenes were a novelty that spread rapidly after the coverage of a shootout between some members of the Symbionese Liberation Army--the motley crew that kidnapped Patricia Hearst, the young heiress of the noted publishing family--and the federal and local authorities. Toobin begins with a quick account of the kidnapping, an introduction of the principals, and some 1970s cultural history, and then he moves into the slow conversion of Hearst into a trash-talking urban guerrilla (the term she later used to identify herself), her involvement in SLA criminal activities, and her sex life. The author occasionally shows us the doings of those left behind--principally her family and her fiance, Steven Weed, who does not come off well, then and now. (He bolted when the SLA arrived.) Toobin ably charts the bizarre inability of authorities to figure out this crew of barely competent revolutionaries. Once Patricia is caught and on trial for her SLA-related activities, the author's considerable legal knowledge propels the narrative. He shows us that both the prosecution and the defense lacked competence, especially celebrated defense attorney F. Lee Bailey, whom Toobin paints as an opportunist inebriated with alcohol and celebrity. The author ends with an update on the principals and notes that Hearst resolutely refused to contribute to his book. Despite the lack of participation from Hearst, this is a well-informed, engaging work from a highly capable author.

    COPYRIGHT(2016) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    March 15, 2016
    On February 4, 1973, college sophomore Patty Hearst, the heir to the Hearst family fortune, was kidnapped by some off-the-wall revolutionaries calling themselves the Symbionese Liberation Army; two months later, she supposedly joined the group and was seen on videotape firing a gun during a bank robbery. On the run for a year, she was captured, tried, and convicted of felonious acts; whether these acts were voluntary is still debated. "New Yorker" staffer Toobin, the best-selling author of books such as "The Oath", relied on more than 100 interviews and thousands of previously secret documents to capture an event that defined the shift from the freewheeling, sunshiny Sixties to the darker and more violent Seventies. With a 150,000-copy first printing.

    Copyright 2016 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Janet Maslin, The New York Times "[A] clever companion piece to The Run of His Life (1996), his book about the O. J. Simpson case. Mr. Toobin has used the same winning formula of delving deeply into an American crime story that had tremendous notoriety in its day and retelling it with new resonance. Ms. Hearst's tale is much more bizarre than Mr. Simpson's. . . . [I]n an age of terrorism, the chronicle of how a sedate heiress named Patricia morphed into a gun-toting, invective-spouting revolutionary calling herself Tania holds a definite fascination."
  • The Washington Post "The abduction and subsequent radicalization of Patricia Hearst is one of the most bizarre but illuminating episodes of that tumultuous era of protest. . .and in American Heiress Jeffrey Toobin retells the story with a full-blown narrative treatment that may astonish readers too young to remember it themselves. . . .Toobin. . .spins this complex chapter of recent history into an absorbing and intelligent page-turner."
  • San Francisco Chronicle "Toobin has crafted a book for the expert and the uninitiated alike, a smart page-turner that boasts a cache of never-before-published details. . . . Toobin's book successfully captures the unrivaled spectacle of the Hearst drama."
  • Publishers Weekly ☆Starred review☆ "[D]efinitive and nuanced. . . . [Toobin's] thorough research, careful parsing of all the evidence, and superior prose make the book read like a summertime thriller."
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The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst
Jeffrey Toobin
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