Named one of the best books of the year by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, Business Week, and GQ, THE CHIEF: THE LIFE OF WILLIAM RANDLOPH HEARST is “an absorbing and ingeniously organized biography . . . of the most powerful publisher America has ever known” (New York Times Book Review). Drawing on papers and interviews that were previously unavailable, as well as on newly released documentation of interactions with such figures as Hitler, Mussolini, Churchill, every president from Grover Cleveland to Franklin Roosevelt, and movie giants Louis B. Mayer, Jack Warner, and Irving Thalberg, David Nasaw completes the picture of this colossal American “engagingly, lucidly and fair-mindedly” (Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.).
“Outstandingly researched, elegantly but not flamboyantly written, and fair in its conclusions about Hearst’s astonishing career” (Wall Street Journal), THE CHIEF “must be regarded as the definitive study . . . It’s hard to imagine a more complete rendering of Hearst’s life” (Business Week).
The epic scope of historian David Nasaw's biography matches the titanic personality and achievements of William Randolph Hearst (1862-1951), who built "the nation's first media conglomerate" from a single San Francisco newspaper. Based on previously unavailable sources, including Hearst's personal papers, Nasaw's long but absorbing narrative gives a full-bodied account of the often contradictory mogul: "a huge man with a tiny voice; a shy man who was most comfortable in crowds ... an autocratic boss who could not fire people; a devoted husband who lived with his mistress." Wife Millicent Hearst and actress-inamorata Marion Davies also emerge with more complexity than in previous portraits like Orson Welles's Citizen Kane, whose factual inaccuracies Nasaw dissects. The author tempers the usual simplistic account of Hearst's political evolution from fire-breathing leftist to red-baiting conservative, calling him "a classic liberal" who believed in less-is-more government and deplored fascism as much as communism. Fresh insights and elegantly turned phrases abound in Nasaw's depiction of Hearst's activities as newspaper publisher, movie producer, and politician, but what's even more intriguing is the poignant personal drama of a man born "in the city of great expectations on the edge of the continent" who was buried 89 years later in San Francisco, "the place he used to know." --Wendy Smith