Ice's Reviews > Hughes: The Private Diaries, Memos & Letters

Hughes by Richard Hack
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's review
May 12, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: biography
Read in November, 2007

Was ever a life more incredible than that of Howard Hughes? Record-setting aviator, fabled lover, celebrated film director and producer, genius financier and industrialist, the nation's first billionaire. who at one time or another owned TWA, RKO Studios and most of Las Vegas, Hughes (1905-1976) also suffered from severe psychological afflictions that led him to spend his last years in isolation, naked in blacked-out rooms on several continents, devoting days at a time to screening grade-Z movies, dictating long memos to his staff about the proper procedures to keep his room and person free of germs, mostly through the liberal use of Kleenex as a prophylactic, even as he ingested titanic amounts of codeine, his hair and fingernails growing to grotesque length and his back running with untreated sores.

Hughes's story has been told before, of course, but never with the overview, insight and, most important, extraordinarily diligent research applied by Hack in this riveting biography. The author of bios of Ron Perelman and Michael Jackson, Hack has his own second-degree connection with Hughes; he co-wrote the autobiography of Hughes's longtime lieutenant, Robert Maheu. To separate fact from rumor in detailing Hughes's life, Hack read more than 8,000 pages of Hughes's private papers, 2,500 pages of recently declassified FBI and CIA documents, over 100,000 pages of previously sealed legal briefs, corporate papers and inventories, and spoke with hundreds of players, key and minor, in Hughes's drama.What Hack has uncovered is an astonishing tale of rampant ambition, obsession and madness. While his prose doesn't match the poetic heights of, say, a Nick Tosches, he presents his chronicle with bold certitude, not only illumining the amazing events of Hughes's life in a captivating manner but penetrating deep into the billionaire's twisted psyche. Readers will be nailed to these pages as, in the most exciting bio of the year, Hack presents the American dream curdling into the American nightmare, personified in a legend who at last has an accounting worthy of him.

Simultaneous New Millennium Audio. (On-sale: Sept. 11)Forecast: Publicity will roar for this book, which carries rave blurbs from Maheu, Larry King, Dominick Dunne and Sidney Sheldon. Among the schedulings are a one-hour show on Larry King Live; a two-part segment on Entertainment Tonight; an appearance on the Today Show; a 10-city author tour; a satellite TV and radio tour; and a massive print ad campaign.

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