American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst

American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty HearstAmerican Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst by Jeffrey Toobin
on August 2nd 2016
Published by Doubleday Pages: 368


From "New Yorker" staff writer and bestselling author Jeffrey Toobin, 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 circus-like 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?"

I was twenty-four years old and living in the Bay Area when Patty Hearst was kidnapped. It was without a doubt one of the strangest things to happen during the counter-culture movement of the late sixties – early seventies.

Toobin retells the story of Hearst’s kidnapping and her conversion to an SLA member. He has unusual insight into Hearst’s motives and actions. I believe that his telling of the story and his insights are 100 percent accurate.

Toobin believes she willingly became a member of the SLA and I agree with that.

“The shoot-out at Fifty-Fourth Street cemented Patricia’s transformation into a committed revolutionary. She was kidnapped on February 4. On March 31, she convinced the comrades of her worthiness to join the SLA; on April 3, she sent the communique in which she vowed to “stay and fight” under her new name of Tania; on April 15, she participated in the robbery of the Hibernia Bank; on April 24, she sent the communique that mocked the idea that she had been brainwashed; on May 16, she fired her machine gun (and another gun) at Mel’s to free Bill Harris from the clutches of his pursuers; on May 17, she watched her comrades, including Willy Wolfe, die excruciating deaths.”

“If you look at her actions … over the following year, you see the actions of a revolutionary, not a victim,” Toobin says. “There was some glamour to what she was doing, the swagger of wearing berets, of carrying machine guns — the romance of revolution was an undeniable part of the appeal of the SLA.”

What intrigues me is what would happen today if Patty Hearst did what she did forty years ago? Would we be so forgiving? Would she be considered a domestic terrorist?

‘American Heiress’ Author: ‘You Cannot Overstate the Terror that Patty Hearst Faced’

The Dig

The DigThe Dig by John Preston
Format: ebook
on April 5th 2016
Published by Other Press Pages: 233


A succinct and witty literary venture that tells the strange story of a priceless treasure discovered in East Anglia on the eve of World War II  In the long, hot summer of 1939, Britain is preparing for war, but on a riverside farm in Suffolk there is excitement of another kind. Mrs. Pretty, the widowed owner of the farm, has had her hunch confirmed that the mounds on her land hold buried treasure. As the dig proceeds, it becomes clear that this is no ordinary find.

This fictional recreation of the famed Sutton Hoo dig follows three months of intense activity when locals fought outsiders, professionals thwarted amateurs, and love and rivalry flourished in equal measure. As the war looms ever closer, engraved gold peeks through the soil, and each character searches for answers in the buried treasure. Their threads of love, loss, and aspiration weave a common awareness of the past as something that can never truly be left behind.

In 1939 Edith Perry contacted the Ipswich Museum about some mounds she wanted excavated on her property in East Anglia. The museum recommended an amateur archeologist, Basil Brown. Mr Brown went on to uncover one of the most significant sites of medieval history in England. What ensured was a battle between Museums and property owns for the priceless objects found.

John Preston has offered us a fictionalized account of this dig. Using four different narrator’s, Preston covers the period of April through September 1939. The use of these narrator’s was very successful in accounting what happened, which I believe Preston wanted to do without bogging down the story with a lot of character detail. This does leave the story a little unsettled. I for one, am grateful to have the book since it does give us a sense of history.