Which Howard Hughes biographies are worth the time? Why--accuracy or entertainment?
February 11, 2005 6:45 AM   Subscribe

BioFilter. Saw The Aviator last night. My natural instinct after seeing a decent bio-pic is to find and read an actual biography of the subject, but I'm having difficulty discerning just which of the available Howard Hughes biographies are worth my time. So I ask you ... can anyone recommend a Hughes bio? Furthermore, do any of you have a favorite biography in your collection? If so, what makes it worthwhile? Accuracy or entertainment?
posted by grabbingsand to Writing & Language (5 answers total)
Try the Broeske and Brown bio from Viking that came out in the 90s. That's one of the better ones as I remember it. Here's the Amazon link and it looks like there's a new paperback edition of it (click on the paperback edition, link goes to original HC)
posted by rodz at 6:56 AM on February 11, 2005

I've heard good things about Clifford Irving's authorized biography, though it's hard to find these days for some reason...
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 7:05 AM on February 11, 2005

Empire: the Life, Legend and Madness of Howard Hughes,
Donald L. Bartlett and James B. Steele (1979).

The book, by the deans of American investigative reporting, covers his descent into madness in vivid detail. Years after reading it, I can remember the morgue x-ray image of his arm, showing the broken-off hypodermic needles from the codeine injections.

"Such was the mystery and power surrounding his life that when he was pronounced dead on arrival at Methodist Hospital in Houston, Texas, on April 5, 1976, his fingerprints were lifted by a technician from the Harris County Medical Examiner’s Office and forwarded to the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Washington," write Bartlett and Steele. "Secretary of the Treasury William E. Simon, for federal tax purposes, wanted to be sure that the dead man was indeed Howard Hughes. After comparing the fingerprints with those taken from Hughes in 1942, the FBI confirmed the identity." He had not been seen publicly or photographed for 20 years.
posted by sacre_bleu at 7:39 AM on February 11, 2005

I second sacre_bleu's recommendation of Empire. I read it a while back and thought it was fantastic.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 7:51 AM on February 11, 2005

"My Life and Opinions" by Howard Hughes, edited by Robert P. Eaton.

The main text originally appeared as "Meet Howard Hughes" in Ladies home journal, Feb. 1972, p. 46-60.

As for a favorite bio, I gotta go with "Confieso Que he Vivido" by Pablo Neruda for sheer entertainment. I've linked to the widely available english translation with the rather bleh title of "Memoirs" but I prefer the true title's translation "I Confess I Have Lived".
posted by lilnemo at 1:34 PM on February 11, 2005

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