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The Big Rich


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About the Author

Bryan Burrough is a special correspondent at Vanity Fair and the author of three previous books. A former reporter for the Wall Street Journal, he is a three-time winner of the John Hancock Award for excellence in financial journalism. Burrough lives in Summit, New Jersey, with his wife and their two sons.


Burrough (special correspondent, Vanity Fair; coauthor, with John Helyar, Barbarians at the Gate) details the multigenerational saga of the "Big Four" Texas oil families of Roy Cullen, H.L. Hunt, Clint Murchison, and Sid Richardson, from the discovery of oil under Beaumont, TX, in 1901 to the demolition of the infamous Shamrock Hotel, the last bastion of oil-fueled Texas excess, in 1987. Since Burrough favors the human-interest angle, the narrative really hits its stride when the focus moves to the Hunt family in the 1960s. The real-life inspiration for the television show Dallas, the Hunts prove the adage that truth is stranger than fiction. In addition to splurging and feuding as only billionaires can, they (allegedly) masterminded the JFK assassination and later threw Wall Street into chaos with their fixation on converting their family fortune into silver ingots, precipitating what at the time was the largest bailout in U.S. history. This book is an entertaining look at the larger-than-life histories of the incomprehensibly rich and powerful. While it's an extensively researched synthesis of a time and a place, it avoids a dry, academic tone through the natural drama of these miniature empires and the truly bizarre characters that inhabited them. Recommended for all libraries.-Robert Perret, Univ. of Idaho, Moscow Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

Capitalism at its most colorful oozes across the pages of this engrossing study of independent oil men. Vanity Fair special correspondent Burrough (coauthor, Barbarians at the Gate) profiles the Big Four oil dynasties of H.L. Hunt, Roy Cullen, Clint Murchison and Sid Richardson, along with their cronies, rivals, families and, in Hunt's case, bigamous second and third families. The saga begins heroically in the early 20th-century oil boom, with wildcatters roaming the Texas countryside drilling one dry hole after another, scrounging money and fending off creditors until gushers of black gold redeem them. Their second acts as garish nouveaux riches with strident right-wing politics are entertaining, if less dramatic. Decline sets in as rising production costs and cheaper Middle Eastern oil erode profits, and a feckless, feuding second generation squanders family fortunes on debauchery and reckless investment-H.L.'s sons' efforts in 1970 to corner the silver market bankrupted them and almost took down Wall Street. This is a portrait of capitalism as white-knuckle risk taking, yielding fruitful discoveries for the fathers, but only sterile speculation for the sons-a story that resonates with today's economic upheaval. (Jan. 27) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

aBryan Burrough has long been one of this nationas best storytellers, but he has outdone himself with his tour de force, "The Big Rich," Set amid the rough and tumble of the Texas oil fields and stretching to the halls of political power in Washington, this epic tale reveals the hidden undercurrents of modern American history that flowed from four families of unimaginable wealth and recklessness. With an unerring eye for detail, Burrough dissects their lives and histories, starting with the patriarchsastruggling, poorly educated men who might have remained forever unknown if not for their success at pulling black ooze from the ground. "The Big Rich" lays bare their arrogance and aspirations, their principles and hypocrisy, their daring and foolishness, taking readers deep inside a world of affluence that has remained secret for far too long. It is, quite simply, a triumph.a
aKurt Eichenwald, author of "The Informant" and "Conspiracy of Fools"
aItas hard to imagine a greater literary marriage than that of the oil barons of Texas and Bryan Burrough. On the one hand, you have a collection of gargantuan personalities who in the 1920s struck it rich and then, in the decades that followed, used their wealth to transform American business, culture and politics. On the other, you have an authoraand native Texanawho writes, as he always does, with enormous insight and panache. "The Big Rich" has all the hallmarks of a classic American saga.a
aDavid Margolick, author of "Beyond Glory: Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling, and a World on the Brink"
a"The Big Rich," a 400 page opus on the oil-powered rise of the Texas elite, has so many characters and entertaining subplots it reads like apetroleum-based "Lord of the Rings," This is, of course, a complimenta] In Burroughas captivating story, done with the same keen eye on excess as his corporate classic "Barbarians at the Gate," itas clear these men cast a shadow so wide they contributed more to our economic, national and political identities than almost any other titans of industry.a
a "GQ"
aLivelya]impeccably rendereda] Burrough has done estimable new reporting, showing links between Texas money and national politics that stretch back far earlier than the days of Lyndon B. Johnson.a
aMimi Schwartz, "The New York Times Book Review"
aA Lone Star epica] Burrough introduces his protagonists with a novelistas eye for detail. a] Though this book forms an epitaph for a bygone era, itas not without relevance today.a
aIt would be hard to ask for a literally or figuratively rich cast of characters than those in "The Big Rich"a] Nicely detailed and suspenseful.a
aHarry Hurt III, "The New York Times Business Section"
aEminently readable.a
a"Texas Monthly"
aWinninga]well researched and briskly told. Burrough has produced an indispensable guide to the knotty fascination that Texas spurs in the imagination.a
a "BookForum"
aHere at Capitol Annex, we get a fair number of books to review. Rarely do we come across one that we can so highly recommenda] "The Big Rich" is simply a amust read.a
a" The Capitol Annex"
aCapitalism at its most colorful oozes across the pages of this engrossing study of independent oil mena] This is a portrait of capitalism as white-knuckle risk taking, yielding fruitful discoveries for the fathers, but only sterile speculation for the sonsa astory that resonates with todayas economic upheaval.a
a"Publishers Weekly" (starred review)
aThe most improbable people of all must live in Texas and, in the good old days, they hunted for oil, found it, sold it, made fortunes and eventually blew most of it. In "The Big Rich," Bryan Burrough tells a wonderful tale of the four biggest Texas millionaires.a
a"St. Louis Post-Dispatch"
aBurrougha]invokes a tale of bitter competition, family feuds, booms, and bankruptcies that more than lives up to the legends.a
a"Booklist" (starred review)
aAn entertaining look at the larger-than-life histories of the incomprehensibly rich and powerful.a
a"Library Journal"
aFull of schadenfreude and speculationaand solid, timely history too.a
a "Kirkus Reviews"
aFirst-class entertainment.a
aJonathan Yardley, "The Washington Post"
aWhatas not to enjoy about a book full of monstrous egos, unimaginable sums of money and the punishment of greed and shortsightedness by the march of events?a]["The Big Rich"] is a rippinga] read from start to finish. At the end of it those of less ample fortunes will feel their Schadenfreude richly indulged.a
a"The Economist"

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