Charles Higham is the author of many bestselling books, including Howard Hughes, a basis of The Aviator, a major motion picture starring Leonardo DiCaprio, as well as acclaimed biographies of Katharine Hepburn, Errol Flynn, Bette Davis, and Marlene Dietrich. He received the Prix des Createurs from the Academie Francaise and was a Hollywood feature writer for the New York Times from 1970 to 1980.
The disclosures here strain credibility. Bessie Wallis Warfield, an illegitimate child, was born in 1895 to a prominent Baltimore family. She grew up ferociously ambitious, married bisexual Navy officer Winfield Spencer in 1916, traveled to China where she supposedly acquired skills in erotic arts, took lovers, dealt drugs and spied for Russiaaccording to show-biz biographer Higham (Brando, etc.). After her divorce, she had an affair with Ernest Simpson who became her second husband in 1926, following his own divorce. In due course, she moved on to England and achieved her ultimate goal as ``the woman I love'' who cost the empire a king. We read of the lives of the Windsors, the duchess's alleged spying for the Nazis during World War II and other reprehensible behavior during the marriage that ended with the duke's death in 1972. There are also stories implying sexual deviance on the part of both the Windsors. The author discusses as well the duchess's fabulous jewels, which sold for record prices after she died at age 90 in 1986. Photos not seen by PW. First serial to the Star; Literary Guild alternate; author tour. (July )
In this latest book about the Duchess, celebrity biographer Higham produces a breathless narrative that strains for sensation but is enlivened by a wealth of gossip, verified or not. Some bits of information come from anonymous informers; others from previously unavailable documents. Higham reports, although not always substantiates, stories of extensive espionage, an affair with Mussolini's son-in-law Count Ciano, and other heretofore unchronicled events. Although this book fails to provide a balanced account in a marketplace oversupplied with biographies about the Windsors, the new revelations will undoubtedly create a demand for this one. Literary Guild alternate.Nancy C. Cridland, Indiana Univ. Libs., Bloomington