Hardcover; 336 pages Published by Houghton Mifflin: 12/03/2008 @ $28.00
Biographical family stories are usually written long after the principals are dead. In this case, Ms Gordon has been blessed with the longevity of her subjects, and a current court case which is the raison dêtre of her book. One can read the book and follow the case in court. An opportunity not to be missed.
Hell has three gates: lust, anger, and greed, and Ms Gordon touches them all in her book. A lady who is no stranger to affluence herself, Gordon covers this saga with balance and sympathy. She does not succumb to the ‘Everyone hates Anthony Marshall’ school of condemnation, even though it is difficult not to. She uses her significant journalistic experience to describe the facts as she uncovered them.
All of the participants are contemptible in equal measure. They all have a pecuniary interest in one side or the other succeeding. As I progressed through this litany of greed, I could not find one person who convinced me of altruistic intentions. Someone once said ‘Show me a large fortune, and I will show you a large crime’. Never was a truer word spoken in this case.
The story starts with a summary of Brook Aster’s life and times. Her three marriages were love at first sight. That is first sight of the potential hubby’s bank account. Husband number one was father of Anthony and wife beater in that order. He didn’t have a long life so Anthony had to fill-in as whipping boy. This lasted all his life and still does. None of the cast of thousands, who are using their best endeavours to put Marshall behind bars, and leech cash from the Astor Estate, pay any regard to the fact that Anthony Marshall is a decorated Marine officer wounded in action in the South Pacific during WWII. He also had an important job with the CIA and the government. I mention this only to highlight the fact that none of his accusers have the slightest understanding of the word ‘JOB’. For them, working could be a city in China.
The revolving bride finally snared an Astor, and when he shook off his mortal coil left an obscenely wealthy widow, who used his money to manipulate and dominate anyone who got in her cross-hairs. She kept everyone on their toes by changing her will every week. This lasted until senility overcame her, and her only son took control of the estate under the guidance and advice of an attorney. All the players who had encouraged the old lady to dole out money, favours and property, where discombobulated when her son introduced prudent fiscal measures which impacted them negatively. The most aggrieved was a grandson who recruited some willing executioners to instigate a witch-hunt against Anthony Marshall. The plan was to use the courts to wrest guardianship of the senile Mrs Astor away from her son into the hands of a more amenable chum. The court did not accept the basic accusation of cruelty, but the furore did attract the attention of the District Attorney. The case against Anthony Marshall is before the courts as we speak, and could see him in jail for the remainder of his life unless wiser heads prevail. His accusers (including his sons), vehemently profess to not wanting him in jail, but that has not inhibited them from roundly condemning him from the witness box on charges far removed from those they instigated. Ms Gordon’s (the first – I think), book is an excellent read. In places it reads more like a court brief than a work of literature, but it is non-the-worse for that. More than an excellent read, it is an important work of non-fiction. People should learn how the mighty are fallen, and when the going gets tough, they tear each other to pieces.