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Summary

Brought to you by Penguin.

From the best-selling author of A Very English Scandal, the jaw-dropping life story of the notorious business tycoon Robert Maxwell.

In February 1991, the media mogul and former MP Robert Maxwell made a triumphant entrance into Manhattan harbour aboard his yacht, the Lady Ghislaine, to complete his purchase of the ailing New York Daily News. Crowds lined the quayside to watch his arrival, taxi drivers stopped their cabs to shake his hand and children asked for his autograph. But just 10 months later, Maxwell disappeared from the same yacht off the Canary Islands, only to be found dead in the water soon afterward. 

Maxwell was the embodiment of Britain's postwar boom. Born an Orthodox Jew, he had escaped the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia, fought in World War II and was decorated for his heroism with the Military Cross. He went on to become a Labour MP and an astonishingly successful businessman, owning a number of newspapers and publishing companies. But on his death, his empire fell apart, as long-hidden debts and unscrupulous dealings came to light. Within a few days, Maxwell was being reviled as the embodiment of greed and corruption. No one had ever fallen so far and so quickly. 

What went so wrong? How did a war hero and model of society become reduced to a bloated, amoral wreck? In this gripping book, John Preston delivers the definitive account of Maxwell's extraordinary rise and scandalous fall.

©2021 John Preston (P)2021 Penguin Audio

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    5 out of 5 stars

Utterly fascinating!!

When I first started this book I only knew the highlights of Robert Maxwell is life. This book dismisses the myth and gets to the facts of a very complicated and multi-layered individual. The book, because Max was whole life from cradle to grave and goes some way to explain in great detail his early life and the experiences which shaped him later as an adult, for example it goes some way to explain where he got his sense of entitlement from which massively shaped his later life. This also goes to some lengths to try and explain the Demons that also haunted him until his death. Robert Maxwell is a multi-layered intelligent clever thief which is dramatically demonstrated throughout the book, even though you are sickened by what he ended up doing it was also absolutely fascinating to watch a colourful character rise and then fall from grace. The narration is absolutely excellent and the book was meticulously researched with candid interviews with all the living main players and also archival research into Maxwell and his dealings. I finish this book into settings and I have to say it's one of the best biographers I have ever read you will be gripped from the first page particularly if you lived through the 80s and remember what you powerful imposing figure Maxwell was this bookselling does justice to him and his complexities and the chaos and the hurt that he leaves behind. The book also goes some way to try and give you some idea of the presence and the powerful charisma that he exuded while also ruling his family and his employees with an iron fist. There are moments in this book that absolutely devastating with what personal tragedies Maxwell's have family while that does not constitute an excuse for his crimes it does go some way to understand that nothing is ever what it seems.

5 people found this helpful

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  • PM
  • 08-02-21

Fascinating.

This is a fascinating, absorbing account of the old fraud’s colourful life, well read, and marred only by some careless editing.

3 people found this helpful

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Exceptional

A riveting account of Maxwell’s life - and a brilliant telling of an incredible story. Made for the screen

2 people found this helpful

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Utterly compelling

Preston keeps a light touch throughout allowing the sources to speak for themselves, the real art is in how he marshals these in such a way as to never let the momentum slip. A book truly worthy of its fascinating subject.

2 people found this helpful

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Great book, well read

I listened to this book over 2 days as it was so well written and read. Simon Bubb has a lovely even voice with just enough variation in tone for Cap'n Bob. I was in the City at the time and it was very interesting to listen to the story as it enfolded. I recommend this thoroughly. You do not need any financial chops. You just need to try and get your head around the vast sums of money that were casually lobed about. My sympathies, as ever, are with the pension fund members.

1 person found this helpful

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Cracking story

Very enjoyable listen and nicely read but I am marking down for sloppy editing - clearly the producers did not listen to the book before uploading as there are a couple of false takes included in the final recording. But a fascinating account full of eye-popping detail.

1 person found this helpful

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What alive story

Fascinating insight into a very colourful monster. sadly raiding pension funds is no novelty these days and the culprits get knighthoods.

1 person found this helpful

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Fascinating story poorly delivered

You would imagine that someone would listen to the whole of the book at least once before putting it out to the world. I am half way through and have already found 2 errors, One where a line is repeated and another where the reader is discussing how to pronounce something. Just when you are engrossed with the story, you are dragged back to the shockingly bad production values.

1 person found this helpful

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Love it- flagging edit error

Loving this so much. Just wanted to flag, 7.30 into chapter 4 there is an editing error.

1 person found this helpful

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Surprisingly gripping

I was pleasantly surprised by this book. I remember it from being a teen, but never realised the full story. Fantastic