Author of his own controversial unauthorised biography of Armand Hammer, Steve Weinberg here shows how a new generation of biographers is revealing the lives of powerful individuals in dramatic and important new ways. Trained as investigative journalists, today's writers have entered a domain once dominated by university scholars. Unlike their more academic predecessors, who often wrote non-judgemental books on the public lives of long-dead individuals, these new biographers are willing to tackle such powerful, living subjects as Nancy Reagan, Henry Kissinger, Hugh Hefner, Pete Rose, and Fidel Castro. Few of these books are adoring. Without cooperation from their subjects, and sometimes out of threat of lawsuit, these writers are probing into private lives and thereby enabling readers to make up their own minds about public figures. Tracing the evolution of the craft of biography up to the present day, Weinberg draws on interviews with some of today's best biographers, as well as on his own experience with the Hammer biography, to highlight the careers of some of the writers whose work has expanded the boundaries of traditional biography. When Robert Caro became the first journilist to win a Pulitzer Prize for biography for his book on Robert Moses, it marked the dawn of a new approach to the craft. Weinberg also explores the techniques of ""Philadelphia Inquirer"" journalists Donald Barlett and James Steele, whose jointly authored biographies of Howard Hughes and Nelson Rockefeller marked another sign of how far the genre of biography had come. ""The living of life is more difficult than the chronicling of it, but the chronicling is certainly no simple task,"" writes Weinberg. ""Telling some-body else's life fully, fairly and compellingly is probably an impossible task. But it is important to keep pushing the limits of the possible.
Steve Weinberg is Associate Professor at the University of Missouri School of Journalism in Columbia. An avid reader and reviewer of biographies, he is the author of Armand Hammer: The Untold Story, as well as Trade Secrets of Washington Journalists.