Sunday, October 2, 2011

A Rich Tapestry of Colorful Characters


Joe Patterson's dictum about what the public wants to read could be used to describe his family's saga. “Love/sex, Money and Murder – in that order.” abound in the pages of The Magnificent Medills, although murder is confined to newspaper reporting. The book teems with colorful characters from Joseph Medill the patriarch and founder of the newspaper, to the two cousins, Bert Patterson and Joe McCormick, who kept the paper going, and the unforgettable Cissy Patterson. In addition to the family, historical personages from both the United States and Europe put in appearances. Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, and Franklin D. Roosevelt are featured. Famous writers appear, particularly in Cissy's Parisian period: Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, and many others. It's a marvelous picture of the newspaper world and the super rich from before the Civil War through the Jazz Age and up to the modern era.

I loved this book. The story moves quickly from the lives of the Medills through the history of their newspapers enterprises, particularly the Chicago Tribune and the New York Daily News, and takes us into the politics of the day. It's a book that's hard to put down.

I highly recommend the book. The combination of engaging characters most of whom where very successful, in business at least, coupled with a fascinating glimpse of Chicago history is a winning combination.