Have one of the authors of Empty Mansions at your next book club meeting

Have you seen that some authors are charging book clubs high fees to come to talk with them? If your book club is discussing Empty Mansions, arrange for one of the authors to meet with your group in person or via phone or Skype -- for free. Send an email to Bill Dedman. (Let us know the date and time, and we'll work it out to be there in person or via Skype.)

More info is on our page for book clubs.

Empty Mansions, the Huguette Clark biography, returns to Times bestseller list

A trifecta. Empty Mansions, the biography of reclusive heiress Huguette Clark and her family, is back on the New York Times bestseller list for June 1, ranking at No. 14 for electronic books, No. 18 for paperbacks, and No. 23 in the category for combined sales of hardcover and electronic books. Buy the book and see hundreds of photos of Huguette Clark and her family and homes in our photo galleries.

A tour of Huguette Clark's California mansion, frozen in time for 60 years

NBC News carried Bill Dedman's report about his recent tour with Paul Newell of Bellosguardo, Huguette Clark's home in Santa Barbara. Here's a link to his story

Bill reports: I was fortunate to be allowed by the Clark estate administrators to be the first journalist to report on a tour of Huguette's Santa Barbara home, known as Bellosguardo. Though its owners have not visited in more than 60 years, Bellosguardo could easily be ready tonight for a dinner party. See the 1930s cars in the garage, the fine woodwork, and the gardens. We also share a beautiful set of photos as Bellosguardo was in its heyday in the 1940s. Co-author Paul Clark Newell, Jr., and I greatly enjoyed our close-up look at Bellosguardo. Perhaps someday it will be opened up to the public. A board of trustees for the Bellosguardo Foundation should be named soon.

Others also published photos from Bellosguardo past and present:

 

The Huguette Clark Family Fund for Protection of Elders

The distant relatives of Huguette Clark, who received at least $34.5 million in the settlement of her estate, have put out a press release to announce that they've given away $51,000 of it. http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/05/prweb11842959.htm.

Meanwhile, the executors of the estate are in court claiming that Huguette Clark was insane. This is part of the estate's litigation against the hospital and doctors. Such litigation was anticipated by the settlement of Huguette's estate. The family members have described themselves as not involved in this litigation, which is true only if one ignores that half of any money won in the litigation will go to them. Under the settlement, half the money would go to the relatives, and one-quarter to the Corcoran Gallery of Art (which is folding its collection into the National Gallery of Art), and one-quarter to the new Bellosguardo Foundation. http://nypost.com/2014/05/19/executors-of-huguette-clarks-estate-claim-she-was-insane/

Mixed results at Christie's auction

Update from Christie's, at a fancy garage sale to end the Gilded Age. Results: Huguette Clark's Monet sells for $24M, and Corcoran Gallery gets $10M of that. The will as written left the painting to the Corcoran, but its lawyers filed objections. Also, two of the Renoir trio sold for $2.1M and $10M. (A third Renoir, the Chrysanthemums, failed to sell, with a high bid of $2.6M.) All the sales were below the estimates. The over-the-top prices predicted in much of the press coverage failed, as they say, to materialize. http://investigations.nbcnews.com/_news/2014/01/31/22513322-tour-recluse-huguette-clarks-art-collection-viewing-days-set-at-christies-new-york.

By the way, for those keeping score at home on the Corcoran's take: The Monet sold for $24M. You'll see stories with the figure of $27M, but that's of no matter. Reporters fall for printing the figure including the auction house's commission. But that's irrelevant here, because the agreement says the Corcoran got more money only if the net proceeds were more than $25M, which they were not.

Pyrrhic victory for Christie's

File this one under Pyrrhic victories: Tonight when the auctioneer's hammer comes down at Christie's in Rockefeller Center, the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., will know how many millions it gave up by opposing the last will and testament of a longtime benefactor, the reclusive heiress Huguette Clark, the heroine of "Empty Mansions." Under Clark's will, the Corcoran would have received her Monet "water lilies" painting, with an estimated value of $25 million to $35 million. But the Corcoran opposed her will, siding with relatives who said she was incompetent and coerced. In the settlement, the Corcoran gets from the Monet only $10 million, plus half of whatever price it sells for beyond $25 million. So let's do the math for the Corcoran: If the Monet sells at $35 million, the Corcoran gets $10 milion plus half of ($35 million minus $25 million), for a total of $15 million from the painting. That's a loss of $20 million for a museum in financial difficulty. Now, the Corcoran does get the cash, not a painting that under usual accreditation rules it wouldn't be able to sell to fund operating expenses. But this money is going to a museum that is in effect already defunct, as it has decided to disperse its assets, including Huguette's father's art collection, to the National Gallery of Art and elsewhere. It's a curious situation. Imagine if the Corcoran were not giving up the ghost: What message would it send to donors: "Hey, if you leave us money in your will, we might oppose it, throwing in with the relatives you cut out of the will."http://investigations.nbcnews.com/_news/2014/01/31/22513322-tour-recluse-huguette-clarks-art-collection-viewing-days-set-at-christies-new-york

Back in the top 10 on the NYT list

More good fortune: EMPTY MANSIONS, the Huguette Clark story, returns to The New York Times best sellers list as the paperback debuts at No. 9. See http://emptymansionsbook.com/ for info on "Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune." The film version is being made by Ryan Murphy, creator of "Glee" and "American Horror Story." The book is out now in paperback, hardcover, e-book, and audio book. The Times list is here:http://www.nytimes.com/best-sellers-books/paperback-nonfiction/list.html.

Court rejects Bellosguardo claim

A California court has rejected the claim of a woman who says Huguette Clark gave her Bellosguardo, her $85 million Santa Barbara home on 23 acres overlooking the Pacific Ocean, in 1985. (This plaintiff is not the only one to come to me with such claims. So far I've chosen not to write about them. They keep popping up like Howard Hughes's wills. In fact, a good exhibit at the Nevada state museum includes a Howard Hughes will kit that someone sold as a novelty, with letterhead you could use to write your own.) The judge lays out the facts in the decision. http://www.sbcourts.org/os/tr/tentative-detail.php?RuleID=41576&no_redirect=true

Book Club discussion guide

"Huguette Clark and Paris Hilton: Compare and contrast." Random House Reader’s Circle has published a discussion guide for readers of the No. 1 bestseller "Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune." These materials are also in the paperback book, which came out this week. First, for an interview with the authors by Patrick McCord of The Editing Company in Westport, Connecticut, go tohttp://www.randomhouse.com/rhpg/rc//2014/04/25/readers-guide-a-qa-with-bill-dedman-paul-clark-newell-jr-and-patrick-mccord. And second, for discussion questions for readers, go tohttp://www.randomhouse.com/rhpg/rc//2014/04/18/readers-guide-empty-mansions-by-bill-dedman-and-paul-clark-newell-jr. If you prefer to have those documents in a text file for easy printing, look athttp://powerreporting.com/files/book_club_material/. "Empty Mansions" is now available in hardcover, paperback, e-book, and audiobook. More info is athttp://emptymansionsbook.com/