Non-Fiction Book Group
Wednesday, June 16 at 4:00 PM
Homicide at Rough Point: The Untold Story of How Doris Duke, The Richest Woman In America, Got Away With Murder
by Peter Lance
In the fall of 1966, Eduardo Tirella, close confidant of billionaire Doris Duke,informed the possessive and vindictive heiress that he was leaving her employ as chief designer and art curator to return to Hollywood where his career as a set designer was just catching fire.
Minutes later, she crushed him to death under the wheels of a two-ton station wagon as they were leaving Rough Point, her Bellevue Avenue estate in Newport, RI, the storied resort.
In a murderous quid-pro-quo, the local police quickly ruled the incident “an unfortunate accident” and Doris began giving a fortune to Newport, restoring 70 colonial-era homes that quickly turned it into a tourist Mecca. In 2018, Lance, who started his career as a cub reporter for The Newport Daily News eight months after Tirella’s death, began a re-examination of the case and proved that the mercurial tobacco heiress got away with murder.
In a riveting, doggedly researched book with 105 illustrations -- including never-before seen forensic files -- Lance, a five-time Emmy winner, rewrites history and finally restores the reputation of Eduardo Tirella, a gay Renaissance man and war hero whom Duke went to great lengths to erase from the history of her troubled life.
Non-Fiction Book Group
The Last Castle: The Epic Story of Love, Loss, and American Royalty in the Nation's Largest Home
by Denise Kiernan
A New York Times bestseller with an "engaging narrative and array of detail” (The Wall Street Journal), the “intimate and sweeping” (Raleigh News & Observer) untold, true story behind the Biltmore Estate—the largest, grandest private residence in North America, which has seen more than 120 years of history pass by its front door.
The story of Biltmore spans World Wars, the Jazz Age, the Depression, and generations of the famous Vanderbilt family, and features a captivating cast of real-life characters including F. Scott Fitzgerald, Thomas Wolfe, Teddy Roosevelt, John Singer Sargent, James Whistler, Henry James, and Edith Wharton.
Orphaned at a young age, Edith Stuyvesant Dresser claimed lineage from one of New York’s best known families. She grew up in Newport and Paris, and her engagement and marriage to George Vanderbilt was one of the most watched events of Gilded Age society. But none of this prepared her to be mistress of Biltmore House.
Before their marriage, the wealthy and bookish Vanderbilt had dedicated his life to creating a spectacular European-style estate on 125,000 acres of North Carolina wilderness. He summoned the famous landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted to tame the grounds, collaborated with celebrated architect Richard Morris Hunt to build a 175,000-square-foot chateau, filled it with priceless art and antiques, and erected a charming village beyond the gates. Newlywed Edith was now mistress of an estate nearly three times the size of Washington, DC and benefactress of the village and surrounding rural area. When fortunes shifted and changing times threatened her family, her home, and her community, it was up to Edith to save Biltmore—and secure the future of the region and her husband’s legacy.
This is the fascinating, “soaring and gorgeous” (Karen Abbott) story of how the largest house in America flourished, faltered, and ultimately endured to this day.