The story of Empty Mansions


The No. 1 New York Times bestseller, Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune, was named one of the best nonfiction books of the year at Goodreads, and Barnes & Noble. One of New York Times critic Janet Maslin’s 10 favorite books of the year. On the bestseller list in Los Angeles for 35 weeks. Coming to theaters in a Hollywood film.

Empty Mansions is now available in four flavors: hardcover, paperback, e-book, and also the audiobook containing about 20 minutes of audio of Huguette and her cousin Paul in conversation.  See the "buy the book" page for ordering information.

All forms of the book now include updates on the settlement of the Clark estate. Updates are also on the NBC News page at Also see there an archive of all of NBC's Huguette Clark stories.

Empty Mansions debuted at No. 1 on The New York Times bestseller list for e-books, and No. 4 for hardcover books, for the week ending Sept. 14, 2013. It has been on the New York Times bestseller list for 13 weeks, and on the Los Angeles Times bestseller list for 37 weeks. Empty Mansions also appeared on bestseller lists from Publishers Weekly, Indie Bound independent booksellers, National Public Radio, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and Maclean’s magazine in Canada.

Empty Mansions is a rich mystery of wealth and loss, connecting the opulence of the 19th century's Gilded Age with a 21st century battle over a $300 million inheritance. At its heart is heiress Huguette Clark, a woman so secretive that, when she died at age 104, no new photograph of her had been seen for decades. Her father, W.A. Clark, was born in a log cabin, discovered incredible riches in copper in Montana territory after the Civil War, was thought to be as rich as Rockefeller, founded Las Vegas and was pushed out of the U.S. Senate for bribery.

Huguette held a ticket on the Titanic and was still alive in New York City long after 9/11. She grew up in the largest house in New York City, a remarkable dwelling with 121 rooms for a family of four. She owned paintings by Degas and Renoir, a Stradivarius violin, and a vast collection of antique dolls. But wanting more than treasures, she lived out her last 20 years in a simple hospital room, devoting her wealth to her art and buying gifts for friends and strangers.

Pulitzer Prize-winner and NBC News investigative reporter Bill Dedman stumbled onto the story of eccentricity and inherited wealth in 2010, discovering that Huguette’s fantastic homes in Santa Barbara, Connecticut and New York City were unoccupied but still maintained by servants. Dedman co-wrote the book with Huguette’s cousin Paul Clark Newell Jr., one of the few relatives to have conversations with her.

Dedman and Newell tell a fairy tale in reverse: the bright, talented daughter, born into a family of extreme wealth and privilege, who secrets herself away from the outside world.

The Clark family story spans nearly all of American history in three generations, from a log cabin in Pennsylvania to mining camps in the Montana gold rush, from backdoor politics in Washington to a distress call from an elegant Fifth Avenue apartment. The same Huguette who was touched by the terror attacks of 9/11 held a ticket nine decades earlier for a first-class stateroom on the second voyage of the Titanic.

Empty Mansions reveals a complex portrait of the mysterious Huguette and her intimate circle. We meet her extravagant father, her publicity-shy mother Anna, her star-crossed sister, her French boyfriend, her nurse who received more than $30 million in gifts, and the relatives fighting to inherit her copper fortune.

Empty Mansions draws a rich portrait from conversations with Huguette, her personal papers and the testimony of her inner circle. Updated with the outcome of the court battle for her estate, Empty Mansions tells an enthralling story of an eccentric of the highest order, a last jewel of the Gilded Age who lived life on her own terms.


Bill Dedman

Bill Dedman introduced the public to heiress Huguette Clark and her empty mansions through his series of narratives for NBC News, which became the most popular feature in the history of its website, topping 110 million page views. All the NBC News stories, videos and photos on the mystery of Huguette Clark are at Bill received the 1989 Pulitzer Prize in investigative reporting while writing for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Boston Globe.

Paul Clark Newell Jr.

Paul Clark Newell Jr., a cousin of Huguette Clark, has researched the Clark family history for 20 years. His father and Huguette were first cousins.

Paul shared many conversations over nine years with Huguette about her life and family. Excerpts of those conversations can be heard in the audio version of Empty Mansions.

Paul received on Huguette's orders a rare private tour of Bellosguardo, her mysterious unused estate overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Santa Barbara.