Paul Clark Newell Jr., co-author of the No. 1 New York Times bestselling biography, Empty Mansions, died on Wednesday, September 14, 2016, at a hospital in Escondido, California, with his siblings and daughter by his side. Newell celebrated his 80th birthday in January with family and friends.
Newell’s book, Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune, written with journalist Bill Dedman, debuted at No. 1 on The New York Times best sellers list in September 2013. It remained on The Times list for 13 weeks, and the Los Angeles Times list for 37 weeks.
“Paul was a gracious, gentlemanly and brilliant co-pilot,” Dedman said in a statement.“I had the great pleasure of working with Paul for the past few years on the story of his cousin, Huguette Clark, and her family.
“When we began collaborating, my journalist friends warned, don’t write a book with a family member! as they presumed he would want to shape the story to protect the reputations of his famous relatives. But Paul was focused on making sure that we told the story accurately and fairly. And that was the right approach.
“On the day Paul died, I received a copy of our book published in Mandarin, and I will pass that on to Paul’s family. He was a dear man.”
Newell’s father had collected family history, particularly on his uncle, the late U.S. Sen. William Andrews Clark of Montana (1839-1925), the controversial copper millionaire, banker and politician who founded the city of Las Vegas as a stop on his railroad.
After Paul Newell Sr. died, his son took up the baton, working for 20 years on a biography of his great uncle. After the senator’s daughter, Huguette (1906-2011), became famous again in this century because of her reclusive ways and a battle over her fortune, Newell and Dedman began to work together on a biography of Huguette and her famous father.
Newell’s conversations with his cousin, Huguette; their correspondence; and his collection of family photographs and other research were essential to the biography. He shared many conversations over nine years with Huguette about her life and family. Excerpts of those conversations, about 30 minutes of tape recordings, can be heard in the audio version of Empty Mansions.
Newell received on Huguette’s orders a rare private tour of Bellosguardo, her mysterious unused estate overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Santa Barbara, California. He was not one of the relatives who sought to inherit the $300 million fortune of the reclusive Huguette; as a cousin, not a nephew, he was not in line for an inheritance if her last will and testament was overturned.
Paul Clark Newell Jr. was a 1958 graduate of Occidental College in Los Angeles. After several executive roles in corporations, including Mattel, Newell worked as a real estate agent in Warner Springs, California, in the mountains outside of San Diego.
Survivors include his daughter, Leslie Newell Spangler, and her husband, Brad; their children, Eric and Jessalyn; his brother, Peter; his sister, Eve; his great-grandson, Edan; and grandnieces and grandnephews.
A memorial service will be planned.