""The name Getty has become a `synonym for family disfunction,' "" notes Pearson in his introduction to this cautionary tale of how too much money can destroy lives. Pearson, historian and biographer of Winston Churchill and the British royal family, needed to add no flourish to this fascinating family saga. A robber baron's son and businessman extraordinaire, Jean Paul Getty helped build this country's financial infrastructure with oil and greed. His obsessions built a dynasty that, at the time of his death in 1976, included five ex-wives, four sons, over a dozen grandchildren, multiple mistresses, and a fortune in excess of $4 billion. From court battles to suicide to AIDs, the Getty family has been cursed with psychoses, traumas, and maladies of operatic proportions. The most harrowing is the account of the kidnapping of Getty's grandson in Europe. Getty, ever cantankerous and miserly, refused to pay a cent of ransom money, and young Paul's severed ear was mailed to him as a bargaining chip. Amid seemingly endless public curiosity about the trials and tribulations of the rich and famous, this is a good choice for popular biography collections.--David Nudo, ""Library Journal""