Wild: The Life of Peter Beard: Photographer, Adventurer, Lover

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Pub Date Oct 11 2022 | Archive Date Oct 25 2022

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Graham Boynton's Wild is the definitive biography of photographer Peter Beard, a larger-than-life icon who pushed the boundaries of art and scandalized international high society with his high-profile affairs.

He was the original 20th century “enfant terrible” with the looks of a Greek god who blazed like a comet across the worlds of art, photography, and fame. The scion of several old WASP fortunes, he was by instinct an adventurer, and the more dangerous the escapade, the better: whether he was hunting big game in Africa, ingesting epic quantities of drugs, or pursuing the most beautiful women in the world. Among his friends were Jackie Onassis, Andy Warhol, and Francis Bacon. When Peter Beard died in 2020 after mysteriously disappearing from his Montauk home, he remained an enigma to even his closest friends.

Journalist and author Graham Boynton was a friend for more than 30 years, spending time with Beard at his bush camp in Africa, in London, and at his Long Island home. From hundreds of Boynton’s interviews with Beard’s closest friends, former lovers, and fellow artists comes this intimate portrait of a man Sir Mick Jagger called “a visionary.”

Graham Boynton's Wild is the definitive biography of photographer Peter Beard, a larger-than-life icon who pushed the boundaries of art and scandalized international high society with his...

Advance Praise

“An engrossing account of an elusive artist.” –Kirkus Reviews

“A riveting portrait of a man of adventure who truly knew no boundaries in life, love and art.” –Tina Brown

“[Boynton] does a masterful job of assembling the facts of Beard’s chaotic life and conveying the volcanic energy of the man, even as he makes a strong case for his achievement as an artist.” –Jay McInerney

“The definitive account of the life of a truly wild man.” –Simon Winchester

“An engrossing account of an elusive artist.” –Kirkus Reviews

“A riveting portrait of a man of adventure who truly knew no boundaries in life, love and art.” –Tina Brown

“[Boynton] does a masterful job...

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Featured Reviews

I own a gigantic coffee table book on Peter Beard’s photography. I couldn’t wait to find out more about his life. He was an incredibly interesting and talented person. This book is definitely a fascinating read.

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A thoroughly enjoyable and wild ride into the life of the multifaceted Peter Beard.
Born into a family of prominence, educated at the Pomfret School and a graduate of Yale, Beard was an enigma. Dually drawn to the excitement of the African wilderness and the nightlife of New York City, placed him alongside the movers of the time, Mick Jagger, Jackie Onassis, Salvador Dali, Andy Warhol and Truman Capote, His behaviors were addictive, erratic and Greatly affected by the works of Karen Blixen, who became a friend, Beard captured the African wetlands and wildlife in his photographs and books. His journals were works of art filled with drawing, photos, ephemera and quotes written in India ink and sometimes his own blood. He was equally an artist as he was an adventurer. Years of partying, womanizing and heavy drug use led to erratic behaviors that would eventually cloud his creativity.
Married three times, (his second wife was model Cheryl Tiegs), he was the father to a daughter Zara with his third wife Nejma.
In his later years, Beard suffered from dementia and the residuals of a stroke. He wandered from his Montauk home one afternoon and was found weeks later by a hunter in Camp Hero State Park.
An amazing life, a remarkable read and highly recommended.
My thanks to NetGalley, Graham Boynton and St Martins Press for an ARC in exchange for an honest book review.

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Graham Boynton is the right biographer for Peter Beard -- he knew him well and had a friendship that spanned many decades. But this is not a hagiography -- because of his access in Peter's life, he shows Peter's manic and depressive stages as well as the impact on his personal relationships. I remember hearing about Peter Beard when he was dating Cheryl Tiegs and was splashed over all of the society pages as he was photographed at Studio 54. He himself was a photographer known for his exotic photos of elephants and other African wildlife, sometimes entwined with a supermodel. He grew up in privilege but was erratic and careless when it came to money (he never seemed to have any forcing others to pick up the tabs or exchanging photos for meals). what makes this biography so good is it is comprehensive and provides multiple perspectives on who Peter Beard was. It becomes clear that he is living with a mental illness (undiagnosed for many years) and in the end, as he battles dementia, he wanders off near his home in the Hamptons to die. This book provides moments of exhilaration as we live vicariously through his many adventures. But beneath it all is also an incredible sadness. This book is definitely worth the read and Boynton has done an incredible job pulling together all the research as well as his own reflections on this larger-than-life enigmatic man.

Thank you to Netgalley and St. Martin's Press for an ARC in exchange for my honest review.

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Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for an advance copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Graham Boynton was Peter Beard’s friend for more than 30 years, spending time with Beard at his bush camp in Africa, in London, and his home base in Montauk. Boynton interviewed hundreds of Beard’s closest friends, lovers, and fellow artists to provide us with a biography of a man who was larger than life and lived a lifetime of contradictions. While lamenting modern society, he lived it up and jetted around the world. His charisma drew people to him who were loyal, yet he never seemed to reciprocate. While his lovers called him kind, he also had a cruel streak and was never faithful to any one woman. Art was his passion, and while he lived a jet-set lifestyle, he was oblivious to the cost, frequently finding himself broke and unable to afford a plane ticket home.

Boynton shows us all the intimate facets of Peter Beard, good, bad and in-between. The ending is especially sad, as Beard had such an untamed spirit, and his later years were lived in such forced restraint.

This led me on such a journey! Beard’s Hog Ranch in Kenya had been part of author Karen Blixen’s former coffee plantation, “at the foot of the Ngong Hills.” So many years since I saw Out of Africa, and the cinematography still remains stunning. I also purchased Beard’s The End of the Game and can’t wait for it to arrive!

A fascinating human study!

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Occasionally it is difficult to understand the publisher’s rationale in selecting a book’s title. NOT the case here!

This deep, detailed “ dive” into the life of this complex man was indeed a wild ride. I can only imagine ( after reading) how appealing a character he was to observe from afar. . . But, how dangerous it was to get close.

Graham Boynton has admirably presented the charm, genius, and appeal of Peter Beard. But, he has also detailed the darkness that engulfed him in many ways. As I read, i searched the internet for Photographs of Beard, and the author’s descriptions definitely capture the man just as well as photographs do. Mr. Boynton presents a very clear picture of this fascinating man.

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This book was fantastic! The author, Graham Boynton, did a great job of bringing Peter Beard to life! Beard had so many close calls in his many trips to Africa. What a character! I found Beard’s story fascinating because he traveled in so many different circles, and who knew he was such a mooch! It seems like he leaned on everyone for cash or credit. This is a great Summer read. Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for the Arc!!

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Peter Beard was a man who loved women, photography, Africa and women. Although he was married 35 years it didn’t stop him from pursuing his favorite animal… Women. Some say he was a male chauvinist and a racist but all agree he was a great photographer. He is even the cause for making photography and art form. He was larger than life and the center of any party and although he claimed to dislike celebrity he had a lot of celebrities as his ex lovers and friends. This was a great book one I enjoyed very much. I have never heard of Peter beard but Mr. Gram totally made him into a human with his contradictions floors and everything. I do want to say that a couple of people in the book said he wasn’t a racist because his wife was Asian and his ex lover was biracial, but I just want to point out that that isn’t the degree of a racist… I mean slaveowners slept with their female slaves didn’t they? I am not saying he was a racist I am just saying that isn’t a good predictor Aside from that they have mini interesting and wild stories in this autobiography of Peter Beard Sunny💕 aside from that they have mini interesting and wild stories in this autobiography of Peter Beard some may love them and some may hate him but all seem to respect him including the author of this book. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and if you’re contemplating reading this book then let me nudge you in the right direction… Read it! Apart from his mysterious death his life was legendary and I don’t think enough people know about this guy. Please forgive any mistakes as I am blind and dictate my review but all opinions are definitely my own. I received this book from NetGalleyShelf and the publisher and I am leaving this review voluntarily.

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Fascinating account of a truly iconic, talented and enigmatic man. Graham Boynton’s descriptive writing and realistic accounts of Beard’s life, brings this skilled man’s legacy to us in a well written novel. Thank you NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for the opportunity to read and review this ARC.

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What drew me to the book, was the fact that Peter Beard was a photographer, and when I looked up his art, I like the creativeness of it, but as I read the book, I found most of it was something that I could not relate to.
Peter Beard lived a very self-indulgent lifestyle, with little regard to others.
The author, who knew Beard, was able to give us the many sides of his life. Peter lived in New York, but he loved Africa and spent much of his time there, doing good and bad at the same time. From working in Conservation, to being very reckless around the animals, endangering himself and the people that were around him.
He didn't seem to care about the value of his work in the beginning, always trading his art-photography for things he owed, drugs, flights, meals, hotels, you name it.
He was like a magnet for women and even when married he couldn't stop the womanizing. Maybe they thought he would be able to progress their careers, or maybe he did have that “je ne sais quois”.
I think a lot of people will like the book, as it is well written and fast paced, full of a glamorous lifestyle, and he had a lot of famous people as friends.
I wish I could have related to it, but at least it had me searching the internet for things that I read about.
I would like to thank NetGalley and Saint Martin's Press for a copy of this book.

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Interesting that the title of this book includes Photographer, Adventurer and Lover, for indeed Peter Beard was all three. This was a very informative book on the life of Peter Beard by his friend of 30 years. Ir is a frank look at his life including his strengths and weaknesses. At times I felt a little bogged down by African politics but it definitely was an interesting read about a man I was not familiar with.If you enjoy biographies this one will keep you reading. You may not like the man portrayed but have to admire his genius.
Thank you to NetGalley and Sara Beth Haring at St. Martin's Press for the suggestion and the ARC.

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I didn't know much about Peter Beard before reading this book, and it was informative and interesting. He was certainly an original, who went where he wanted and lived how he desired. His story is hard to relate to for the "average" person..

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What an interesting life this man had. Descended from old money. His great-grandfather, James Hill founded the Great Northern Railway and used his fortune on the arts. All of his children were exposed to the arts and had their own collections, so it was no surprise that Peter continued that.

He did everything to excess. Women, drugs, adventures in Africa. Even his death was noteworthy. He left his home in Montauk and was never seen alive again. Weeks later his body would be found in the forest. He had suffered from dementia.

He really had a wonderful talent and his work can be found in collections around the globe. The author was a friend for over 30 years and that adds so much to this interesting man’s life story.

NetGalley/October 11, 2022, St. Martin’s Press

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What I remembered of Peter Beard in days past was mostly the notoriety of his marriage to Cheryl Tiegs and that he was a photographer of exotic animals. So glad I picked up his biography as it was so much more. A brilliant, amazing life of adventure until it wasn’t.

Life can be so cruel. Biographer Graham Boynton was a friend and left no holds barred, reflecting on the good and bad of this legendary man. One of my favorite biographies.

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Peter Beard was a talented photographer whose most stunning work was done in Africa, especially photos of majestic animals. . Born to huge wealth, he was also blessed with looks and intelligence. He was always in the place that later became very fashionable and he took photos of it all. Montauk, Africa, Studio 54...he was a trend setter. He had many relationships with famous women despite being married, and was similarly uncaring with his male friends, among whom was the author. People who knew Beard were puzzled that he always seemed broke and often let friends pay his way, and several people interviewed for the book experienced Beard to be racist. But he always had that personal magnetism.
. This book is well-written and fully conveys Beard’s charisma, talent, and selfishness...so it’s up to the reader whether to accept the good with bad and plunge in.

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Wild: The Life of Peter Beard
By Graham Boynton

Peter Beard was a very complex and interesting character. He was born to old wealth in America, but he was definitely the black sheep of the family. At an early age he traveled to Kenya and started a lifelong love affair with the dark continent. He was an artist in the field of photography, and used his gifts to promote his ideas about conservation in Africa; he believed that the arm chair do-gooders were using conservation methods that were destroying the wilderness and driving animals like elephants and rhinos to the brink of extinction.

Peter was full of contradictions. He was irresponsible, having no concern about his financial extravagances or the value of material things, including his own work. He was a party animal throughout his life – alcohol, drugs, and women were his constant companions. There was nothing he liked better than lively discussions over a range of topics with his multitude of friends. He refused to be tied down, even for the sake of his three wives and his daughter.

This is a well written biography of a fascinating man who arrived in Africa as the days of the great white hunter were waning – and basically traded in his guns for his cameras. He was a giant in his field. Thank you, Mr. Boynton, for this introduction to the larger than life character of Peter Beard. "Wild" is an apt title indeed.

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My thanks to both NetGalley and the publisher St. Martin's Press for this biography about this gifted photographer and his very diverse life

People, even people viewed by the world as successful, man of the world, and a love of the ladies, are filled with contradictions. A man of his word, except to the wives he betrayed, a hunter who discussed conservation, on his terms. A nature photographer who was in demand as a fashion photographer. Born of wealth who could not pay for meals. Peter Beard was all of these things. Beard's life was one of adventure, and traveling in the highest levels of society, who might only have been truly happy in a hunting camp taking photos. Graham Boynton captures the life of this man in the book Wild: The Life of Peter Beard: Photographer, Adventurer, Lover, which gives a portrait of this man as astonishing and truthful has the photographs Beard was famous for.

Peter Beard won the lottery on almost everything. Beard had looks, confidence, poise and the background and connections that in America get a person, even a mediocre person far. Beard was far from mediocre. After a year in England which gave him both the manners and attitude that would help him mingle in high society, Beard went to Yale where a chance meeting opened his life to the one thing that he never seemed to have stop loving, Africa. A trip there changed his life, instilling him a love in the continent, and the wildlife. Soon he was hunting and taking photos, his book The End of the Game showed a country that was slowly changing, one that friends did not want to see go. Fashion photography got him money, and friends like Mike Jagger, Andy Warhol, and Studio 54 comrades, along with a supermodel wife, his second and a lot of casual girlfriends. With his thrid wife came a bit of stability, until illness began to slowly weaken him.

A big brassy book about a very big man. Boynton was a longtime friend of Beard, and friends were not things that Beard kept easily. A book like this could easily be a hagiography, but Boynton is quick to point out mistakes, and bad things that Beard did, and to properly list the things he did right. Beard's life really does read like a fictional take on a character from the 1960's even the 1930's. The writing is good, and never drags in any places. As Beard ages, and dementia and stroke symptoms begin to slow Beard down, the book still finds ways to impress on readers just what a person Beard was.

A fascinating look a life that seems so large, so not of this day anymore. A life so big that it in many ways seem fictional. Big game hunter, fashion photographer, married to one of the first supermodels. This is all the stuff of superheroes or even P. G. Wodehouse characters. For fans of biographies about people who lived life by their own terms, no matter who got hurt. And for fans of photography and artists who really did suffer in many ways for their art.

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well written and researched. Absorbing life of this man I had barey heard of prior to reading the book. I enjoyed it. Thanks to the publisher and to NetGalley!

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Peter Beard has always been one of my favorite photographers. I have gifted many of his books to my friends and family while owning several in my collection. It's always interesting to learn the story behind the man behind the camera. He definitely led a fascinating life.

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Graham Boynton has written a very thorough account of Peter Beard's life, but in the end it seems hollow. Beard was a flawed and frenetic character who, it seems, was a whirlwind of action. His life was in the doing - embracing a life in Africa that went from hunting to photography eventually seguing to New York and art. It was always accompanied with a cloud of other people with whom to party and talk. There was also a parade of mistresses, lovers and three wives. It may have been a charmed life (he had connections to get him out of prison in Kenya) but he had a darker side as Boynton relates. Unfortunately Beard's estate probably made it impossible to show any of his art and really delve into it, especially his collage diaries. It would seem that some of Beard the person might be found there, but maybe not. His life was certainly one adventure piled on another and on that level worth the read.

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Wild is the portrait of Peter Beard perfect title for this
dive into his life.Extremely talented a man who always had beautiful women and interesting people around him.He was a true enigma and his many unique adventures his talent makes for an interesting gossipy read.#netgalley#st.martins

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I was provided a free copy of this book from @netgalley and @stmartinspress I'm exchange for my honest review.
I was intrigued by this book as I appreciate photography and have a love for Africa, but had never heard of Peter Beard. Throughout the story I kept recognizing names of other famous people he interacted with, including many from Kenya, but wasn't sure why I had never heard of Beard. 🤷🏻‍♀️
But, wow, what a crazy life he lived! It was hard to imagine, sometimes, how he was liked so well by so many people when he did all the crazy things he did. He was definitely all about that sex, drugs, and rock n' roll lifestyle.
Overall it felt a bit long and repetitive for me. He did a lot of partying, taking new lovers, producing art, and a lot of crazy things in between, but some of the details got a bit heavy for me. Not knowing him before, I was expecting more of the fun safari stories, and less of the other stuff. Maybe if I was a fan beforehand I would have appreciated it more.
Overall it was still an interesting story of a very unique man.
It was published this past Tuesday, so if it sounds like something you would be interested in, go ahead and give it a try!

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A Complicated Man of Many Talents

Peter Beard was larger than life from his exceptional talent as a photographer, to his love of Africa, and beautiful women. He visited Kenya as a young man and fell in love with Africa, perhaps his most enduring love affair. He married three times, but he couldn’t resist taking many lovers. He was the life of the party, but could never seem to pay his bills and often touched his friends to pick up meals and hotel bills.

There was also a dark side. He took drugs and drank to excess. He may have had an undiagnosed mental illness for many years. However, in his later years it manifested as depression and eventually dementia. His death was almost as iconic as his life, wandering off from his home in Hamptons to die in a forest and not be discovered for days.

The author was the perfect person to write this biography being a friend to Beard for many years. He tells all the amusing and dangerous stories, but he also manages to make Beard come to life as a complex individual. I enjoyed this book. If’s fun to read because of the famous people and incidents, but it also leaves you thinking about the man and how he lived an exceptional life.

I received this book from St. Martin’s Press for this review.

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Peter Beard’s biographer reveals the true man behind the art. Beard came from prominent New England families but he was not interested in playing any society games. He was adventurous and rebellious from the start. He fell in love with Africa on a school trip which led to a lifelong relationship with the continent He was passionate about animals and began using his photography to educate on conservation. Eventually his artwork (mixed media collages that included his photography, drawing, blood, dirt etc) made him famous.

His personal life was a disaster. He was reckless, from ingesting copious amounts of drugs to doing anything for a shot, including putting his head in a crocodile’s mouth. He was movie star handsome and seduced women after woman. His third wife, Nejma, looked the other way throughout their marriage and eventually became his caretaker in his old age. She still controls his estate and all of his artwork.

Like everyone else, Boynton seemed to be drawn to Beard and looked at his bad boy behavior in an affectionate light. This biography is exhaustive, to the point of being exhausting. He went into great detail of his many legal issues and personal conflicts. It was an overwhelming amount of information. It was fascinating to know more about this artist that I’d followed for years but I didn’t find him very likable. It seems that genius requires a certain amount of selfishness and Boynton’s biography bears this out.

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In this exhaustive biographical treatise, Boynton gives us a complete picture of the larger-than-life man and artist, Peter Beard.

From his early days as a careless teenager, to his college years of exploration, through his reckless younger days becoming a myth of himself, and his equally bombastic later life, we are treated to all the sides of Beard’s character, good and bad, and the ever-revolving door of celebrity supporting cast in his life. The whole thing reads like a tabloid and I had to keep reminding myself it wasn’t fiction. 

Fascinating stuff! Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for my free copy. These opinions are my own.

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There were so many things I loved about this book—particularly the depiction of his camp in Africa, the spectacular photo shoots that location inspired, and the drama of the old New York club scene. I did not love Peter Beard. Prior to requesting this book on Netgalley, I had been to Africa, and I remembered vaguely that Peter Beard was once married to Cheryl Tiegs. That was about all I knew when I read the book; I referred frequently to photos online to see what Boynton was referencing. I don't know if it was just the ebook I read, but I really would have loved to see some of the photos that were written about—guessing maybe Beard's former wife refused the rights on them, though.

I had a lot of questions after reading this book. Here is a trust fund baby with no money...ever. Aside from his brother, what happened to his family? Yes, maybe he decided to bravely go it alone, but then he relies on other artists, who often have so much less than him. While I found Beard's personal life astonishing—he was able to maintain this drug and alcohol-fueled lifestyle well into his 70s—I also found his behavior, for the most part, abhorrent. The fact that so few of his former paramours felt animosity toward him was stunning to me, given how he treated them and how easily he moved on. He must have been some kind of charming, because almost all of them remember him fondly—even Tiegs—though most just said he was such a handsome man. Was that it? Conversely, the idea that this same person, who treated others so cavalierly, fostered such a deep and abiding love for the wilds of Africa was equally stunning. His photographs were undeniably beautiful, and the stories about his art demonstrated the genius of his work. So does an artist need to be a good person, to have a moral compass too? My feelings wavered throughout, especially given the very brutal, graphic acts of violence he perpetrated. And yes, they were complicated by his steadfast fight for true conservation in Africa. At least I think he was steadfast. There were complications there too.

I recommend this book, because honestly, it is fascinating. And also, it's a train wreck. I need you all to read this so I have someone to talk to about it. We can discuss what a terrible person he was, but also, I have to begrudgingly admit, an amazing artist.

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What a fascinating read! I am biased in that I naturally enjoy biographies, but Beard's life of self-indulgence captivated me. I cannot say that I loved him, but I'm always fascinated to learn about those who have the stars in their eyes and get drunk off the moon. Recommended for those who love photography, art, or learning about eccentric characters, this one is for you.

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A Fascinating Insight to a Remarkable Life

I was not too familiar with the life of Peter Beard before reading this book. But wow, this man was interesting, who lived a life that spanned all across the globe and has associations with the most wide-array of people imaginable.

Peter Beard was a photographer, artist, and person who loved Africa and its wildlife. This was the main inspiration for his work. He was extremely popular, he was mauled by an elephant which nearly killed him, was a womanizer, and was constantly broke. This book points out how much of an enigma and walking contradiction that Peter Beard seemed to be. People hated him and loved him at the same time. He was a famous photographer whose work was sought out by many celebrities, he but never wanted his work displayed in a museum gallery (and it never was).

This novel was entertaining and well done, but I feel like you had to know a little about the life of Peter Beard before diving into this book. So I do not think I would recommend it to people who are not at least a little familiar with Peter Beard and his life. As a result, there were a lot of moments in this book where I just could not connect or was not feel as invested as I would have otherwise. It was hard to keep track of all the people that were mentioned that Peter associated with and I did not have as much background knowledge on the celebrities or art scene to get as much out of this story as I would have otherwise.

Having said this, I feel like this book was well done in conveying how “Wild” the life of Peter Beard was. However, in my opinion the way this book was written, it certainly is a book for readers with specific taste and interests of Peter Beard and the famous, celebrity scene in which this book heavily comprises.

Thank you to St. Martin's Press and NetGalley for a copy of this book. My opinions and viewpoints in this review are my own.

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Fantastic biography of the icon that was Peter Beard.
His art, his photography, his obsession with Africa and the many relationships with women was explored throughout his biography,

I didn't know that much about him but I loved this biography.

Highly recommend.

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