Hunter Biden, the son of US president Joe Biden, publishes his astonishingly frank new memoir, Beautiful Things, on 6 April, recounting in detail his troubled life and battles with alcoholism and crack cocaine.
A lawyer and businessman, Mr Biden was the frequent target of baseless Republican conspiracy theories during the Donald Trump era, his father’s predecessor particularly keen to push bogus corruption accusations concerning his tenure on the board of Ukrainian natural gas company Burisma as a means of smearing Biden Sr, a tactic that backfired when it inadvertently brought about his own impeachment by the House of Representatives, the first of a historic double.
The author has given a brace of promotional interviews to CBS ahead of the book’s publication in which he has spoken candidly about everything from his family’s interventions to curtail his drug use to the smoking laptop that appeared just prior to November’s election after he supposedly abandoned it in a Delaware repair shop.
“There could be a laptop out there that was stolen from me. It could be that I was hacked. It could be that it was the - that it was Russian intelligence,” he told Tracy Smith on CBS Sunday Morning.
Here’s everything we know about Beautiful Things ahead of its hitting the shelves on Tuesday.
Hunter Biden is no fan of Donald Trump
While this is hardly surprising, Biden Jr is agreeably forthright in his attacks on the former occupant of the Oval Office, calling the New York luxury property magante “a vile man on a vile mission”.
“He pushed debunked conspiracy theories about work I did in Ukraine and China, even as his own children had pocketed millions in China and Russia and his former campaign manager [Paul Manafort] sat in a jail cell for laundering millions more from Ukraine,” Mr Biden writes.
“None of that matters in an up-is-down Orwellian political climate. Trump believed that if he could destroy me, and by extension my father, he could dispatch any candidate of decency from either party, all while diverting attention from his own corrupt behaviour.”
He continues: “I became a proxy for Donald Trump’s fear that he wouldn’t be re-elected.”
“It was a predictable enough tactic. I expected the president to get far more personal far earlier to exploit the demons and addictions I’ve dealt with for years.”
President Trump was known to cry “Where’s Hunter?” at his campaign rallies last year to amuse his Covid-defying MAGA crowds, a mocking taunt about his rival’s son’s apparent reluctance to come forward and defend himself against the Ukraine allegations tossed at him by conservatives.
He may regret that now.
Trump’s inner circle scorned as ‘trolls’ and ‘lapdogs’
In addition to accusing the ex-president himself of flagrant hypocrisy, Hunter Biden also calls out his sons, writing: “I am not Eric Trump or Donald Trump Jr. I’ve worked for someone other than my father. I rose and fell on my own.”
He also dismisses pro-Trump Florida congressman Matt Gaetz - currently fighting for his political life - as “a troll” and reacts with incredulity to South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham’s transformation under Trumpism.
Once a close friend of Joe Biden’s - even seen in a viral video with tears in his eyes speaking fondly of what a decent man his old congressional adversary is - Senator Graham is described by Biden Jr as having “morph[ed] into a Trump lapdog right before my eyes, slandering me and my father in the coldest, most cynical, most self-serving ways.”
Hunter recalls his mother’s death in vivid detail
Beautiful Things is first and foremost a memoir and Hunter Biden does not shy away from the defining trauma of his childhood: the car accident that killed his mother and infant sister.
Neilia Hunter Biden was killed on 18 December 1972 when her car was sideswiped by a tractor-trailer as she took her children to pick up a Christmas tree near Wilmington, Delaware.
“Suddenly, I see my mother’s head turn to the right,” her son recalls. “I don’t remember anything else about her profile: the look in her eye, the expression of her mouth. Her head simply swings.”
The next thing he remembers is waking up in a hospital bed and looking over at his brother Beau: “He’s mouthing three words to me, over and over: ‘I love you. I love you. I love you.’ That’s our origin story.”
His struggles with drugs raged while his father was vice president
Hunter Biden has been clear in his recent CBS interviews that it was Beau’s death from a brain tumour in 2015, aged just 46, that caused him to slide off the rails towards the end of Biden Sr’s second term at Barack Obama’s side.
“I’m a 51-year-old father who helped raise three beautiful daughters,” the author states in the book’s prologue.
“I’ve bought crack cocaine on the streets of Washington, DC, and cooked up my own inside a hotel bungalow in Los Angeles. I’ve been so desperate for a drink that I couldn’t make the one-block walk between a liquor store and my apartment without uncapping the bottle to take a swig. In the last five years alone, my two-decades-long marriage has dissolved, guns have been put in my face, and at one point I dropped clean off the grid, living in $59-a-night Super 8 motels off I-95 while scaring my family even more than myself.”
He describes having his first glass of champagne aged eight, his several visits to rehab in his 20s and the 12-to-16-hour benders he went on following the death of his sibling, including a month spent in a Washington apartment drinking vodka, which led to considerable weight loss.
“I didn’t eat anything much beyond what was available at the liquor store: Doritos, pork rinds, ramen noodles. Eventually my stomach couldn’t even handle the noodles,” he writes.
There are also extraordinary accounts of his roaming the Los Angeles underworld in search of crack and befriending a homeless fellow addict whom he subsequently invited to stay with him.
“Once you decide that you’re the bad person everyone thinks you’ve become, it’s hard to find the good guy you once were,” he writes, very movingly. “Eventually, I quit looking for him: I decided I wasn’t the person everybody who loved me thought I was anymore.”
“I’ve always felt alone in a crowd,” he says elsewhere.
Mr Biden also writes about his father - a teetotaller - evading his Secret Service detail while vice president to stage an intervention, telling him: “I know you’re not fine, Hunter. You need help.”
“He never let me forget that all was not lost,” Biden Jr writes. “He never abandoned me, never shunned me, never judged me, no matter how bad things got - and believe me, from there they would get much, much worse.”
Hunter discusses his romantic relationship with Beau’s widow
Speaking to Ms Smith on CBS, Hunter said of his brief attachment to his sister-in-law, the grieving Hallie Biden, which started when she picked him up from rehab in the wake of his brother’s passing: “I think people were confused by that. And I understand that. It came out of a real overwhelming grief that we both shared. And we were together and trying to do the right thing and that grief turned into a hope for a love that maybe could replace what we lost.”
In Beautiful Things, he says of their brief partnership: “Our relationship had begun as a mutually desperate grasping for love we both had lost, and its dissolution only deepened that tragedy.”
He is less forthcoming about Burisma
The only part of the book found wanting by early reviewers has been Hunter Biden’s description of his tenure on the board of the Ukrainian energy company between 2014 and 2019, which The New York Times called “dry as toast”.
“The episode that led to the impeachment of a president and landed me in the heart of the decade’s biggest political fable is most remarkable for its epic banality,” he writes, going on to describe it for 18 pages in spite of himself in passages said to be far less illuminating than his account of his first job mucking out the llamas and unclogging the otter pool at Wilmington’s Brandywine Zoo.
He does hint that he was hired by the Eastern European firm because of his father’s prestige: “There’s no question my last name was a coveted credential. That has always been the case. Do you think if any of the Trump children ever tried to get a job outside their father’s business that his name wouldn’t figure into the calculation? My response has always been to work harder so that my accomplishments stand on their own.”
“To put it more bluntly, having a Biden on Burisma’s board was a loud and unmistakable f*** you to [Vladimir] Putin,” he adds.
Questioned about Burisma on CBS, Biden Jr said: “No, I don’t think I made a mistake taking a spot on that board. I think I made a mistake in terms of underestimating the... the way in which it would be used against me.”
“All I know is that not one investigative body, not one serious journalist, have ever accused... has ever come to the conclusion that I did anything wrong, or that my father did anything wrong.”
Hunter credits his new partner with getting him straight
The book does have a happy ending, fortunately, thanks to the author’s meeting with the South African filmmaker Melissa Cohen in 2019, who helped him finally see off his drug dependency.
When he confessed to her that he was an addict, she replied simply: “Not anymore. You’re finished with that.”
The couple are now married and have a son.