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MARRIAGE TO TYCOON WAS NO PICNIC

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If there was one thing worse than working for Robert Maxwell, the blustering tycoon who looted the pension funds of his tottering publishing empire, it was being married to him.

Or so it can seem from the autobiography of his widow, Elisabeth Maxwell, published three years after his mysterious death off his yacht in the Mediterranean.Scattered among the 536 pages is a portrait of a bully and a tyrant: a huge bellowing man who thrashed their brood of children for small failings, belittled and humiliated her and was tight with the cash.

For nearly 50 years she kept quiet about it, said 73-year-old Elisabeth Maxwell. Now she needs money, and the result is "A Mind of My Own," published recently in United States by HarperCollins and in Britain by Sidgwick and Jackson.

"I need to earn my living," she said in an interview in a London hotel. "I have to find work. It is not easy at my age to start again. A friend of mine has lent me a house, but it's only for a year. . . . I wouldn't want to impose."

She has tried to claim a $485,000-a-year pension from Maxwell's former newspaper. Two sons who worked for him and face charges of fraud and conspiracy are eligible for state legal aid because they say they have no assets.

When he vanished at sea in November 1991, Maxwell's international media conglomerate included Britain's Mirror Group newspapers, the New York Daily News and MacMillan Inc., a major U.S. publisher.

The Maxwells had nine children. At their mansion in Oxfordshire she raised her family, entertained staff and clients and got a doctorate in French from Oxford in 1981.