Rich Cohen (born July 30, 1968) is an American non-fiction
writer. He is a contributing editor at ''Vanity Fair
'' and ''Rolling Stone
''. He is co-creator, with Martin Scorsese
, Mick Jagger
and Terence Winter
, of the HBO
''. His works have been ''New York Times
'' bestsellers, ''New York Times'' Notable Books, and have been collected in the Best American Essays
series. He lives in Ridgefield, Connecticut
, with four sons, Aaron, Nate, Micah and Elia.
He is not to be confused with Richard A. Cohen
Cohen was born in Lake Forest
, and grew up in Chicago
's North Shore
suburb of Glencoe
. He received his BA
from Tulane University
in 1990. His father, the negotiator Herb Cohen
, grew up with the broadcaster Larry King
; Cohen worked on King's CNN
show for a short time after graduation. His sister, Sharon Cohen Levin, is an Assistant United States Attorney of the Southern District of New York. His brother, Steve Cohen, a former top aide to New York governor Andrew Cuomo
, is a partner at the law firm Zuckerman Spaeder in New York City.
An admirer of the works of journalists A. J. Liebling
, Ian Frazier
and Joseph Mitchell
, Cohen took a job as a messenger at the offices of ''The New Yorker
'' magazine, where he published twelve stories in the "Talk of the Town" section in eighteen months. After working as a reporter for the ''New York Observer
'', Cohen joined the staff of ''Rolling Stone
'' in 1994. Since 2007, he has been a contributing editor at ''Vanity Fair''
. In 2008, Cohen's essay on German history was selected for inclusion in ''The Best American Essays of 2008
''. In 2013, on NPR's Morning Edition, Newsweek
and Daily Beast
editor Tina Brown
called Cohen's essay on the financier Ted Forstmann "very entertaining" and a "must read".
Cohen published his first book ''Tough Jews''—a non-fiction
account of the Jewish gangsters
of 1930s Brooklyn
, notably those involved with Murder, Inc.
—in 1998. In ''The New York Times Book Review
'', writer Vincent Patrick
called the book "marvelous and colorful" with "writing good enough to cause one, at times, to reread a page in order to savor the description". ''Newsweek'' critic Jack Kroll
called the book a "bloodstained fairy tale for adults ... entertaining and defiantly romantic". In The New York Times
, critic Christopher Lehmann-Haupt
called it "exuberant" and "a vivid narrative"; Cohen's book had "taken the noise of these facts and turned it from gunfire into a kind of music".
His second work, ''The Avengers: A Jewish War Story'' (2000), follows a group of anti-Nazi partisans
in the forests of Lithuania
at the close of World War II
. The book was excerpted in ''Newsweek
''. ''Publishers Weekly
'' called the non-fiction work "a terrific narrative of courage and tenacity", and ''The Washington Post
'' called it "a tremendous story".
His third work, the memoir ''Lake Effect'' (2002), received the 2002 Great Lakes Book Award and was a ''New York Times'' Notable Book
''Sweet and Low''
Cohen's 2006 book ''Sweet and Low'' is a memoir about the creation of the artificial sweetener
, a product invented by Benjamin Eisenstadt
, the author's grandfather. ''Newsweek'' praised the book as "sad, true and hilarious"; ''The Washington Post'' called it "superb", and "a wildly addictive, high-octane narrative". Writing in ''The New York Times'', critic Michiko Kakutani
called the book "a classic": "A telling—and often hilarious—parable about the pursuit and costs of the American Dream". Writing in Salon
, critic Laura Miller noted "ohen
describes it all with an economical, pugnacious wit that never falters. The heart of the book is a long, complicated and darkly funny family feud encompassing intrigues, sabotage and widely divergent stories about what really happened and when, and of course, who it can all be blamed on." The book was a ''New York Times'' Notable Book and received a 2006 Salon Book Award
''Israel is Real''
In 2009, Cohen published ''Israel is Real: An Obsessive Quest to Understand the Jewish Nation and its History''. In ''The New York Times Book Review
'', the writer Tony Horwitz
said the book "accomplished the miraculous. It made a subject that has vexed me since childhood into a riveting story." Writing in ''Newsweek
'', critic Sara Nelson
called the book "Iconoclastic and provocative.... Part history, part polemic, and all original, it is hard to categorize politically, which may be why readers will be arguing about it for years to come." In ''The Jerusalem Post
'', Elaine Margolin called the book "an intoxicating narrative ... Cohen claims his book is about his 'obsessive quest to understand the Jewish nation and its history,' but it seems far more complex and personal than that. Beneath his perceptive and provocative prose about Jewish history, religion, identity and memory is his own heartfelt struggle to become a good Jew.... Cohen is a fearless time-traveler, an acrobat of sorts, who is equally adept at commenting on ancient Jewish history and biblical stories as he is about the contemporary appeal of Larry David or Woody Allen, and he often draws breathtaking comparisons between past and present Jewish life."
In 2010, Cohen co-wrote the memoir ''When I Stop Talking, You'll Know I'm Dead'', the story of American film producer Jerry Weintraub
; the book was a ''New York Times'' bestseller.
''The Fish That Ate the Whale''
Cohen's story of United Fruit
president and banana king Sam Zemurray
, ''The Fish That Ate the Whale'', was published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux
in 2012. Writing in The New York Times Book Review
, critic and historian Mark Lewis called the book "Kiplingesque
" and "fascinating", and provided an overview of Cohen's work. "Rich Cohen books constitute a genre unto themselves: pungent, breezy, vividly written psychodramas about rough-edged, tough-minded Jewish ''machers'' who vanquish their rivals, and sometimes change the world in the process." In The Christian Science Monitor
, critic Chris Hartman called the book "masterful and elegantly written ... a cautionary tale for the ages". In ''The Washington Post
'', James Auley called it "immensely readable" and "as good an example of the American promise as one could imagine". The Jerusalem Post's
Elaine Margolin called the book "piercing and terrifically intuitive.... Cohen is a beautifully talented and vibrant writer who seems to effortlessly brings his pages to life."
On October 29, 2013, Cohen published ''Monsters'': a story of football through the eyes of the 1985 Chicago Bears
. In an advance review, Kirkus Reviews
called the book "devastating and moving", "engaging yet ultimately melancholy"; "ideal for anyone who wonders, 'What happens when you have a dream and that dream comes true?'" Writer Dave Eggers
said ''Monsters'' was "not just a great sports book, but a great book, period", Amazon
selected it as a Best Book of the Month. At Grantland
, Kevin Nguyen wrote, "As much as it is about the '85 Bears, ''Monsters'' is an emotional education of football"; he continues, "Cohen writes, 'It was eorge
Halas, as much as anyone, who invented the modern NFL offense and lifted the game from the ground into the air.' You can't help but think that Cohen's doing the same thing here for sports narratives." In a review for ''The Wall Street Journal
'', writer and critic Joseph Epstein
wrote, "Rich Cohen's ''Monsters'' is the best book on professional football I know." The book is a New York Times
''The Sun and the Moon and the Rolling Stones''
Cohen's next book, a narrative history of The Rolling Stones
called ''The Sun and The Moon and the Rolling Stones'', was published by Spiegel and Grau
in May 2016. Cohen had been on close terms with the band since the mid-1990s. In a pre-publication review, ''Kirkus Reviews
'' wrote, "Cohen weaves together the peak events with a supple sense of the inner dynamics," calling the work, "A compact and conversant history that makes the story new again, capturing the Rolling Stones in all their Faustian glory". Writer Richard Price
wrote of the book, "With ''The Sun & The Moon & The Rolling Stones'', Rich Cohen has arrived as one of the greatest social and cultural historians of postwar twentieth century America."
''The Last Pirate of New York''
This book details the life and times of Albert W. Hicks
, an American criminal active from about 1840 to 1860. Cohen grew up hearing legendary stories of New York gangsters and found those legends had grown up hearing stories of even older gangster legends. He traced these legends back to the earliest, and contends Hicks was the transition between pirates of old and the new world of gangsters—the last pirate and first gangster. Reviewing the book in the ''Wall Street Journal
'', Rinker Buck wrote, "'The Last Pirate of New York' is history-lite at its best, and readers will finish it with a satisfaction deeply relevant today. The truth about America's past—the greasy pole of making a living, the lovable felons, the Barnum-esque self-promoters—is a lot more interesting and useful to know than those patriotic fairy tales we were fed in school." On CBS This Morning
, host Jeff Glor
said, "I'm not sure there's a better nonfiction writer in America than Rich Cohen."
Movies and television
On February 26, 2007, Paramount Pictures
announced it had closed a deal to produce ''The Long Play'', a screenplay Cohen had written for Mick Jagger
and director Martin Scorsese
, with Scorsese directing. He has worked on the Starz
series ''Magic City
'', and is currently developing a project for HBO
Cohen is co-creator, with Martin Scorsese
, Mick Jagger
and Terence Winter
, of the HBO
*2002 Great Lakes Book Award (General Nonfiction), ''Lake Effect''
*2006 ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award for Music Writing (Special Recognition), ''Machers and Rockers''
*2006 New York Times Notable Book of the Year
, ''Sweet and Low''
*2006 Salon Book Award
(Nonfiction), ''Sweet and Low''
*2012 San Francisco Chronicle 100 Best Books of the Year (Nonfiction), ''The Fish That Ate the Whale''
*2012 Booklist Editor's Choice (Biography), ''The Fish That Ate the Whale''
*2013 Bank Street CBC Best Children's Book of the Year (Age 9-12), ''Alex and the Amazing Time Machine''
*2016 Kirkus Reviews Best Books of the Year (Nonfiction), ''The Sun & The Moon & The Rolling Stones''
* ''Tough Jews : Fathers, Sons, and Gangster Dreams '' (1998)
* ''The Avengers: A Jewish War Story'' (2000)
* ''Lake Effect'' (2002)
* ''Machers and Rockers: Chess Records and the Business of Rock & Roll'' (2004)
* ''Sweet and Low: A Family Story'' (2006)
* ''Israel Is Real: An Obsessive Quest to Understand the Jewish Nation and Its History'' (2009)
* ''The Fish That Ate The Whale: The Life and Times of America's Banana King'' (2012)
* ''Alex and the Amazing Time Machine'' (juvenile) with ill. by Kelly Murphy
* ''Monsters: The 1985 Chicago Bears and the Wild Heart of Football'' (2013)
* ''The Sun & The Moon & The Rolling Stones'' (2016)
* ''The Chicago Cubs: Story of a Curse'' (2017)
* ''The Last Pirate of New York: A Ghost Ship, a Killer, and the Birth of a Gangster Nation'' (2019)
*''Pee Wees: Confessions of a Hockey Parent'' (2021)
* ''When I Stop Talking, You'll Know I'm Dead'' by Jerry Weintraub
with Rich Cohen (2010)
* ''Unstoppable: My Life So Far'' by Maria Sharapova
with Rich Cohen (2017)
External linksAuthor Rich Cohen Web SiteRich Cohen on NPR's Weekend Edition, ''The Fish That Ate The Whale''
*ttp://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7418014n Rich Cohen on CBS News, ''The Fish That Ate The Whale''
br>Rich Cohen on All Things ConsideredRich Cohen on NPR's The Leonard Lopate Show 2006Rich Cohen on NPR's The Leonard Lopate Show 2005
*ttp://www.newsweek.com/id/86093 ''The Avengers'' Excerpt, Newsweek Magazine
br>Rich Cohen Author Page, Random HouseRich Cohen Author Page, Barnes and Noble
Category:Jewish American writers
Category:American male non-fiction writers
Category:Tulane University alumni
Category:American magazine journalists