Rich Cohen (born July 30, 1968) is an American non-fiction writer. He is a contributing editor at Vanity Fair and Rolling Stone magazines. He is co-creator, with Martin Scorsese, Mick Jagger and Terence Winter, of the HBO series Vinyl.[1] 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.

Background and education

Cohen was born in Lake Forest, Illinois, and grew up in Chicago's North Shore suburb of Glencoe.[2] 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.[3] 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.[4]



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,[5] where he published twelve stories in the "Talk of the Town" section in eighteen months.[6] 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".[7]


Tough Jews and The Avengers

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".[8]Newsweek critic Jack Kroll called the book a "bloodstained fairy tale for adults ... entertaining and defiantly romantic".[9] 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".[10]

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.[11]Publishers Weekly called the non-fiction work "a terrific narrative of courage and tenacity",[12] and The Washington Post called it "a tremendous story".[13] His third work, the memoir Lake Effect (2002), received the 2002 Great Lakes Book Award[14] and was a New York Times Notable Book.

Sweet and Low, Israel is Real

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";[15]The Washington Post called it "superb",[16] and "a wildly addictive, high-octane narrative".[17] 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".[18] Writing in Salon, critic Laura Miller noted "[Cohen] 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."[19] The book was a New York Times Notable Book and received a 2006 Salon Book Award.

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."[20] 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."[21] 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."[22]

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.[23]

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.[24] 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."[25] In The Christian Science Monitor, critic Chris Hartman called the book "masterful and elegantly written ... a cautionary tale for the ages".[26] In The Washington Post, James Auley called it "immensely readable" and "as good an example of the American promise as one could imagine".[27] 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."[28]


On October 29, 2013, Cohen published Monsters: a story of football through the eyes of the 1985 Chicago Bears. In an advance review, Kirkus 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?'"[29] 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 [George] 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."[30] 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."[31] The book is a New York Times best seller.[32]

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, will be published by Spiegel and Grau in May 2016.[33] Cohen had been on close terms with the band since the mid-1990s.[34] In a pre-publication review, Kirkus 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".[35] 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."[36]

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.[37] He has worked on the Starz series Magic City, and is currently developing a project for HBO.[38]

Cohen is co-creator, with Martin Scorsese, Mick Jagger and Terence Winter, of the HBO series Vinyl.[39]




  • Cohen, Rich (1998). Tough Jews. 
  • The Avengers (2000)
  • The Record Men (2004)
  • Sweet and Low (2006)
  • Israel is Real (2009)
  • When I Stop Talking, You'll Know I'm Dead Jerry Weintraub with Rich Cohen (2010)
  • The Fish That Ate The Whale: The Life and Times of America's Banana King (2012)
  • Monsters: The 1985 Chicago Bears and the Wild Heart of Football (2013)


  • Cohen, Rich (2002). Lake effect. 

Essays and reporting

  • Cohen, Rich (Autumn 2009). "Winter". Granta (108): 214–217. 


  • Cohen, Rich (2012). Alex and the amazing time machine. Illustrated by Kelly Murphy. 


  1. ^ Tim Goodmen, "'Vinyl': TV Review", Billboard, February 2, 2016.
  2. ^ "Machers And Rockers by Rich Cohen". Barnes and Noble. Retrieved 2008-03-20. 
  3. ^ Cohen, Rich, "King and I", Rolling Stone, November 14, 1996.
  4. ^ Lovett, Ken, "Daily Politics: Steve Cohen Lands", New York Daily News, September 20, 2011.
  5. ^ Ledbetter, C. S., "The Education of A Writer", Author's Desktop, Random House, retrieved 3-20-2008.
  6. ^ Cohen, Richard, Lake Effect: A Memoir, New York: Knopf, 2001. p. 180.
  7. ^ NPR Staff, "Tina Brown's Must-Reads: Hidden Lives", Morning Edition, January 22, 2013.
  8. ^ Patrick, Vincent (1998-04-12). "This You Call A Stick-up?". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-03-20. 
  9. ^ Jack Kroll, "Welcome to the Kosher Nostra", Newsweek, April 20, 1998.
  10. ^ Lehmann-Haupt, Christopher (1998-04-16). "Hardly 'Our Crowd': A Jewish Underworld". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-01-31. 
  11. ^ Cohen, Rich (2000-09-11). "A Final Mission". Newsweek. Retrieved 2008-03-20. 
  12. ^ Publishers Weekly, "The Avengers: A Jewish War Story", July 17, 2000
  13. ^ Goldsmith, Martin, "Fighters and Fugues", The Washington Post, September 24, 2000
  14. ^ American Booksellers Association, "Great Lakes Book Award Winners Announced", August 29, 2002.
  15. ^ Newsweek, "Sweet and Low", April 17, 2006
  16. ^ Powers, Katherine, "Today's business world is cut-throat but often hilarious", The Washington Post, June 18, 2006.
  17. ^ Barlow, John (2006-04-10). "Sweet and Sour Dreams". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-03-20. 
  18. ^ Kakutani, Michiko (2006-04-04). "Problems That Come in Little Packets". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-03-20. 
  19. ^ Miller, Laura (2006-12-14). "Best Nonfiction of 2006". Salon. Retrieved 2013-01-31. 
  20. ^ Horwitz, Tony (2009-07-26). "A Land and a People". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-07-26. 
  21. ^ Nelson, Sara (2009-05-21). "The 13 Hottest Summer Reads". Newsweek. Retrieved 2013-01-31. 
  22. ^ Margolin, Elaine (2009-07-24). "Reality Checks". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 2013-01-31. 
  23. ^ Jennifer Schuessler, "Inside the List", The New York Times Book Review, April 23, 2010.
  24. ^ Grushkin, Daniel (2012-06-07). "Book Review: 'The Fish That Ate the Whale,' by Rich Cohen". Bloomberg Businessweek. Retrieved 2012-07-02. 
  25. ^ Lewis, Mark (2012-09-16). "Banana Republican: 'The Fish That Ate the Whale,' by Rich Cohen". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-09-16. 
  26. ^ Hartman, Chris (2012-10-18). "Book Review: The Fish That Ate the Whale". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 2012-10-18. 
  27. ^ Auley, James (2012-07-21). "The Life and Times of America's Banana King". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2012-07-21. 
  28. ^ Margolin, Elaine (2012-06-28). "The Fruits of His Labor". The Jerusalem Post Magazine. Retrieved 2013-01-31. 
  29. ^ "Monsters: The 1985 Chicago Bears and the Wild Heart of Football", Kirkus, October 15, 2013.
  30. ^ Kevin Nguyen, "Monsters", Grantland, November 5, 2013.
  31. ^ Joseph Epstein, "Book Review: 'Monsters' by Rich Cohen", The Wall Street Journal, October 25, 2013.
  32. ^ The New York Times, Best Sellers Hardcover Nonfiction, November 24, 2013.
  33. ^ The Sun and the Moon and the Rolling Stone, Penguin Random House Website. Accessed 2016-01-03.
  34. ^ "Warring Stones", The Times (U.K.), April 2, 2016.
  35. ^ Kirkus, "The Sun and the Moon and the Rolling Stones", April 19, 2016.
  36. ^ The Sun and the Moon and the Rolling Stone, Penguin Random House Website. Accessed 2016-04-08.
  37. ^ Fleming, Michael and McClintock, Pamela, "Scorsese, Monahan ready to 'Play,'" Variety, February 26, 2007.
  38. ^ Daniel Brook, "Jewish Gangsters Get Their Museum", The Forward, April 13, 2012
  39. ^ Tim Goodmen, "'Vinyl': TV Review", Billboard, February 2, 2016.