The Fish That Ate the Whale by Rich Cohen
The Life and Times of America's Banana King

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Documentary veracity counts for less than the dashing energy of Cohen's characterisation, and the moody atmosphere of the landscapes in which he sets this buccaneering life...
-Guardian

Synopsis

A legendary tale, both true and astonishing, from the author of Israel is Real and Sweet and Low


When Samuel Zemurray arrived in America in 1891, he was tall, gangly, and penniless. When he died in the grandest house in New Orleans sixty-nine years later, he was among the richest, most powerful men in the world. In between, he worked as a fruit peddler, a banana hauler, a dockside hustler, and a plantation owner. He battled and conquered the United Fruit Company, becoming a symbol of the best and worst of the United States: proof that America is the land of opportunity, but also a classic example of the corporate pirate who treats foreign nations as the backdrop for his adventures. In Latin America, when people shouted "Yankee, go home!" it was men like Zemurray they had in mind.

Rich Cohen's brilliant historical profile The Fish That Ate the Whale unveils Zemurray as a hidden kingmaker and capitalist revolutionary, driven by an indomitable will to succeed. Known as El Amigo, the Gringo, or simply Z, the Banana Man lived one of the great untold stories of the last hundred years. Starting with nothing but a cart of freckled bananas, he built a sprawling empire of banana cowboys, mercenary soldiers, Honduran peasants, CIA agents, and American statesmen. From hustling on the docks of New Orleans to overthrowing Central American governments, from feuding with Huey Long to working with the Dulles brothers, Zemurray emerges as an unforgettable figure, connected to the birth of modern American diplomacy, public relations, business, and war—a monumental life that reads like a parable of the American dream.

 

About Rich Cohen

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Rich Cohen is a New York Times bestselling author as well as a contributing editor at Vanity Fair and Rolling Stone. He has written seven books, including Tough Jews, Israel Is Real, and the widely acclaimed memoir Sweet and Low. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, Harper's Magazine, and Best American Essays. He lives in Connecticut with his wife, three sons, and dog.
 
Published June 5, 2012 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 292 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Business & Economics, History, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Horror, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for The Fish That Ate the Whale
All: 3 | Positive: 2 | Negative: 1

NY Times

Good
Reviewed by Mark Lewis on Sep 14 2012

...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.

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Peter Conrad on Jul 20 2012

Documentary veracity counts for less than the dashing energy of Cohen's characterisation, and the moody atmosphere of the landscapes in which he sets this buccaneering life...

Read Full Review of The Fish That Ate the Whale: ... | See more reviews from Guardian

WSJ online

Below average
Reviewed by Marc Levinson on Jul 01 2012

The lack of sources is a difficulty for any biographer, but Mr. Cohen compounds the credibility problem by his strenuous efforts to avoid the boring details of business.

Read Full Review of The Fish That Ate the Whale: ... | See more reviews from WSJ online

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