Post­ed by Nao­mi Firestone-Teeter

In June, Far­rar, Straus and Giroux will pub­lish Rich Cohen’s lat­est book: The Fish That Ate the Whale: The Life and Times of Amer­i­ca’s Banana King

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 Banana­man lived one of the great untold sto­ries of the last hun­dred years. Start­ing with noth­ing but a cart of freck­led bananas and built a sprawl­ing empire of banana cow­boys, Mes­ti­zo Indi­ans, sol­diers of for­tune, Mafia loan-sharks, Hon­duran peas­ants and Amer­i­can Pres­i­dents. From hus­tling on the docks to bankrolling pri­vate wars, Zemur­ray emerges as an unfor­get­table fig­ure, con­nect­ed to the birth of mod­ern Amer­i­can diplo­ma­cy, pub­lic rela­tions, busi­ness and war.

Orig­i­nal­ly from Lan­cast­er, Penn­syl­va­nia, Nao­mi is the CEO of Jew­ish Book Coun­cil. She grad­u­at­ed from Emory Uni­ver­si­ty with degrees in Eng­lish and Art His­to­ry and, in addi­tion, stud­ied at Uni­ver­si­ty Col­lege Lon­don. Pri­or to her role as exec­u­tive direc­tor, Nao­mi served as the found­ing edi­tor of the JBC web­site and blog and man­ag­ing edi­tor of Jew­ish Book World. In addi­tion, she has over­seen JBC’s dig­i­tal ini­tia­tives, and also devel­oped the JBC’s Vis­it­ing Scribe series and Unpack­ing the Book: Jew­ish Writ­ers in Conversation.