The Fish that Ate the Whale: The Life and Times of America's Banana King
The remarkable historical profile of an unforgettable figure - Sam Zemurray, the Banana Man - who emerged from nothing to become one of the most powerful men in America.
Hardback$45.00 RRPISBN: 9780224096577Published: 01/07/2012Imprint: Jonathan CapeExtent: 288 pages
EBookCHECK RETAILER PRICEISBN: 9781448104659Published: 05/07/2012Imprint: Vintage DigitalExtent: 288 pages
Whether you know him as El Amigo, the Banana Man, the Gringo, or simply Z - whether you even know him at all - Sam Zemurray lived one of the greatest untold American stories of the last hundred years. A tough, uneducated Russian Jew who found himself and his fortune in turn-of-the-century New Orleans, Zemurray built a fruit-selling empire on the backs of banana cowboys, Mestizo Indians, soldiers-of-fortune, Mafia loansharks, Honduran peasants and American Presidents. From nothing but an immigrant's dream, he forged a path for himself to become one of the richest, most powerful men in his adopted country - and in the process set out to secretly remake the world around him as he saw fit.
Rich Cohen's brilliant new historical profile, The Fish That Ate the Whale, unveils Z as a backchannel kingmaker and capitalist revolutionary, driven by an indomitable will to succeed and tempered by an almost-righteous sense of how things should be.From his early days hustling rotting fruit to market to eke out the slimmest profit, to bankrolling private wars to oust regimes unfriendly to his ever expanding empire, Zemurray emerges as an unforgettable figure who touched almost every major event of his lifetime.Z's story spans the birth of modern foreign relations, the creation of the CIA, smuggling dispossessed Jews out of Europe, the invention of Israel, corporate espionage, the Bay of Pigs, political assassination, and the unspoken motives of Cold War.It is a twentieth century epic, and standing at its core is a man unlike any we've seen before or since.
Part of what makes this book so remarkable - and its dubious hero so compelling - is the almost invisible ease with which Cohen's threads intertwine to create a larger pattern that seems so obvious once you step back to see it.The Fish That Ate the Whale spans the transition from Old-World business to New - from privateer adventurers seeking fortunes in remote frontiers, to buccaneers of high-finance and wars fought with media, no-bid contracts, and necessary illusions.It's a country's coming of age, wrapped up in a larger-than-life figure who, for good or ill, looked at what was, but saw only what was possible.