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Download The Fish that Ate the Whale: The Life and Times of America’s Banana King Audiobook

Extended Audio Sample The Fish that Ate the Whale: The Life and Times of America’s Banana King Audiobook, by Rich Cohen Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (300 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Rich Cohen Narrator: Robertson Dean Publisher: Dreamscape Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: July 2012 ISBN: 9781611209082
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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. Working his way up from a roadside fruit peddler to conquering the United Fruit Company, Zemurray became 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.

Zemurray 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 and precipitating the bloody thirty-six-year Guatemalan civil war, the “Banana Man” lived a monumental and sometimes dastardly life. Rich Cohen’s brilliant historical profile The Fish That Ate the Whale unveils Zemurray, a hidden power broker driven by an indomitable will to succeed.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “This is a rollicking but brilliantly researched book about one of the most fascinating characters of the twentieth century. I grew up in New Orleans enthralled by tales of Sam Zemurray, the banana peddler who built United Fruit. This book recounts, with delightful verve, his military and diplomatic maneuvers in Central America and his colorful life and business practices.”

    Walter Isaacson, president and CEO of the Aspen Institute and author of Steve Jobs

  • “Lively and entertaining.”

    Boston Globe

  • “Eminently readable…The banana is lovely in its simplicity, but it turns out the man who ruled the banana kingdom for generations was quite the opposite—part conquistador, part pioneering businessman. Zemurray walked the line, and his interlaced legacies make for a fascinating and entertaining tale.”

    San Francisco Chronicle

  • “Cohen waxes almost Kiplingesque as he celebrates the man and his myrmidons.”

    New York Times

  • “Cohen’s narrative has considerable charm, whether pondering Zemurray’s Jewish identity or claiming him as a man ‘best understood as a last player in the drama of Manifest Destiny.’”

    The New Yorker

  • “Rich Cohen books constitute a genre unto themselves: pungent, breezy, vividly written psychodramas.”

    New York Times Book Review

  • “Zemurray exemplified both the best and worst of American capitalism. His saga provides plenty of food for thought next time you grab one off the bunch.”

    Entertainment Weekly

  • “There’s a lot to learn about the seedier side of the ‘smile of nature’ in this witty tale of the fruit peddler-turned-mogul.”

    Smithsonian Magazine

  • “A beautifully written homage to a man whose pioneering life mirrors so much of America’s beauty and beastliness. The life of Sam the Banana Man, in Cohen’s eloquent hands, is as nourishing and odd as the bendy yellow berry that made him great.”

    The Times (London)

  • “Absorbing, nimble and unapologetically affectionate…Mr. Cohen is a wonderfully visceral storyteller…it’s a magnificent, crazy story, engagingly told.”

    New York Observer

  • “Masterful and elegantly written…A cautionary tale for the ages.”

    Christian Science Monitor

  • “This is a great yarn, the events and personalities leaping off the page.”

    Seattle Times

  • “This history-embedded, anecdote-rich biography of Sam Zemurray, the bigger-than-life figure behind United Fruit Company at its height of power, is a balls-to-the-wall, panoramic, rocket ride through an acid bath, featuring unbelievable-but-true tales of power-grabbing, ambition, folly, passion, commerce, politics, artistry, and savagery: daydream and nightmare together…Cohen gives us this awesome story with a novelist’s canny eye for details and pacing—he injects learned disquisitions that are easy to digest whenever necessary—and a fair share of reflection and commentary and psychologizing without undue editorializing or finger-pointing.”

    Barnes & Noble

  • A Booklist Editors’ Choice for Adult Books in 2012

Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Leigh | 2/8/2014

    " A case study of American business and foreign policy; specifically the banana trade and the start of a long and tortured history of involvement in central America. You will never think about a banana the same way again! Tremendous detail, well-researched. NO INDEX. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Misteeyed | 2/8/2014

    " Good writing about little known American History. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Wayne | 2/3/2014

    " Good story and interesting reading but only a c+ author "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Stephen | 2/1/2014

    " I gave it 5 stars because it was definitely amazing. I also gave Crime and Punishment 5 stars. I've given lots of different books that many stars. They're all 5 stars for different reasons. Apples and oranges. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Kitty | 1/28/2014

    " The basic story of Samuel Zemurray, a poor Russian immigrant who became the most powerful man in the banana importing business is interesting. That said, I frequently found the book tedious and too filled with excess detail. I stopped and started this book a couple of times, not finding it very engaging. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Cheryl Petersen | 1/16/2014

    " Easy reader when bored. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Deidre | 1/16/2014

    " I had no idea bananas were so freighted with political intrigue! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Salvatore Leone | 1/13/2014

    " An amazing true story. Very good book! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Shane Hennessey | 1/13/2014

    " Solid explanation of Zemurray, United Fruit and their role in 20th century Latin America. Enjoyed most of it besides authors interpretations of how Zemurray felt about certain things like his religion. Did not agree wit author suggesting New Orleans is a dying city. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Courtenay Dulak | 12/20/2013

    " Phenomenal. Fascinating. A walk through the good and evil of every human nature, how power can aid and corrupt, and how, in the end, we all return to dust. It includes an incredibly detailed account of early American capitalism and encapsulates the Manifest Destiny. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Susan Defreitas | 12/11/2013

    " Interesting book! Writing style is simple, not challenging but story of American corporations and their abuse of South America makes this an important read especially with corporate involvement in today's political process. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Lisa | 12/10/2013

    " What a sordid history of the banana as we know it. Some of it was too much, but I did learn a lot. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Andrew | 11/1/2013

    " I am more like Sam Z than I think anyone else I've ever read about "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Mike | 9/16/2013

    " Just an unbelievable story. Absolutely recommend it to everyone. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Karen | 8/7/2013

    " You will never look at a banana the same way again.Ever. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Robin | 6/19/2013

    " Ugh. This book is a hot jumbled mess, and it is actually startling when the author switches to first person. How did this become a NYT bestseller? "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Gobasso | 6/5/2013

    " This is not history as done by an academic historian. Still, Cohen's tale of the Banana Man of New Orleans is a little known story that needs to be told. The rise and fall of and industrial giant is the story of America. Cohen captures it beautifully. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Colin Post | 2/12/2013

    " AMAZING READ! Incredible man, incredible era, incredible industry "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Joe Soria | 11/18/2012

    " informational but average in style. interesting story nonetheless "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Susan | 10/21/2012

    " This book is a wonderful rags-to-riches biography of a man who helped introduce the banana to the U.S. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Aaron Goldfarb | 9/21/2012

    " A gripping, wildly entertaining read about a man you've never heard of and an industry you didn't think you cared about. You should--on both accounts. Countless life lessons. I don't think I've ever made more Kindle highlights in a single book. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Will Manuel | 8/18/2012

    " I couldn't put this book down. Fascinating. "

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About the Author
Author Rich Cohen

Rich Cohen, a New York Times bestselling author, grew up on the North Shore of Chicago, where he died with the Cubs and was reborn with the Bears. He has written numerous books and a host of magazine articles for, among others, the New Yorker, Atlantic, Harper’s Magazine, and Vanity Fair, where he’s a contributing editor. Cohen has won the Great Lakes Book Award and the Chicago Public Library’s 21st Century Award, and his essays have been included in The Best American Essays and The Best American Travel Writing. He lives in Connecticut with his wife and three sons but is plotting his return to Chicagoland.

About the Narrator

Robertson Dean has played leading roles on and off Broadway and at dozens of regional theaters throughout the country. He has a BA from Tufts University and an MFA from Yale. His audiobook narration has garnered ten AudioFile Earphones Awards. He now lives in Los Angeles, where he works in film and television in addition to narrating.