Photo by Kael Alford
Julian Rubinstein is an award-winning journalist, producer, and author of the international bestseller, Ballad of the Whiskey Robber. His magazine work has appeared in the New Yorker, the New York Times Magazine, Rolling Stone, Details, Salon, Blackbook, Travel + Leisure and others, and been selected by Best American Essays, Best American Crime Writing, Best American Sports Writing, and won a Lowell Thomas Award for travel writing. He is a member of the PEN American Center and a recipient of a Lannan Foundation Grant, and the Center for Investigative Journalism’s Dick Goldensohn Grant.
He spent a day in a Lebanese Army holding cell for filming in a restricted area; was thrown out of a gallery by John McEnroe while reporting a story about him for the New York Times Magazine; wrote and performed his music with the Cologne Theater in Germany; racked salmon at an Alaskan fish cannery; survived a yearlong graveyard shift as an agate clerk on the Washington Post sports desk, and generally attempted to connect people by finding innovative ways to chronicle the adventures, misadventures and identity politics of underdogs and under-represented communities, youth and societies in transition.
His non-fiction book, Ballad of the Whiskey Robber [Little, Brown] tells the story of the Transylvanian refugee Attila Ambrus who came to define an era. Born under Nicolae Ceausescu in Romania in 1967, Ambrus escaped into Hungary underneath a train in 1988, just before the fall of communism. His worked as a gravedigger, zamboni driver, animal pelt smuggler and (terrible) professional hockey goalie, before turning to an outrageous performance art style form of bank robbery that made him modern day folk hero as the so-called Whiskey Robber. It is a book about capitalism, national identity and the tumultuous post-communist era in Eastern Europe. Called “An instant classic,” by Canada’s Globe and Mail, the book was the winner of Borders ”Original Voices” Non-fiction Book of the Year award, and was a finalist for the Edgar Award for Best Fact Crime, a finalist for the Anthony Award for Best Non-fiction book, and a New York Times “Editors Choice.” Julian co-produced, directed and wrote and performed the music for a radio cabaret style audio recording of the book, starring Demetri Martin, Eric Bogosian, Gary Shteyngart, Arthur Phillips, Jonathan Ames, Jonathan Spottiswoode and others. The production was named a finalist for the 2007 Audie Award for Best Audio Book.
The book made several Best Books lists, including those of novelist John Green, Canada’s Globe and Mail, the Denver Post, Powell’s Bookstore and the Harvard University Bookstore, and made the Media Commons Top 50 Books of the decade. Ballad of the Whiskey Robber was published in the UK, Germany, Australia and New Zealand, Poland, Czech Republic, and Hungary, where it was a #1 national bestseller. Hungary’s leading literary magazine, Elet es Irodalom, called it “arguably the best piece of serious literature ever written tackling the Hungarian experience in the 1990s….One of Julian Rubinstein’s best virtues is a sincere interest in, and sympathy toward, csorikaim, the little people, prone to fail, the losers.” Johnny Depp and Warner Bros. purchased the film rights.
Julian began his career as an agate clerk then sports reporter and writer, first for The Washington Post and then Sports Illustrated. He went on to report from more than a dozen countries, taking on a wide variety of subjects including John McEnroe, the mysterious deaths of the Guarani Indians of Brazil, the bloody Hells Angels turf war in Quebec, the Israeli ecstasy kingpin Jacob “Cookie” Orgad, the plight of the Palestinians at Bourj al Barajnei in Beirut. He has worked as a story consultant on fiction and non-fiction books and films, and produced film, rotoscope and digital projects independently and for PBS News Hour.
He has received fellowships and artist residencies from the Corporation of Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony, the Ledig International Writers House, the Passa Porta International House of Literature, the Ucross Foundation, the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation, the Santa Fe Art Institute, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and the Ragdale Foundation. His work has been published in more than a dozen countries and translated in eight languages. He has spoken at festivals, universities, companies, and organizations around the world. He has been an adjunct projessor of journalism at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, from which he received his master’s degree, and works as an editor and producer for the Columbia’s Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma. Born in the Bronx and raised in Denver, he lives in Brooklyn.