Julian Rubinstein

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Julian Rubinstein (1968-12-27) December 27, 1968 (age 52) is a journalist, author and educator. He is best known for his longform magazine journalism and his non-fiction books, Ballad of the Whiskey Robber,[1] which chronicles the improbable life of one of the world's most popular living folk heroes and The Holly: Five Bullets, One Gun and the Struggle to Save an American Neighborhood,[2] a story of activism and gang violence in a northeast Denver community.

Julian Rubinstein
Julian Rubinstein in NYC 2019.jpg
Julian Rubinstein in New York City, 2019
BornDecember 27, 1968
Bronx, NY
EducationColumbia University, MS, Journalism; Emory University, BA, Political Science
Notable work
Ballad of the Whiskey Robber

Early life[edit]

Rubinstein was born in the Bronx in 1968. He is the son of the psychiatrist David Rubinstein and the aerospace engineer Diane Rubinstein. The family moved to Denver from New York City in 1971 when David Rubinstein accepted a residency at the University of Colorado Medical School. Soon afterward, Dr. Rubinstein was drafted into the Air Force and became the base psychiatrist at Denver's now-closed Lowry Air Force Base, retiring as a major. Dr. Rubinstein was an attending at several Denver-area hospitals. At age 49, he was diagnosed with cancer and became known posthumously for his work counseling residents at Hospice of Metro Denver who didn't know he too was dying.[3][4] Diane Rubinstein worked much of her career on government contracts, including missile defense, and retired from Raytheon.

Rubinstein grew up in south Denver and attended Cherry Creek High School. He went on to receive a B.A. in Political Science from Emory University in 1991 and an M.S. in Journalism from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism, in 1992.

Rubinstein's younger brother, Dan Rubinstein, is the elected district attorney in Mesa County, Colorado.[5]


Rubinstein began his career as an agate clerk in the Washington Post Sports section, and wrote for the Sports and Style section, where he did music reviews and features. In 1994, he was hired as a reporter at Sports Illustrated, where he worked for four years, covering tennis, NFL, NBA and extreme sports. In 1996, he worked with senior writer Gary Smith on "Crime and Punishment: The Saga of Richie Parker, which won the 1997 National Magazine Award for Feature Writing.[6] In 1998, Rubinstein went to work for CBS Sports at the Nagano Winter Olympics as the co-editor-in-chief of a daily publication.

Afterward, Rubinstein became a freelance journalist, making a name as a reporter who was able to find overlooked or mistold stories, and land difficult interviews. His story, They Call It Suicide, published in Rolling Stone in 2000,[7] was reported over several weeks in Mato Grosso do Sul in which he gained the trust of a Guarani Indian tribe fleeing the reservation in fear of its chief. International news stories reported that the tribe had the highest suicide rate in the world, but Rubinstein discovered evidence that the chief was murdering his own people.

Rubinstein wrote what has been called the best profile of tennis player John McEnroe.[8] The unabridged version of the profile appeared on the literary sports journalism site, SportsJones.com and espn.com,[9] and an abridged version of the story was published in The New York Times Magazine in 2000.[10] Rubinstein also chronicled the Hells Angels war with a rival biker gang, the Rock Machine, in Canada, and profiled the Hasidic international ecstasy kingpin, Jacob "Cookie" Orgad, a story selected for Best American Crime Writing.[11]

In 2004, Rubinstein published his first non-fiction book Ballad of the Whiskey Robber, about the Hungarian bank robber and folk hero Attila Ambrus, who remains one of the world's most popular living folk heroes. The book was published in six languages and was a number one bestseller in Hungary. In the U.S., it was the winner of Borders' 2005 "Original Voices" Non-fiction Book of the Year[12][13] and was a finalist for the 2005 Edgar Allan Poe Award[14] for Best Fact Crime book and the 2005 Anthony Award for best Non-fiction book. A cabaret-style recording of the book was a finalist for the 2007 Audie Awards for Best Audio Book. The recording stars Eric Bogosian, Demetri Martin, former U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power, Gary Shteyngart, Jonathan Ames, Arthur Phillips, Darin Strauss, and Tommy Ramone. Warner Bros. and Johnny Depp optioned the book for a film.

In 2013, Rubinstein's story Operation Easter[15] appeared in the New Yorker for which Rubinstein gained access to the notoriously tight knit and unapproachable illegal egg collectors in the U.K. The story was named one of the "5 Most Entertaining Stories of the Year" by Longreads,[16] and was listed as a Notable story of the Year by Best American Science and Nature Writing. In 2006, he wrote about his relationship with his father, David Rubinstein, in 5280, Denver's city magazine,[17] which was cited as a Notable Story in 2007 Best American Essays.

In 2021, his book, The Holly: Five Bullets, One Gun and the Struggle to Save an American Neighborhood was released to critical acclaim.[18][19][20][21][22][23] In a starred review, Booklist called it "a shattering piece of investigative journalism involving street gangs, race relations and law enforcement."[24] The New York Times Book Review named it an Editors' Choice.[25] Rubinstein appeared on NPR's All Things Considered with Michel Martin.[26]

Rubinstein worked as an adjunct professor of journalism at Columbia University, and also as a senior producer for the school's Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma.[27] In 2021, he was named a Visiting Professor of the Practice in Documentary Journalism at the University of Denver.[28]


2005 Edgar Allan Poe Award, Best Fact Crime Book, Finalist for Ballad of the Whiskey Robber

2005 Borders "Original Voices" Best Non-fiction Book of the Year, Winner for Ballad of the Whiskey Robber

2005 Anthony Award for Best Nonfiction Book, Finalist for Ballad of the Whiskey Robber

2007 Audie Award, Best Audio Book of the Year, Finalist for Ballad of the Whiskey Robber

2013 Best of Longform, 5 Most Entertaining Stories of the Year, for Operation Easter, New Yorker

2014 Best American Science and Nature Writing, Notable Story of the Year, Operation Easter, New Yorker

2009 Lowell Thomas Travel Writing Award, Bronze Medal for Aspen feature story, Travel + Leisure

2007 Best American Essays, Notable Story of the Year, Final Cut, 5280

2002 Best American Crime Writing, Official Selection, X-Files, Details

2002 Best American Sports Writing, Notable Story of the Year, Being John McEnroe, espn.com / New York Times Magazine

2001 Online Journalism Association, Best Feature Writing, Finalist, for Being John McEnroe, espn.com

1999 Best American Sports Writing, Notable Story of the Year, The Chosen One, Gear

2000 Women's Sports Foundation, Best Journalism, Slam It Baby, Salon.com

Personal life[edit]

Rubinstein has worked with at-risk youth at Groundwork in Brooklyn, and at Friends For Youth in Colorado. His mentee Ngor Monday was killed in a shootout in 2019.[29]



  • Rubinstein, Julian (2004). Ballad of the Whiskey Robber. ISBN 9780316071673.
  • Rubinstein, Julian (2009). "Leaving Home." Published in Writing Away From Home, International Authors In Brussels, cahier, het beschrijf, pp 141–145.
  • Rubinstein, Julian (2021). The Holly: Five Bullets, One Gun and the Struggle to Save an American Neighborhood.



  1. ^ Ehrenreich, Ben (2004-11-14). "'Ballad of the Whiskey Robber': Neon Budapest (Published 2004)". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-01-23.
  2. ^ Rubinstein, Julian (2021-05-11). The Holly: Five Bullets, One Gun, and the Struggle to Save an American Neighborhood. ISBN 978-0374168919.
  3. ^ Culver, Virginia (December 12, 2003). "Dying Doctor Counseled Terminally Ill, Wrote Children's Book". The Denver Post.
  4. ^ Huntley, Sarah (December 9, 2003). "Dr. David Rubinstein Helped Ease Way for Dying Patients". Rocky Mountain News.
  5. ^ "DA Home - Mesa County, Colorado". da.mesacounty.us. Retrieved 2021-01-23.
  6. ^ Smith, Gary. "Crime And Punishment: The saga of Richie Parker". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 2021-01-23.
  7. ^ Rubinstein, Julian (June 8, 2000). "They Call It Suicide". Rolling Stone.
  8. ^ "Being John McEnroe by Julian Rubinstein · Longform". Longform. Retrieved 2021-01-23.
  9. ^ Rubinstein, Julian (September 19, 2001). "Being John McEnroe". espn.com.
  10. ^ Rubinstein, Julian (February 27, 2000). ""Johnny Mac," Jack Nicolson Once Said, "Don't Ever Change." He Hasn't". The New York Times Magazine.
  11. ^ Pileggi, Nicholas (2002). Best American Crime Writing. ISBN 0375712992.
  12. ^ "Borders Original Voices Award Winners". www.goodreads.com. Retrieved 2021-02-14.
  13. ^ "Original Voices Awards". www.writerswrite.com. Retrieved 2021-01-23.
  14. ^ "Category List – Best Fact Crime | Edgars Database". Retrieved 2021-01-23.
  15. ^ Rubinstein, Julian (15 July 2013). "Operation Easter". The New Yorker.
  16. ^ Most Entertaining, Longform (2013). "Best of 2013". Longform.org.
  17. ^ Rubinstein, Julian (2010-08-28). "Final Cut". 5280. Retrieved 2021-04-10.
  18. ^ Chatelain, Marcia (2021-05-11). "An Anti-Gang Activist, a Shooting and a Community Long Abused and Ignored". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-07-17.
  19. ^ Smith, Martin J. "Inside Denver's Gang — and Anti-Gang — Warfare". Los Angeles Review of Books. Retrieved 2021-07-17.
  20. ^ Neumyer, Scott (2021-05-11). "In 'The Holly,' Julian Rubinstein Exposes a Broken Criminal Justice System". Shondaland. Retrieved 2021-07-17.
  21. ^ "'The Holly' digs deep into one man's complicated efforts to end gang violence". Christian Science Monitor. 2021-07-15. ISSN 0882-7729. Retrieved 2021-07-17.
  22. ^ THE HOLLY | Kirkus Reviews.
  23. ^ "Nonfiction Book Review: The Holly: Five Bullets, One Gun, and the Struggle to Save an American Neighborhood by Julian Rubinstein. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $28 (284p) ISBN 978-0-374-16891-9". PublishersWeekly.com. Retrieved 2021-07-17.
  24. ^ Holly: Five Bullets, One Gun, and the Struggle to Save an American Neighborhood, by By Julian Rubinstein. | Booklist Online.
  25. ^ "10 New Books We Recommend This Week". The New York Times. 2021-07-01. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-07-10.
  26. ^ "The Story Of A Denver Neighborhood In 'The Holly'". NPR.org. Retrieved 2021-07-10.
  27. ^ "Julian Rubinstein". Dart Center. 2012-09-10. Retrieved 2021-01-23.
  28. ^ "Julian Rubinstein | Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences". liberalarts.du.edu. Retrieved 2021-04-10.
  29. ^ "Victim in double-shooting last week is identified". The Denver Post. 2019-09-13. Retrieved 2021-01-23.

External links[edit]