PERSONAL: Born in Putnam, CT. Education: Received degrees from University of Michigan and Stanford Law School.
CAREER: Writer and journalist. New York Times, New York, NY, legal reporter, 1981–86, national legal affairs editor and law columnist, 1987–96.
Undue Influence: The Epic Battle for the Johnson & Johnson Fortune, William Morrow (New York, NY), 1993.
At the Bar: The Passions and Peccadilloes of American Lawyers, illustrated by Elliot Banfield, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1995.
Strange Fruit: Billie Holiday, Café Society, and an Early Cry for Civil Rights, foreword by Hilton Als, Running Press (Philadelphia, PA), 2000.
Contributing editor, Vanity Fair.
SIDELIGHTS: While David Margolick was in law school, he began writing for the National Law Journal, American Lawyer, and later for the New York Times. The focus of much of that writing concerned the human side of law-related stories. During Margolick's tenure at the New York Times, he was nominated four times for the Pulitzer Prize.
Margolick's book Undue Influence: The Epic Battle for the Johnson & Johnson Fortune follows a three-year legal/family struggle that built to a seventeen-week "showdown" in New York County surrogate's court. According to Michelle Green in the New York Times Book Review, Margolick "followed this soap from start to finish, and he missed nary a shred of irony. Savvy and self-assured, he skillfully explicates a labyrinthine case." Nation reviewer John L. Hess noted that Margolick's "narrative of the trial is so gripping as to impel a reviewer to withhold mention of the outcome." Similarly, Shawn Tully, writing in Fortune, acknowledged Margolick for "expertly [tracing] the Johnson saga" and called the book a "rich chronicle."
At the Bar: The Passions and Peccadilloes of American Lawyers is a collection of writings selected from the weekly column Margolick wrote for the New York Times between 1987 and 1994. According to a reviewer for Publishers Weekly, the book is written with "considerable skill, wit and an elegant turn of phrase." As a reviewer in the New York Times commented, "people like these, and stories about them, never go out of date; they are as deathless as the law itself."
A reviewer noted in Publishers Weekly that Margolick's book Strange Fruit: Billie Holiday, Café Society, and an Early Cry for Civil Rights exhibits "thorough research and the smooth writing of a journalist." The same reviewer went on to call the book "a superb piece of cultural history." Focusing on the 1930s "lynching ballad" titled "Strange Fruit," Margolick discovered that its composer was a leftist Bronx schoolteacher named Abel Meeropol, although its authorship was earlier attributed to blues singer Billie Holiday. Scott Shrake, a reviewer for the Philadelphia City Paper, called the book "a document of diverse voices" that is a "testament to the power of [Holiday's] talent." First performed by the singing legend in the late 1930s, "Strange Fruit" was considered by some to be a "rebuke of Congress" for failing to pass anti-lynching laws, according to Phil Nel on the Kansas State University Web site. In a review for the Weekly Wire, Michael Sims referred to the book as "cultural history at its best. Clear, literate, at once passionate and objective, it is quite a performance."
In 2005 Margolick released a detailed account of what some consider the most important boxing match in history. Beyond Glory: Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling and a World on the Brink examines the two bouts that took place between American boxer Joe Louis and German fighter Max Schmeling in the late 1930s. The two men first scuffled in a 1936 match won by Schmeling. However, as Margolick explains, the 1938 rematch between the fighters proved more important than any championship title. The fight was not only Louis against Schmeling, but also youth against age, black against white, and America against Nazi Germany. In a review for the Detroit Free Press, Marta Salij called Beyond Glory "a fascinating look at a historical era through the prism of sports." Booklist contributor John Green noted that while Margolick provides "gripping accounts" of the bouts between Louis and Schmeling, "the greatest strength … is the larger history it supplies." Similarly, a Kirkus Reviews contributor described Beyond Glory as "sports and political history in a balanced, engaging blend." Boyd Childress of the Library Journal called it "one of the best sports books of recent years."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
African American Review, spring, 2003, Douglas Henry Daniels, review of Strange Fruit: Billie Holiday, Café Society, and an Early Cry for Civil Rights, p. 154.
Biography, fall, 2000, David Nasaw, review of Strange Fruit, p. 808.
Black Issues Book Review, September, 2000, Keith Owens, review of Strange Fruit, p. 30.
Booklist, March 1, 2000, Bonnie Smothers, review of Strange Fruit, p. 1178; February 15, 2001, Brad Hooper, review of Strange Fruit, p. 1099; September 1, 2005, John Green, review of Beyond Glory: Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling and a World on the Brink, p. 52.
Detroit Free Press, October 5, 2005, Marta Salij, "'Beyond Glory' Recreates the Politics of the Louis-Schmeling Boxing Matches," review of Beyond Glory.
Financial Times of Canada, May 15, 1993, Susan Smith, review of Undue Influence: The Epic Battle for the Johnson & Johnson Fortune, p. B21.
Fortune, May 31, 1993, Shawn Tully, review of Undue Influence, p. 167.
Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 2005, review of Beyond Glory, p. 779.
Library Journal, March 1, 2000, Nathan Ward, review of Strange Fruit, p. 107; August 1, 2005, Boyd Childress, review of Beyond Glory, p. 95.
Nation, July 12, 1993, John L. Hess, review of Undue Influence, p. 76.
New Yorker, April 19, 1993, review of Undue Influence, p. 119.
New York Review of Books, June 24, 1993, Murray Kempton, review of Undue Influence, p. 49.
New York Times Book Review, March 14, 1993, Michelle Green, "The Band-Aid War," p. 7; April 30, 1995, review of At the Bar: The Passions and Peccadilloes of American Lawyers, p. 22.
People Weekly, April 5, 1993, Pam Lambert, review of Undue Influence, p. 22.
Publishers Weekly, January 18, 1993, review of Undue Influence, p. 454; March 6, 1995, review of At the Bar, p. 67; February 14, 2000, Judy Quinn, "Hoping for 'Holiday Sales,'" p. 86; February 28, 2000, review of Strange Fruit, p. 76; July 11, 2005, review of Beyond Glory, p. 79.
School Library Journal, December, 2000, Barbara A. Genco, review of Strange Fruit, p. 64.
Spectator, May 19, 2001, David Hughes, review of Strange Fruit, p. 44.
Sports Illustrated, September 19, 2005, Richard O'Brien, "Two for the Ages," review of Beyond Glory, p. Z6.
Vanity Fair, September, 2005, David Margolick, "War of the Worlds," excerpt from Beyond Glory, p. 366.
Washington Post Book World, April 2, 1995, Jeffrey T. Leeds, review of At the Bar, p. 6.
BookPage.com, http://www.bookpage.com/ (April 19, 2000), Robert Fleming, review of Strange Fruit.
Houston Chronicle Online, http://www.chron.com/ (January 20, 2006), Allen Barra, "War in the Ring," review of Beyond Glory.
Jewish World Review Online, http://www.jewishworldreview.com/ (May 9, 2000), Robert Leiter, "Not So Black and White."
Metro Times Online, http://www.metrotimes.com/ (April 19, 2000), Eileen Murphy, review of Strange Fruit.
Nieman Foundation Web site, http://www.nieman.harvard.edu/ (April 19, 2000), Bill Kovach, "Interview with David Margolick."
Philadelphia City Paper Online, http://citypaper.net/ (March 23, 2000), Scott Shrake, review of Strange Fruit.
Weekly Wire, http://www.weeklywire.com/ (May 15, 2000), Michael Sims, "Ripe for Discovery: Recent Volume Tells Compelling Story of Tragic, Historic Jazz Tune."