The Adventures of Herbie Cohen: World’s Greatest Negotiator

Farrar. May 2022. 240p. ISBN 9780374169619. $27. BIOG
Family has been a fertile topic for Rich Cohen. Having tackled his mother’s irascible clan in Sweet and Low (his grandfather created the artificial sweetener Sweet ’N Low) and his own parenthood in Pee Wees: Confessions of a Hockey Parent, the author here turns his eye to his father Herb Cohen—dubbed “the world’s best negotiator” by Playboy magazine in 1980. Cohen traces how a Jewish kid from Brooklyn became the man who handled negotiations for top corporations and two U.S. presidents. Herb always followed three simple principles, the book explains: care, but not too much; never negotiate for yourself; and understand every player in the game has something at stake. Well aware of his father’s foibles and flaws, author Cohen effectively balances rackety anecdotes about his father roaming his childhood patch of Bensonhurst with Sandy Koufax and Zeke the Greek (later and better known as Larry King) and coaching ragtag U.S. Army basketball on the German front during World War II. He also thoughtfully looks at how Herb Cohen’s personality and antics translated into being a father, and how his high-profile career affected his wife and family.
VERDICT A fast-paced, clear-eyed view of a colorful character and a complicated father. Any library with Rich Cohen’s other works (or Herb Cohen’s best seller You Can Negotiate Anything) will find this a solid add for their collections.
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