Does the King of the COVID-19 Contrarians Have a Case? – Vanity Fair

Posted: April 21, 2020 at 3:46 pm


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Berensons upbringing seems tailor-made for the media elite, growing up in Englewood, New Jersey, and attending Horace Mann and then Yale, where he graduated in 1994. He joined the Times five years later, after cutting his teeth at the Denver Post and Jim Cramers financial start-up, TheStreet.com. Around the Times, which he joined in 1999, Berenson was known as a dogged reporter, according to friends, former colleagues, and former friends.

He knew his way around complicated data sets and corporate accounting logs. He covered hedge funds and later the pharmaceutical industry, but liked to go out drinking with cops and law enforcement figures, hanging around with people for whom the stakes were higher than the bottom line. He is remembered as an almost obsessive fan of Trumps The Apprentice when it first aired. He was headstrong and seen as difficult to work with, but with a contrarian streak that led him to look in places others werent. He realized back in 2002 that companies were cooking their books and wrote a series of articles about it, which eventually led to Tyco CEO Dennis Kozlowski storming into the Times offices with a handful of associates to accuse Berenson of printing lies; Berenson wrote a book on these fraudulent accounting practices while Kozlowski spent more than six years in prison for stealing nearly $100 million from the company.

Berenson later moved into the fiction world, where hes written 12 spy novels that center around a character named John Wells, a super spy with excellent language skills, extreme physical capabilities, and an unquestionable loyalty to the United States, who, while working for the CIA, infiltrates al-Qaida, over time becoming indoctrinated in the terrorist organization, adopting the Muslim faith, and questioning U.S. policy in the Middle East, according to the website Book Series in Order. As the novels progress, Wells returns to the U.S., then back to the Middle East, falls in love with a fellow CIA operative, courts danger, and staves off global disaster, left questioning his belief in human kind, but remaining the ultimate warrior as he combines unrelenting loyalty to his country and the physical traits necessary to get the job done at any cost, someone consumed with a violent streak of revenge as he tracks down those responsibility [sic] for innocent violence and brings justice to the world. As each novel begins, a new threat is unleashed and only John Wells has the knowledge and expertise to save the United States. Wells is a 210-pound, Montanaraised, one-man Team America, in the words of one reviewer, but he is also a reluctant spy, at one point going on a cruise with his girlfriend to prove his commitment to her, only to find himself pulled back into espionage, sometimes against his better judgment.

The books have become best sellers, and garnered Berenson an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America, even as some reviewers chafed at the books apparent endorsement of torture and their graphic depictions of violence. Its rare to go more than a few pages without encountering a sickening passage like this, read a Times review of The Secret Soldier, the fifth book in the series. Shrapnel tore open his face and neck, and one jagged piece chopped through his skull and cut into the arteries around his brain, causing massive internal bleeding. He died, but not soon enough.

They also borrow from real-life events, and occasionally tragic ones that some writers may feel conflicted about repurposing for their fictions (Maybe I should, but I dont, Berenson once told an interviewer about the matter). He traveled to global hot spots such as Kandahar and Cairo to pick up the mood and feel of the place. But they also rely on Berensons experience as a reporter with the Times, where he mostly worked at the business desk, but also traveled to Iraq at the start of the war, where he was briefly taken captive by insurgents, blindfolded, tied up, and threatened with death before being released.

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Does the King of the COVID-19 Contrarians Have a Case? - Vanity Fair

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April 21st, 2020 at 3:46 pm

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