Journalist and bestselling author of "Hidden Valley Road" and "Lost Girls"
Robert Kolker is the author of Hidden Valley Road, an instant #1 New York Times best-seller and selection of Oprah’s Book Club that was named a Top Ten Book of the Year by the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and Slate; one of the year’s best by NPR, the Boston Globe, the New York Post, and Amazon; the #1 book of the year by People; and one of President Barack Obama’s favorite books of 2020. His previous work includes Lost Girls, also a New York Times best-seller and New York Times Notable Book, and one of Slate’s best nonfiction books of the quarter century. He is a National Magazine Award finalist whose journalism has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Wired, O, the Oprah Magazine, the Marshall Project, Bloomberg Businessweek, and New York magazine.
Mr. Kolker’s magazine journalism most often takes the form of gripping, humane narratives. Among his subjects: perhaps the most unbelievable survival story to come out of World War II; the most audacious embezzlement scandal in the history of American public education; the comedy stars who created and starred in This Is Spinal Tap and somehow never saw a dime’s profit from it; the scientists who developed the revolutionary gene-editing process known as CRISPR and then went to battle over the credit; the slow, sad decline of the New York City subway system; the police detective who brought down perhaps the world’s largest online child-exploitation ring; the defiant Ukrainian oligarch in the crosshairs of the investigators probing Donald Trump; the tenacious data miner who has built a tool to find serial killers and close countless ancient cold cases (if police are willing to use it); the “Subway Superman” grappling with sudden fame; a young academic star rising up from the inner city, only to be gunned down in her old neighborhood; the secret history of how the FBI finally tracked down the fugitive abortion-doctor assassin James Kopp; and the FBI Osama bin Laden expert killed in the World Trade Center attacks. His 2006 investigation into sexual abuse in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community helped bring an abuser to justice and was nominated for a National Magazine Award. His exploration of an eighteen-year murder-exoneration case and the police tactics that can lead to false confessions received the Harry Frank Guggenheim 2011 Excellence in Criminal Justice Reporting Award from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. Other articles of note include the police shooting of Sean Bell, a close look at New York’s homelessness epidemic, and New York’s cover stories about airport safety and security, cheating at Stuyvesant High School, and Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger’s Miracle on the Hudson.
Lost Girls has been adapted for a feature film, directed by Liz Garbus and starring Amy Ryan and Gabriel Byrne, released by Netflix in 2020.
“The Bad Superintendent,” Mr. Kolker’s 2004 story in New York magazine about a public-school embezzlement scandal, was adapted for the feature film Bad Education, starring Hugh Jackman and Allison Janney, released on HBO in 2020.