Nick Tosches

Nicholas P. Tosches (/ˈtɑːʃəs/; October 23, 1949 – October 20, 2019) was an American journalist, novelist, biographer, and poet. His 1982 biography of Jerry Lee Lewis, Hellfire, was praised by Rolling Stone magazine as "the best rock and roll biography ever written."[1][2]

Nick Tosches
Born(1949-10-23)October 23, 1949
Newark, New Jersey, U.S.
DiedOctober 20, 2019(2019-10-20) (aged 69)
Manhattan, New York, U.S.
OccupationBiographer, essayist, journalist, novelist, poet


Tosches was born in Newark, New Jersey on October 23, 1949.[3] His surname originated from Albanian settlers in Italy, known as Arbëreshë; his grandfather emigrated from the village of Casalvecchio di Puglia to New York City in the late 19th century.[4]

According to his own account, Tosches "barely finished high school".[2] He did not attend college but was published for the first time in Fusion magazine at 19 years old.[5] He also held a variety of jobs, including working as a porter for his family's business in New Jersey, as a paste-up artist for the Lovable underwear company in New York City,[5][6] and later, in the early 1970s, as a snake hunter for the Miami Serpentarium, in Florida. A fan of early rock and roll and "oddball" records,[2] he wrote for several rock music magazines, including Creem and Rolling Stone.[7] He was also reviews editor for Country Music magazine.[8] He has been described as "the best example of a good rock journalist who set out to transcend his genre and succeeded,"[1] and as someone who "along with Lester Bangs, Richard Meltzer and a handful of other noble notables from the era... elevated rock writing to a new plateau."[2] He was fired by Rolling Stone for collaborating with Meltzer in filing record reviews under each other's byline.[6]

Tosches' first book, Country: The Biggest Music in America (later retitled Country: The Twisted Roots of Rock and Roll), was first published in 1977. It was followed in 1982 by Hellfire, a biography of Jerry Lee Lewis, and in 1984 by Unsung Heroes of Rock 'n' Roll: The Birth of Rock in the Wild Years Before Elvis. He subsequently wrote biographies of the singer and entertainer Dean Martin, the Sicilian financier Michele Sindona, the heavyweight boxer Sonny Liston, the country singer Emmett Miller, the soul/rock band Hall & Oates and the racketeer Arnold Rothstein.[1][6]

Tosches worked as a contributing editor of Vanity Fair magazine.[4] His work was also published in Esquire and Open City. He published four novels, Cut Numbers (1988), Trinities (1994), In the Hand of Dante (2002), and Me and the Devil (2012); and a collection of poetry, Chaldea and I Dig Girls (1999). He also worked on Never Trust a Loving God, a book he did in collaboration with his friend the French painter Thierry Alonso Gravleur.[9] He described his literary influences as "Hesiod, Sappho, Christopher Marlowe, Ezra Pound, William Faulkner, Charles Olson, and God knows who else."[4] A compendium, The Nick Tosches Reader, collects writings from over the course of his career.[10]

Tosches was featured on the Travel Channel show Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations in the episode "Disappearing Manhattan", in which he and Bourdain shared a drink at Sophie's in the East Village, a Manhattan dive bar, and discussed the changing nature of the city.[11]

Tosches died on October 20, 2019, at his home in Manhattan, three days before his 70th birthday.[10]



  • 1982 – Hellfire: The Jerry Lee Lewis Story. New York: Dell Publishing. ISBN 9780440535492.
  • 1984 – with Hall, Daryl & Oates, John. Dangerous Dances: The Authorized Biography. New York: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 9780312357160.
  • 1986 – Power on Earth. New York: Arbor House. ISBN 9780877957966.
  • 1992 – Dino: Living High in the Dirty Business of Dreams. New York: Doubleday. ISBN 9780385262163.
  • 2000 – The Devil and Sonny Liston. Boston: Little, Brown and Company. ISBN 9780316897754.
  • 2001 – Where Dead Voices Gather. London: Little, Brown and Company. ISBN 9780316895071.
  • 2005 – King of the Jews. New York: Ecco. ISBN 9780066211183.

Fiction and poetry

  • 1988 – Cut Numbers. New York: Harmony Books. ISBN 9780517568705.
  • 1994 – Trinities. New York: Doubleday. ISBN 9780385470032.
  • 1999 – Chaldea and I Dig Girls. New York: CUZ Editions. ISBN 9780966632859.
  • 2002 – In the Hand of Dante. Boston: Little, Brown and Company. ISBN 9780316735643.
  • 2012 – Me and the Devil. New York: Little, Brown and Company. ISBN 9780316120975.
  • 2014 – Johnny's First Cigarette. Sénouillac: Vagabonde. ISBN 9782919067138.
  • 2015 – Under Tiberius. New York: Little, Brown and Company. ISBN 9780316405652.




Film and television appearances


  1. Nunez, Christina. "Meet the Writers: Nick Tosches". Barnes and Noble. Retrieved August 12, 2013.
  2. Doane, Rex (November 12, 1999). "Nick Tosches, the Man in the Leopard-Skin Loafers". Salon. Retrieved August 12, 2013.
  3. Calendar of Historical Events, Births, Holidays and Observances
  4. Bloom, Michael. "Nick Tosches's Satisfaction". Scram Magazine. Archived from the original on June 25, 2013. Retrieved August 12, 2013.
  5. Raab, Scott (December 13, 2012). "Nick Tosches: The ESQ&A". Esquire. Archived from the original on October 21, 2019. Retrieved August 13, 2013.
  6. Miliard, Mike (September 26, 2002). "Saint Nick". The Phoenix. Archived from the original on April 5, 2013. Retrieved August 12, 2013.
  7. Kreps, Daniel (2019). "Nick Tosches, Music Journalist and Novelist, Dead at 69". Rolling Stone. Retrieved October 21, 2019.
  8. Kienzle, Rich (March 9, 2016). "Remembering Journalist John Morthland, Friend and Mentor". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved October 21, 2019.
  9. Birnbaum, Robert. "Nick Tosches's Unpredictable Enthusiasms and Obsessions Are Worth Paying Attention To". Morning News. Retrieved August 12, 2013.
  10. Genzlinger, Neil (October 20, 2019). "Nick Tosches, Fiery Music Writer and Biographer, Dies at 69". The New York Times. Retrieved October 20, 2019.
  11. Edroso, Roy (February 25, 2009). "Bourdain Hits Manhattan Haunts, Including Sophie's Bar". The Village Voice. Retrieved October 20, 2019.
  12. "Blue Eyes and Exit Wounds: Credits". Exit Wounds. July 18, 1999. Archived from the original on August 3, 2002. Retrieved October 21, 2019.
  13. Wilonsky, Robert (March 3, 2006). "Sweet Thighs and Another Surprise". Dallas Observer. Retrieved October 21, 2019.
  14. Howell, Dave (June 12, 2005). "Nick Tosches: fuckthelivingfuckthedead". PopMatters. Retrieved October 20, 2019.
  15. "For the Taking - Nick Tosches: Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved October 21, 2019.
  16. Bentley, Bill (January 10, 2019). "Bentley's Bandstand: January 2019". The Morton Report. Retrieved October 21, 2019.
  17. Gleiberman, Owen (March 17, 2000). "Louis Prima: The Wildest". EW. Retrieved October 21, 2019.
  18. "Hubert Selby Jr.: It/ll be Better Tomorrow". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved October 21, 2019.
  19. Stratton, Jerry (December 10, 2006). "A dark and bloody ground: Hunter S. Thompson". Mimsy Were the Borogoves. Retrieved October 21, 2019.
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