A powerful portrait of the lives of four boarding school graduates who died too young, John F. Kennedy, Jr. among them, by their fellow Andover classmate, New York Times bestselling author William D. Cohan.
In his masterful pieces for Vanity Fair and in his bestselling books, William D. Cohan has proven to be one of the most meticulous and intrepid journalists covering the world of Wall Street and high finance. In his utterly original new book, Four Friends, he brings all of his brilliant reportorial skills to a subject much closer to home: four friends of his who died young. All four attended Andover, the most elite of American boarding schools, before spinning out into very different orbits. Indelibly, using copious interviews from wives, girlfriends, colleagues, and friends, Cohan brings these men to life on the page.
Jack Berman, the child of impoverished Holocaust survivors, uses his unlikely Andover pedigree to achieve the American dream, only to be cut down in an unimaginable act of violence. Will Daniel, Harry Truman’s grandson and the son of the managing editor of The New York Times, does everything possible to escape the burdens of a family legacy he’s ultimately trapped by. Harry Bull builds the life of a careful, successful Chicago lawyer and heir to his family’s fortune...before taking an inexplicable and devastating risk on a beautiful summer day. And the life and death of John F. Kennedy, Jr.—a story we think we know—is told here with surprising new details that cast it in an entirely different light.
Four Friends is an immersive, wide-ranging, tragic, and ultimately inspiring account of promising lives cut short, written with compassion, honesty, and insight. It not only captures the fragility of life but also its poignant, magisterial, and pivotal moments.
Prep school grads drift toward untimely ends in this underwhelming biographical elegy. Business journalist Cohan (The Last Tycoons) profiles four classmates who attended the elite Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass., with him in the 1970s and died by their early 40s: Will Daniel, a social worker who was run over by a taxi while walking drunk; Harry Bull, a CEO who drowned with his daughters in a boating accident; Jack Berman, the most sympathetic figure, a lawyer who was killed in a mass shooting; and, most spectacularly, Camelot heir John F. Kennedy Junior, who crashed his plane into the Atlantic, killing himself and his wife and sister-in-law. But there's little distinction in their stories as Cohan relates them: pot-smoking, wavering grades, and indulgent schoolmasters at Andover; assists from family wealth; no startling successes or noble failures. Cohan's attempts at pathos fall flat ("Daniel grappled his entire life with how to handle the fame and adulation that came from being the grandchild of "), and his theme of youthful promise snuffed out rings hollow, especially in the gossipy Kennedy section, which reveals a profound lack of promise Kennedy repeated 12th grade fulfilled by lasting underachievement. The result is an uninvolving study of privileged men felled more by bad judgment than tragic fate.