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Stephen Rubin, Renowned Publisher Behind ‘The Da Vinci Code,’ Passes Away at 81

by Michael Nguyen
9 comments
Stephen Rubin's Obituary

Stephen Rubin, the influential publishing executive known for his knack in identifying bestsellers and his fervor for public life and music, has passed away at the age of 81. Rubin played a pivotal role in the careers of authors such as John Grisham and was instrumental in the release of major titles including “The Da Vinci Code” and “Fire and Fury.”

Rubin passed away in a Manhattan hospital on Friday, succumbing to “a brief and unexpected illness,” as confirmed by his nephew, David Rotter.

Stephen Rubin was an indelible fixture in the book publishing industry, renowned for his distinct voice and stylish appearance complete with tortoiseshell glasses and elegant suits. His diverse network of acquaintances ranged from Jacqueline Kennedy to opera star Beverly Sills. Rubin was also noted for hosting lavish gatherings at his expansive West Side apartment and was a wellspring for industry gossip and keen, sometimes caustic, evaluations of friends, associates, and the broader public sphere.

“His presence was immediately felt when he entered a room,” said Jane Friedman, former CEO of HarperCollins Publishers, in an email to The Big Big News. “Rubin had unyielding convictions and was unwavering in his views.”

Stephen Rubin was initially a journalist for The New York Times before entering the publishing industry in the 1980s. He ascended to leadership roles at Doubleday and Henry Holt and Company, and most recently served as a publishing consultant for Simon & Schuster.

Among Rubin’s numerous landmark projects were Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard’s “Killing” series, Laura Esquivel’s “Like Water for Chocolate,” Mitch Albom’s “Tuesdays With Morrie,” Hilary Mantel’s “Bring Up the Bodies,” and former President George W. Bush’s “Decision Points,” a title Rubin championed at a period when Bush was largely unpopular in the publishing realm.

Rubin had the extraordinary feat of overseeing multiple publishing phenomena. In the early 1990s, Rubin was at Doubleday and took on a then lesser-known John Grisham and his novel “The Firm,” effectively catapulting Grisham into the limelight as the face of courtroom drama novels. “Stephen Rubin was a publisher’s dream—loyal, munificent, and infallible in his judgments,” Grisham remarked.

Years later, Rubin led a highly effective promotional drive for Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code,” a title that would sell over 70 million copies, despite criticisms from some quarters and religious objections. Brown praised Rubin for his unwavering enthusiasm and support, stating, “His belief, encouragement, and friendship have been invaluable to me.”

In 2018, Rubin took another bold step by agreeing to publish Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury,” a book that provided an unvarnished look at the Trump presidency and led to significant repercussions within the administration. Rubin described this venture as “the most audacious experience” in his storied career.

Born in New York City, Rubin’s earliest and lifelong love was music, particularly opera. After earning his journalism master’s degree from Boston University—which he later termed financially wasteful—he began his career with UPI and Vanity Fair before profiling artists like Luciano Pavarotti for The New York Times Magazine.

In the mid-1980s, Rubin joined Bantam Books and stayed for six years before moving on to Doubleday. His passion for music remained intact, as he and his late wife Cynthia were instrumental in establishing the Rubin Institute for Music Criticism at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

While Rubin acknowledged that his legacy would likely be defined by his publishing triumphs, especially “The Da Vinci Code,” he took pride in his vast and varied career. In his recently published memoir, “Words and Music,” Rubin mused, “I presume my obituary’s headline will be ‘Publisher of “The Da Vinci Code” passes away’.”

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Stephen Rubin’s Obituary

Who was Stephen Rubin?

Stephen Rubin was a highly influential publishing executive known for his significant contributions to the literary world. He played a pivotal role in launching the careers of several prominent authors such as John Grisham and was instrumental in publishing blockbuster titles including “The Da Vinci Code” and “Fire and Fury.” He passed away at the age of 81.

What did Stephen Rubin contribute to the publishing industry?

Stephen Rubin was noted for his keen eye for identifying bestsellers and his ability to conduct highly effective promotional campaigns. Among his many achievements were the million-selling “Killing” series by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard, Laura Esquivel’s “Like Water for Chocolate,” and former President George W. Bush’s “Decision Points.”

When and where did Stephen Rubin pass away?

Stephen Rubin passed away on a Friday at a hospital in Manhattan after succumbing to a “brief and unexpected illness.” He was 81 years old at the time of his death.

What was Stephen Rubin’s early career like?

Stephen Rubin began his career as a journalist for The New York Times. He transitioned to the publishing industry in the 1980s and eventually rose to leadership positions at Doubleday and Henry Holt and Company. Most recently, he served as a publishing consultant for Simon & Schuster.

How did Stephen Rubin impact John Grisham’s career?

In the early 1990s, Stephen Rubin was working at Doubleday when the publisher was about to release a thriller by a then lesser-known author, John Grisham’s “The Firm.” Rubin’s efforts helped make the novel a bestseller, launching Grisham’s career and solidifying his reputation as a leading author of courtroom drama.

Was Stephen Rubin involved in any controversies?

Stephen Rubin was noted for his bold choices in publishing, including taking on former President George W. Bush’s “Decision Points” at a time when Bush was widely unpopular, and Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury,” which was highly critical of the Trump administration. However, these choices only seemed to solidify his reputation for audacity and a keen eye for potential bestsellers.

What was Stephen Rubin’s personal life like?

Stephen Rubin was a New York City native with a passion for music, especially opera. Along with his late wife Cynthia, he helped run the Rubin Institute for Music Criticism at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

How are authors and industry leaders reacting to Stephen Rubin’s death?

Many have expressed their admiration and gratitude for Rubin’s contributions to their careers and to the publishing industry at large. John Grisham called him a “publisher’s dream—loyal, munificent, and infallible in his judgments,” while Dan Brown praised his unwavering support and enthusiasm.

What is the legacy that Stephen Rubin leaves behind?

Stephen Rubin leaves a profound and lasting impact on the publishing industry. His knack for identifying talent, coupled with his audacious choices and effective promotional campaigns, make him a legendary figure in the literary world.

More about Stephen Rubin’s Obituary

  • Stephen Rubin’s Career Overview
  • History of Doubleday Publishing
  • John Grisham’s Literary Journey
  • Impact of “The Da Vinci Code”
  • The “Killing” History Series by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard
  • Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury”
  • Rubin Institute for Music Criticism at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music
  • Henry Holt and Company: A Publishing History
  • Simon & Schuster: Publisher Profile
  • Stephen Rubin’s Memoir “Words and Music”

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9 comments

NY_Native October 16, 2023 - 6:56 am

As a New Yorker, always proud to see one of our own make such a huge impact. he really did put the ‘publish’ in the Big Apple.

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LiteraryFanatic October 16, 2023 - 7:28 am

can’t believe the man behind Da Vinci Code and Fire and Fury is gone. What a legacy tho!

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MusicLover101 October 16, 2023 - 9:58 am

Didn’t know he was into opera too. Guy had a diverse range of interests. really shows that a love for the arts can shape an incredible career.

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MemoirReader October 16, 2023 - 11:47 am

need to get my hands on his memoir “Words and Music.” It’ll be like he’s still telling his stories, y’know?

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BookWorm October 16, 2023 - 12:45 pm

His legacy lives on in every bestseller he touched. its a big loss for the publishing industry for sure.

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FutureAuthor October 16, 2023 - 3:17 pm

Reading this makes me wish i could’ve worked with him. Seems like the kinda guy who could spot a bestseller from a mile away.

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GrishamFan October 16, 2023 - 3:56 pm

Rubin launched Grisham’s career? Now that’s what i call having an eye for talent. RIP Rubin.

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PoliticoThink October 16, 2023 - 4:56 pm

Rubin wasnt afraid to dive into controversies. Signing Bush’s book when he was unpopular, publishing Fire and Fury? man had guts.

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John_D_Reader October 16, 2023 - 8:04 pm

Whoa, never realized Stephen Rubin was such a big deal in the publishing world. His influence is kinda monumental, isn’t it?

Reply

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