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the king of vodka
      Photo by Kristen Sandifer

Recent Blog Posts & Articles:

from The New York Times

Like a Tupperware Party, With Punching

IT had been more than two decades since Betty Kim Ryan, then a high school student, last took a course in self-defense.  

from The Wall Street Journal

A Pet Hard to Cuddle Up To

Lisa Parnpichate says she is obsessed with collecting seahorses as pets, but her past efforts to keep the delicate creatures alive repeatedly failed. This year, she gave it one more try.

Unlocking Dyslexia in Japanese

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from Parade

Judging the Value of Redemption

Swirling through the halls of Boston’s juvenile court, lawyer Rick Dyer, 58, glad-hands everyone from bailiffs to judges... read more

from Campaign for the American Reader

The Page 99 Test:
Linda Himelstein's "The King of Vodka" By Marshal Zeringue

In this sweeping history of vodka scion Pyotr Smirnov and his family, distinguished journalist Linda Himelstein plumbs a great riddle of Russian history through the story of a humble serf who rose to create one of the most celebrated ... read more

from 1st BOOKS: Stories of How Writers Get Started

Linda Himelstein:
From Journalist to Author

It never really occurred to me that I would write a book. I always thought of myself first and foremost as a journalist. I loved the pace of writing news stories, whether it was a lengthy investigative feature or a quick breaking news item. I couldn't imagine sticking with just one subject for years on end, holed up in some stark room all by my lonesome. Then I met the Smirnovs... read more


Linda Himelstein is the author of The King of Vodka: The Story of Pyotr Smirnov and the Upheaval of an Empire.

A graduate of Scripps College and Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism, Ms. Himelstein is a veteran reporter. She began her career in the Washington bureau of The Wall Street Journal, and from there went on to work for The San Francisco Recorder and Legal Times, members of American Lawyer Media group. She covered congress, federal agencies, city hall, and the courts, and appeared on television outlets such as CNN and C-SPAN as an expert commentator on news of the day.

 In 1993, Ms. Himelstein joined BusinessWeek in New York as its legal affairs editor. She wrote about a wide array of topics, including the tobacco industry and Wall Street. One of her cover stories, titled the Bankers Trust Tapes, earned national headlines and helped BusinessWeek win the National Magazine Award. As legal affairs editor, Ms. Himelstein also covered the lawsuit filed by Smirnov's descendants. They sought to return the trademarks and copyrights of the vodka empire, lost in the tumult following the Russian revolution, to the family and to Russia. It was a fascinating story that earned BusinessWeek's publisher's award.

 In 1996, Ms. Himelstein relocated to the Bay Area, writing about finance and retail for BusinessWeek. Two years later, she became the Silicon Valley Bureau Chief just as the technology boom took off. She wrote about the infancies of eBay and Yahoo! as well as many other early technology standouts. Despite the excitement of Silicon Valley, Ms. Himelstein could not forget the Smirnovs and their compelling story. She wondered what had happened to them and how many other Russians faced similar plights. At the end of 2004, Ms. Himelstein left the magazine and focused her energy for more than four years on the research, reporting, and writing necessary to tell the fascinating—and wrenching—tale in The King of Vodka.

Ms. Himelstein lives in the San Francisco area with her family.