© Cathrine Westergaard

Gary Rivlin

Gary Rivlin is the author of five acclaimed works of nonfiction: Broke, USA, The Godfather of Silicon Valley, The Plot to Get Bill Gates, Drive-By, and Fire on the Prairie: Chicago's Harold Washington and the Politics of Race, winner of the Carl Sandburg Award for Nonfiction and the Chicago Sun-Times Nonfiction Book of the Year. He has reported on city politics for The Chicago Reader and the East Bay Express. His work has appeared in many publications, including The Nation, Upside, In These Times, and the San Francisco Chronicle. In 1993, he received the San Francisco Bay Area Media Alliance's Print Journalist of the Year Award for his reporting on urban violence. He lives in Oakland and is editor of the East Bay Express.

Prizes and Honors

The Society of American Business Editors and Writers, "best in business writing," breaking news, 2006.

Gerald Loeb Award for Distinguished Business and Financial Journalism, deadline writing, 2005.

Gerald Loeb Award for Distinguished Business and Financial Journalism, magazine category, 2001.

California Bar Association's "Gold Medallion" award, 1996.

Pen-WEST's "Best of West," Non-fiction finalist, 1995, Drive-By.

Society for Professional Journalists, Northern California chapter, Best Enterprise reporting, 1993

San Francisco Bay Area Media Alliance's "Print Journalism" prize, 1993

California Newspaper Publishers' Association, best writer for a non-daily
newspaper, 1993

Chicago Sun-Times's Non-Fiction Book of the Year, 1992, Fire on the Prairie

Carl Sandburg Award for Non-Fiction, 1992, Fire on the Prairie

The Society of National Association of Publications, Silver Award for Editorial Excellence, 1982, "By Reason of Insanity"


Broke, USA

From Pawnshops to Poverty, Inc. - How the Working Poor Became Big Business

HarperBusiness, 2010

For most people, the Great Crash of 2008 has meant troubling times. Not so for those in the flourishing poverty industry, for whom the economic woes spell an opportunity to expand and grow. These mercenary entrepreneurs have taken advantage of an era of deregulation to devise high-priced products to sell to the credit-hungry working poor, including the instant tax refund and the payday loan. In the process they've created an industry larger than the casino business and have proved that pawnbrokers and check cashers, if they dream big enough, can grow very rich off those with thin wallets.

Broke, USA is Gary Rivlin's riveting report from the economic fringes. From the annual meeting of the national check cashers association in Las Vegas to a tour of the foreclosure-riddled neighborhoods of Dayton, Ohio, here is a subprime Fast Food Nation featuring an unforgettable cast of characters and memorable scenes. Rivlin profiles players like a former small-town Tennessee debt collector whose business offering cash advances to the working poor has earned him a net worth in the hundreds of millions, and legendary Wall Street dealmaker Sandy Weill, who rode a subprime loan business into control of the nation's largest bank. Rivlin parallels their stories with the tale of those committed souls fighting back against the major corporations, chain franchises, and newly hatched enterprises that fleece the country's hardworking waitresses, warehouse workers, and mall clerks.

Timely, shocking, and powerful, Broke, USA offers a much-needed look at why our country is in a financial mess and gives a voice to the millions of ordinary Americans left devastated in the wake of the economic collapse.

The Godfather of Silicon Valley

Ron Conway and the Fall of the Dot-coms

AtRandom, 2001

Gary Rivlin tells the story of Ron Conway, the man who has placed more bets on Internet start-ups than anyone eise in Silicon Valley. Conway is a reader-friendly way into the realm of angel financing, where independently wealthy investors link up with companies just as they are being born. The Godfather of Silicon Valley takes you into this fascinating world on the edges of the financial universe, where the pace is frantic, the story lines are rich, and every moment is perilous.

The Plot to Get Bill Gates

An Irreverent Investigation of the World's Richest Man ... and the People Who Hate Him

Random House, 1999

From 1989 to 1999, Bill Gates had evolved from a mere software mogul to a full-blown global cultural icon, as universally known and scrutinized by the media as Madonna, Michael Jordan, or Princess Diana. Meanwhile, legions of people - from Silicon Valley to Washington, DC - have become utterly obsessed with Gates and his then $80 billion fortune, plotting strategies to end Microsoft's dominance over the technology universe, and suffering from what high-tech pundit Esther Dyson has dubbed "Bill Envy." As Dyson told author Gary Rivlin, "Just about every guy in this business suffers from it. Bill is like the Rorschach blot of the industry. What people think of him tells you more about them than it does about him."

Rivlin, an award-winning journalist, spent three years interviewing, researching and writing THE PLOT TO GET BILL GATES, which chronicles the software wars as an entertaining and often funny hybrid of Moby Dick andRoger & Me. He offers fresh insights into some of the wealthiest and most powerful men in the tech business, each of whom learned that, like the Great White Whale, Bill Gates only becomes angrier, hungrier, and more dangerous every time you try to attack him. And like Captain Ahab, these normally smart executives discovered that blind obsession and hatred for your enemy can cloud your better judgment and perhaps even sink your ship.

Rivlin draws fascinating portraits of such moguls as Larry Ellison of Oracle, Scott McNealy of Sun Microsystems, Ray Noorda of Novell, Marc Andreessen and Jim Barksdale of Netscape, and Philippe Kahn of Borland - as well as other Gates-detractors such as attorney Gary Reback, consumer activist Ralph Nader, and venture capitalist John Doerr. As a loosely knit cabal, they really did (and some still do) see themselves as a Rebel Alliance fighting a noble war against Darth Vader and his Evil Empire. They despise Gates for his ruthlessness, his underhanded and possibly illegal tactics, and his insistence that he's really just a regular Joe who loves making great software and doesn't care much about money. Of course, as Rivlin stresses, most of Gates's enemies aren't exactly boy scouts, and would have been just as cold-blooded and devious for the chance to have his level of wealth and power.


Henry Holt & Co, 1995

The story of a group of teenagers whose dispute over a bicycle ended in murder presents the experiences of their families, investigators, and defenders, in an examination of the human element of random violence.

Fire on the Prairie:

Chicago's Harold Washington and the Politics of Race

Henry Holt & Co, 1992

Chicago--the city whose name is synonymous with urban politics; the city of sharply divided ethnic and racial enclaves; the city whose police force shocked America during the 1968 Democratic convention and then the next year killed Black Panther leader Fred Hampton. As Martin Luther King, Jr., said when he traveled to Chicago in 1965 to turn his attention to the great urban centers of the north, "If we crack Chicago, then we crack the world." Black empowerment "would take off like a prairie fire across the land." In 1983 Chicago elected Harold Washington as the city's first black mayor. This is the story of Washington's improbable victory over Jane Byrne, heir to the late Richard J. Daley's political empire, and over Daley's eldest son. It's the story of a coalition outside the party's mainstream coming to power and ruling in the country's most political of cities. In Fire on the Prairie, Gary Rivlin reveals the personalities and philosophies of those who were at the center of events, from black separatists such as Lu Palmer to community organizers such as Jesse Jackson, and from white liberals who held Washington at arm's length to Chicago originals like Ed Vrdolyak, the opposition's leader. At the center of the drama was Harold Washington, an enigmatic yet engaging figure who fashioned an uneasy but potent multiracial coalition that ruled for five years. The conflicts and compromises of all are described in vivid detail and the resulting history is a thorough account of an election and an administration that captured the nation's attention. Like Mississippi in the 1960s or Boston in the 1970s, Chicago in the 1980s was the stage for a drama that revealed the dimensions of America's racial politics and offered insights and inspiration for future generations.

Broke, USA

From Booklist
*Starred Review* Long before subprime lending and its role in the near-collapse of the U.S. financial system, a critical mass of businesses aimed at the working poor had been growing across the nation and exerting power in Washington. Award-winning reporter Rivlin chronicles the boom in the "fringe financial sector" as pawnshops, pay-day lenders, and rent-to-own stores have blossomed, gone public, and gained a measure of respectability, all by targeting their overpriced services to the working poor. Whether they have been exploiting their customers or merely providing them with desperately needed services is a matter of perspective to the gallery of characters Rivlin interviewed: borrowers who lost their homes, small-town debt collectors who moved into the cash-advance business, and consumer advocates fighting to curb the abuses of Poverty Inc., which has generated an economy of at least $100 billion a year compared to $60 billion for casinos. This is a powerful analysis, detailing how the financial sector has come to its current state of crisis and including personal stories of some among the millions of working Americans who have been exploited along the way. -- Vanessa Bush


The Plot to Get Bill Gates

"What a sweet book this is---so shrewd about the larger-than-life personalities who rule the world of computer software; so joyously written; so filled with both rollicking tales of the software wars and powerful insights about the nature of high-tech competition. I learned far more than I thought I would from reading The Plot to Get Bill Gates. And I had an awfully good time doing so."
--Joseph Nocera, editor-at-large, Fortune

"In gripping, fast-paced style, Gary Rivlin takes us inside the business battle of the new century, the relentless pursuit of Bill Gates by his powerhouse rivals. With meticulous detail and keen intellectual independence, Rivlin takes us on an amusing and provocative trip inside the world of Gates and various anti-Gates conspiracies. Rivlin is a resourceful reporter, a passionate writer, and a marvelous storyteller who offers a fresh and exciting look at today's cyber-barons."
--Clarence Page, Pulitzer Prize--winning columnist for the Chicago Tribune

"Gary Rivlin does for the nineties what Tom Wolfe's Radical Chic and Mau-Mauing the Flak-Catchers did for the sixties, memorably chronicling the pretension and foibles of era-defining individuals with a very sharp quill. The Plot to Get Bill Gates combines impressive reporting, original analysis, and a keen eye for telling details that illuminate a larger story of mass obsession. This is Melville updated for our times, with a Politically Incorrect twist of humor."
--Randall Stross, author of The Microsoft Way


Gary Rivlin on "Broke, USA:

From Pawnshops to Poverty, Inc.— How the Working Poor Became Big Business"

In his latest book, bestselling author and journalist Gary Rivlin says the rapacious practices of subprime lenders laid the foundation for powerful mainstream banks to get into the subprime business and turn it into a multi-billion dollar enterprise. He calls this the "poverty industry." And for those in this industry, business is booming. The book is called, "Broke, USA: From Pawnshops to Poverty, Inc.--How the Working Poor Became Big Business."


Gary Rivlin on the Silicon Valley millionaires' endless pursuit of success.

Visit Gary's personal website for the latest news and events: www.garyrivlin.com.