Nick Tosches, a former rock critic whose biographies and novels made him one of New York’s most respected writers, died today at his Manhattan home. He was 69 and his death was confirmed by a friend, who could not provide a cause.
Tosches started in the 1960s in the heyday of Creem magazine, helping define the emerging world of rock journalism and its ties to various genres. He was part of a trio of music writers with Richard Meltzer and Lester Bangs that some called “the Noise Boys” for their irreverant style.
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His first book, however, veered away from rock. In Country. some of country music’s lesser-known stylists was explored. He repeated the exercise in his later Unsung Heroes of Rock ’n’ Roll, exploring some of that genre’s obscure but important artists.
His first biography, Hellfire: The Jerry Lee Lewis Story” profiled the volatile keyboardist, and and in 1986 he switched gears to produce Power on Earth: Michele Sindona’s Explosive Story,” about the scandal-ridden Italian financier.
Perhaps his biggest work was 1992’s Dino: Living High in the Dirty Business of Dreams, a profile about Dean Martin that stripped away the show business veneer to get at the essence of the man.
“Recordings, movies, radio, television: He would cast his presence over them all, a mob-culture Renaissance man,” he wrote of Martin. “And he would come to know, as few ever would, how dirty the business of dreams could be.”
Tosches was born on Oct. 23, 1949, in Newark, NJ to Nick and Muriel Ann (Wynn) Tosches.
Through the 1970s and into the ’80s he wrote for Creem, Rolling Stone, and the Village Voice, among other publications.
In 1988, he issued his first novel, Cut Numbers, about a small-time loan shark. Another, Trinities, followed, about the international heroin trade.
Tosches became a contributing editor to Vanity Fair in the mid-1990s, and expanded an article he wrote on Sonny Liston into the 2000 biography, The Devil and Sonny Liston.
His most acclaimed work of fiction, In the Hand of Dante, was published in 2002. The novel concerned previously unknown manuscript of Dante’s The Divine Comedy.