Ruben was born and raised in Los Angeles, the son of a gas company worker and a homemaker. He is the oldest of five kids. When Ruben was a young boy, he and his family lived in an East Los Angeles neighborhood dominated by Latino gangs. Before Ruben began the second grade, the family moved to a suburb 10 miles east, where the Latino gangs were not as dominant. As an adolescent, Ruben would fire baskets at his middle school until a finger on his shooting hand bled. He dreamed of playing guard for the UCLA Bruins and then the Los Angeles Lakers. When he realized he didn’t have the size, athleticism, or skill to be more than a high school bench player, Ruben turned to journalism. After graduating from college he worked for the Los Angeles Herald Examiner, where he helped cover earthquakes, gang shootings, and a papal visit.
In the fall of 1989, as crack war violence turned dozens of D.C. neighborhoods into combat zones, Ruben joined The Washington Post to work as a night police reporter. He raced to murder scenes and got to know street cops, detectives, gangsters, and hustlers. He also fed the pathology by buying large volumes of crack. During his first two years in D.C., Ruben was an active crack addict who contributed to the pathology he was chronicling.
Thanks to a couple of stand-up Post editors and a heroin junkie prostitute, Ruben got clean in 1992. He went on to expose widespread police brutality in Prince George’s County, Maryland. Ruben has won or shared in several journalism awards. He contributed the short story, “Coyote Hunt,” to D.C. Noir, an anthology of crime stories edited by best-selling author George Pelecanos, which was published in 2006.
He is a passionate fan of Bruce Springsteen, the Beatles, The Clash, Paul McCartney, the Dodgers, and the Lakers. Ruben still plays pickup basketball every Saturday morning. “S Street Rising” is his first book.