About Phil

Philip Caputo, authorNovelist and journalist Philip Caputo has written 15 books, including two memoirs, five books of general nonfiction, and eight novels. His acclaimed memoir of Vietnam, A Rumor of War, has been published in 15 languages, has sold two million copies since its publication in 1977, and is widely regarded as a classic in the literature of war. His most recent novel, Crossers, is set against a backdrop of drug and illegal-immigrant smuggling on the Mexican border. The Longest Road, a travel/adventure book, is to be published by Henry Holt in summer 2013.

In addition to books, Caputo has published dozens of major magazine articles, reviews, and op-ed pieces in publications ranging from the New York Times, the Boston Globe, and the Washington Post to Esquire, National Geographic, and the Virginia Quarterly Review.

Caputo’s professional writing career began in 1968, when he joined the staff of the Chicago Tribune, serving as a general assignment and team investigative reporter until 1972. For the next five years, he was a foreign correspondent for that newspaper, stationed in Rome, Beirut, Saigon, and Moscow.

He has lectured at approximately 20 universities and prep schools around the country, has been a featured speaker for the National Book Committee, the American Library Association, and the American Publisher’s Association, and a participant at the Key West Literary Seminar, the Tennessee Williams Literary Festival, the Chicago Humanities Festival, and the Cheltenham Literary Festival in Cheltenham, England.

He has also worked as a screenwriter for Paramount Pictures and Michael Douglas Productions. He has been a guest on the Charlie Rose Show and the Today Show, and has narrated or appeared in several TV documentaries on the Vietnam War, the Cold War, and other subjects.

Prizes and Awards

Caputo has won 10 journalistic and literary awards, including the Pulitzer Prize in 1972 (shared for team investigative reporting on vote fraud in Chicago), the Overseas Press Club Award in 1973, the Sidney Hillman Foundation award in 1977 (for A Rumor of War), the Connecticut Book Award in 2006, and the Boston Library Literary Lights Award in 2007. His first novel, Horn of Africa, was a National Book Award finalist in 1980, and his 2007 essay on illegal immigration won the Blackford Prize for nonfiction from the University of Virginia.

Born in Chicago on June 10, 1941, Caputo graduated from Loyola University of Chicago in 1964, and served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1964 to 1967. He and his wife, Leslie Ware, an editor for Consumer Reports magazine, divide their time between Connecticut and Arizona. Caputo has two sons from a previous marriage, Geoffrey, a jazz composer and music teacher, and Marc, a political reporter for the Miami Herald.

Downloadable head shots:
Downloadable Longest Road cover 




Comments (59)

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  1. Lois & Ron Ziegler says:

    what a fabulous website for a most interesting, accomplished man!

  2. I have read most of your books since reading A Rumor of War. Your books are keepers in my library, along with a select few others. I plan to get The Longest Road as soon as I can.

    Warren US Army 1964-67

  3. Phil A. says:

    Dear Mr. Caputo:I really did enjoy your article in today’s Parade Magazine. I would like to point something out which seems to be a common misclassification amongst the American peoples. I too grew up in Chicago and am of Polish Jewish descent . You placed Jews smack dab in the middle of nationalities when you described the ethnic and racial attributes of the city. In fact I think you know better that Jews are part of many nationalities of the world as are Christians and Muslims. In all my years I still don’t understand why many people think being Jewish is a nationality in itself. Even Israel has citizens that are non-Jews. Let’s not try and propagate the ignorance.

    • Philip Caputo says:

      No, Jews are not a nationality in and of themselves, but they are considered an ethnic group, as are Arabs (also from many different countries). It was Jewish as an ethnicity that I was referring to.

  4. Jim Jackson says:

    Greetings, Phil,
    I’m thinking of you because I just saw your son, Marc, on CNN. Seems a sharp and smart young reporter. I was a colleague of yours at the Trib in the 70s, and preceded you in the Moscow bureau. Glad to see you are still writing and aging gracefully.
    I’m retired and living in my hometown of Santa Fe, divorced and remarried to an old school friend. I published a novel, Dzherzinsky Square, in 1986, but decided I preferred the security of a salary so stuck with Time Magazine. I wound up my career as a senior editor at Time, based in London.
    Best regards, Jim Jackson

  5. Phil,
    Congratulations on your latest book. I have noted your career over the years, beginning with the Tribune. It is a long way from our early days at Purdue. I believe you made a wise decision to change your career path when you did as it has apparently paid off well. Your contributions to literature have been well received as they should.
    Best wishehs, Floyd Kettering

  6. pam aunan says:

    USMail address? I want to send a note…complimentary, of course.

  7. Momo says:

    We were required to read your book, A Rumor of War, for my college-level American history class. Part of the assignment was to write an essay on the book emphasizing how and why during the course of your time in Vietnam you changed from being optimistic to more pessimistic about America’s involvement in the war. More importantly, I felt some need to answer your question “How would I have behaved if I were there?” as a larger part of the essay, because I think that was what the professor was driving at.

    This is an incredibly difficult question to answer, particularly since I was not there and I have never seen battle. But I decided to answer the question anyway. I know that many in your generation of people did not look favorably on Vietnam Vets. But I can say with certain confidence that the younger generations do not feel this way. I think I can speak for most of us born to or after the Baby Boomers. Mostly, I suspect I would not have behaved any differently; I don’t think any of us would have based on your story and by that very realization I have concluded we are all the same in your actions. Not guilty or innocent, just the same. To think otherwise is very arrogant. So I feel that we the younger generations will never judge you, for to do so is to negatively judge ourselves as well.

  8. Joan Upthegrove says:

    My brother Cpl Paul W Upthegrove was in your outfit, landing in Vietnam in March of 1965. He was awarded a Bronze Star for rescuing another Marine while under fire. Paul passed away from PTSD and lifelong health problems due to His service. It would mean a lot to me, and to Paul’s daughters, to know if you remembered him. He was a Canadian, a vibrant personality. He was buddies with Wayne Hopp.

  9. Janet Pina says:

    Dear Mr. Caputo, just a note to let you know that I thoroughly enjoyed every chapter of your new book, The Longest Road. We were able to take 2 RV trips of 3 mos., in 1985 and again in 1987–thus setting foot in each of the 50 states (previously one air-sea-land tour of AK and several trips to HI. AK was a 2 week trip on a bus from Anchorage to Fairbanks to Whitehorse, train to Skagway, boat to Juneau, cruise ship to Vancouver and fly home–2 wonderful sunny weeks in Sept. 1978, no bugs, no rain, perfect views of Denali and lots of sightseeing features.) I look back fondly at these swings around the country–we used America From the Road published by Reader’s Digest to locate features in each state we did not want to miss. I was especially intent on seeing Texas, Key West, and Maine. Our first RV was a truck camper, then a 20 ft. motorhome pulling a VW, and finally a 26 ft. fiver trailer/pickup combo. We were able to live in this trailer once when we were between houses and I miss it–however, at 78 and 86, we are more comfortable taking guided bus tours and sleeping in nice hotels. RVing is a wonderful way of life and we did it on the cheap for over 30 years. We did a lot of dry camping and learned to minimize the amount of grey and black water we put into our holding tanks, by utilizing paper plates and bathhouses. I found your account of life on the road with your spouse and two dogs so interesting that I read it almost straight through. You have a gift for writing lively impressions of the locals you met along the way and making me want to go visit some of the places you stayed. Most of our vacation camping was done in western states b/c we have always lived in CA so we focused on the states closest to us. We have had many wonderful vacations in AZ, from Monument Valley to White Mountains, Jerome to Bisbee. I guarantee you, you will never forget your longest road trip to research your book and fulfill the goal you set out in the preface. You and your wife will be laughing and recalling incidents on the road for the rest of your lives, every time you see an Airstream you will be reminded of what it was like to live and travel in one! Happy trails to both of you!

    Janet & Lloyd Pina, Vista, CA

    • mike ferguson says:

      Mr. Caputo,

      I read A Rumor for the first time in early 1984; since then several times again. I’m a former Marine and identified with your experiences as a platoon commander. I’m 8th Marine regiment Beirut survivor grunt and found it interesting you also encountered harrowing experiences in that wonderful city.

      Anyway, the war in Vietnam was certainly more intense than our little adventure in Beirut, reading your work then, so closely following my foray into the void, leftt a deep impression on me. I didn’t really know how to artculate my own disillusionment until I read your work.

      Anyhow, going to drag out my old dog eared copy of The Rumor soon and go at it again.

      Semper Fi,


  10. Diane Legare says:

    I have read a lot of books and must say that The Longest Road will remain one of my favorites. I am an avid 84 year old reader who has had the opportunity to travel quite a lot and how I wish I could have covered those 11000 + miles! I followed your travels with a map and was green with envy all the way. Lucky Leslie and what a wonderful companion she was. I felt a bit sorry for Sage and Sky though, being confined to such a small space for so long, and being left outside on those cold nights.
    Thank you Phil, for a beautiful memoir.

    Diane, Montreal, Qc. Canada

  11. David Bez says:

    Enjoyed this one. There is something magical that happens when a good writer can catch a weather eye on the heart of America while on the road, while at the same time filling in the historical and cultural highways and by ways along the way. On another note, got some what stumped on page 238, when the attention was to Whitman but then, Wordsworth got into the dialogue–What did I miss?

  12. Graham MacDermott says:

    Ordered The Longest Road from Barnes & Noble and am reading it on my Nook. It’s a wonderful read and must have been a great adventure. Know what you mean by being left in the digital dust but I do appreciate my electronic reader and am particularly fond of my gps. We are “winter Texans” and travel each October 5000 kms south to our home in Mission, Texas. Your book inspires me to take a bit longer on the road. We always seem to be in a hurry to reach our destination. We spend six months there and six on our lake in Nova Scotia. The best of both worlds.
    I’m a retired college principal and plugging away on my first effort at a novel. Should your travels ever bring you to the east coast of Canada we would be delighted to see that you have the best feed of lobster ever.
    My wife, Bonnie, also traces her family roots to the Mayflower.

    Graham MacDermott

  13. James Coffey says:

    Just finished The longest road. Enjoyed it from beginning to end..
    I have a comment..On page 188 the footnote states that Custer was
    a Lt. Col at the battle of the Big Horn..also I have just read
    Ulysses Grant in War and Peace and it states on page 565 that
    Sherman and Grant refer to Custer as “General” for this mission to
    the Black Hills. The Source notes say this came from “Grants Papers”
    My visit to the site was long ago and I don’t remember what he was.
    Would you clarify this for me?..
    Thanks again and I am hoping to read all of your books..

    • Philip Caputo says:

      Custer received a brevet, or temporary, rank of General during the Civil War (at age 23!). After the war, he was reverted to the permanent rank of Lt. Col., but he was frequently referred to as “General.”

  14. Marilyn (Ron) Pilon says:

    Hi Phil,
    Do you renenber us? We met during our Moscow days before you became famous. Would love to be in contact with you. I live in SC now. My phone is 864-944-6007. Hope all is well with you. Wonder how the boys are doing and if either or both became writers.
    With wonderful memories of cross country skiing, etc.,
    Marilyn Pilon

  15. Marilyn Pilon says:

    Hi Phil,
    Remember us – Ron & Marilyn Pilon. Just purchased a book of your for a friend who likes your original book Rumor of War. Wondered if there is a way for me to contact you by phone or e-mail. Would love to talk to you.
    Marilyn Pilon

    • Philip Caputo says:

      Sorry for not replying sooner. I was on holiday in Italy. Received your note and will answer soon as I can.

      • Marilyn Pilon says:

        Hi Phil,
        How delighted I was to hear from you & will look forward to your contacting me when you have time.
        Marilyn Pilon

  16. Peter Jensen says:

    Dear Philip: Your sister Mary was my 6th grade teacher, back in 1966-67. After your return she would share with us kids some of the issues about the war that you had discussed with her. I remember that she was very supportive of you and had us kids send Christmas cards to other guys over in Nam. I later went on to become a veteran myself in the early 1970s. If you have a chance to talk to Mary, please give her my regards and let her know I think of her often.

    • Philip Caputo says:

      I’m afraid you have me confused with someone else. I don’t have a sister named Mary who taught grade school. Thanks for writing anyway.

  17. Bill Spanos says:

    Dear Philip;

    Greetings from a fellow Chicagoan (12/02/41) and transplant to the DC Metro area courtesy of
    the US Army (The Old Guard), and still a loyal Cub fan.
    I just finished reading The Longest Road…….fantastic read……..brought back memories of my
    own “Rt 66/Kerouac” adventure in late 1963(Chicago – Half Moon Bay, CA) prior to my Army draft.
    I got the book from one of my clients, Tom Furlong, former National Editor of the Los Angeles Times,
    and also a fellow Chicagoan. Tom asked that I pass the book on to another person which I did….my
    business partners husband, a former Marine, who will pass it along to yet another person and so on, I
    I’m sure that your schedule is quite busy but I would like the opportunity to meet you someday. Are you
    scheduled for any future visits/speeches, etc. to the mid-Atlantic area?

    All the best in the future,


  18. Gabrielle Lucci says:

    Going back in time to your book, Ghosts of Tsavo…I just finished it in preparation for a pleasure trip to Africa early next year. Not quite the same kind of trip as yours. My husband and I will be going with a small tour group based in Canada, likely the only Americans, and we will be doing the upper park loop in Tanzania. I enjoyed the story and your writing and wondered if there were any post scripts to the story which have come to light about the lions since the book was published. It would be nice to impress my tour guides and fellow adventurers. Best regards. Gabrielle

  19. William J. Davis says:

    Mr. Caputo,
    I just finished reading A Rumor Of War. I am a retired high school English teacher and a U.S. Army Veteran. I was a Sheridan Tank Commander with the 3rd Sqdn., 8th Cav. Your novel is the best I have ever encountered on the subject of War Literature. It is the real story of America’s involvement in Vietnam. A history book that flows with vivid realizations about a war that tested the mettle of our “Ground-Pounders” to the absolute limit of their physical and mental capacity. This is the definitive story of our early involvement in Vietnam. It may very well be the greatest literary achievement ever written about Vietnam. Your meticulously blended ideas transform the work into a “must-read-on” novel with unparalleled imagery. I read every word, cover to cover, and utilized my highlighter to capture the most thought-provoking details. Thank you for A Rumor Of War and thank you for your service to our country.

  20. Jason Oberg says:

    Hi Philip,
    Just want to say what a tremendous fan I am of your writing. The son of a Vietnam Veteran, I first read A Rumor of War while a college undergrad and never forgot it. Between the vivid descriptions accented by Sassoon, Owen and Frost so many doors were opened. I truly appreciate your polished writing style. Your Indian Country and Means of Escape were also great accomplishments. I have a hard time putting your books down. Will definitely be reading the Longest Road next. Thank you for your great writing. I appreciate you.

    All the best,
    Albany, MN

  21. Ross Thomas says:

    Hi Philip

    I’m an Aussie not long returned from a four week road trip around Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Oregon and Washington states. What a great journey; what a great country. (Some of my distant family died of cholera in 1854 near Fort Laramie.)

    Keen to learn more of the US, I stumbled on your ‘The Longest Road’ and find it a great read – I have only travelled as far as the Pine Ridge Reservation but am sure the next half will be as rewarding as the first!

    There are many similarities in our two countries. One that disturbs me is how alike are the parlous states of some of our indigenous peoples. Australia has it share of communities that seem a lot like Pine Ridge.

    Keep on writing – you have a great skill and I look forward to reading more of your books.

    Cheers, Ross

    • Hello, Ross — Thanks for taking the time to write. I’m glad you enjoyed your journey, and the “virtual” one you took with me on The Longest Road. You’re spot on about the similarities between the aboriginals of Australia and the U.S. Even if we had treated them benignly — which we certainly did not do — they probably would have ended up in the condition they’re now in. Primitive cultures cannot withstand contact with modern, industrialized civilization. I was in Australia for 10 weeks in 1985, traveling the outback in Queensland and the NT on a magazine assignment. Loved it, sleeping out in the open most nights, and, as in the American West, looking at horizons that seemed to go on forever. Loved the people, too. Raucous and witty and a lot of fun. On the cattle stations I visited, I often felt as if I were in Texas, circa 1875, minus the Comanches.

      There must be a story in how your family got from Fort Laramie all the way to Australia.

      Cheers, Phil

  22. Ross Thomas says:

    Hi again Philip

    Deadhorse – finally arrived on my vicarious journey across the US heartland and enjoyed every minute of it! I loved returning to Astoria, a favorite place after my visit there in May. A kind restaurateur there gave me the best clam chowder recipe. Fort Ketchup (good one) was the final stop on my Lewis and Clark mini-pilgrimage having visited Great Falls and done some white-water rafting on the Yellowstone from Gardner. I thought we had our own great explorers but L & C are in a league of their own. We never had a Jefferson – could do with one now!

    I am glad you have seen some of our Outback though it is much different now – I have just returned from 6 weeks fishing across the north. I spent my youth in the 60’s in the Kimberley region (Australia’s last frontier) but you now find new-fangled devices like telephone (even cell-phones!), television, health-care, etc. Stockman (cowhands) now carry laptops rather than Colt 45s (the old weapon of choice in those parts). Crocodiles are now protected and, given their numbers and size (5+ metres), are now steadily eating their way through the cattle herds and the unwary tourists.

    Cattle stations are now subject to corporate aggregation with helicopters more prevalent than horses, indigenous cowhands long since despatched to town and the unhealthy attractions found there. Victoria River Downs going against the trend now being only 3,500 square miles down from its original 16,000. (Anna Creek in central Australia is 9,400 sq mi!)

    Keep those stories coming!

    Cheers, Ross

  23. Jason Oberg says:

    Hi Philip,
    I just finished The Longest Road the other day and what a great read! My wife, who does not read, wants to read it! Thank you for such great work.

    Jason Oberg
    Albany, MN

  24. don wendling says:

    Hello Mr Caputo ur writings cool boss

  25. Rob Weaver says:

    Hi Phil

    You and I met one Christmas in Beirut. I think you had just arrived to take up your post. I was the Cairo correspondent for the Visnews television agency, on holiday in Beirut for Christmas. As I recall we lunched with our wives in the hotel in which we were staying, though I cannot remember the name. After I went back to Cairo you were shot and wounded at a checkpoint I believe? I often wondered what had happened to you after that. Then I stumbled on this site. I must get hold of a couple of your books.


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  27. Andrew Breza says:

    I’ve read a number of road trip memoirs, but I want to say how enthralled I am with Longest Road. You strike a rare balance between journalistic objectivity and personal recollection. Now I want to start reading your other books.

  28. Dixie Bryant says:

    I just finished reading the Longest Road and re-reading the beginning to calculate dates and how this all began. I appreciated the sage advice on traveling with your partner, being a veteran of the road trip for 20 years with my husband Mike. My heart goes out to you with the loss of Sage that December, but smile at the memories you created that last year. Our Dalmatian, Jake, holds fond and exasperating memories for us on the road from eating the pockets out of my husband’s jeans to get to a piece of gum, to protecting me on a remote horse trail from two charging fangs bared guard dogs (I never knew he had a fighting bone in his body.)
    My question: why do you call yourself a “former journalist” in the “about the author” final page of the book? Are you hanging up your spurs? I had thought “once a writer – always a writer” or is a journalist a different species of the writing animal?

  29. Ron Del Ciello says:

    Mr. Caputo,

    I just finished reading the Longest Road and I want to thank you for a wonderful experience. I’m about your age and so much of what fyou rote so well resonates with me. Reading it I had the strong desire to invite you for a cup of coffee at my kitchen table – followed perhaps by a Saltimbocca alla Romana!

    Thanks again
    Ron Del Ciello

  30. Dear Mr. Caputo,
    Watching CCN’s series on “The Sixties”, your name came appeared. I told my house mate, “That name rings a bell somehow, but I don’t remember” Went on line, and there it was….”graduated Fenwick High School” Then I recalled that I had read “A Rumor of War” Sorry that our days at Fenwick didn’t overlap. I taught Senior Theology from Fall of 1962 to January, 1969. I was twice elected Prior of the Dominican Community there. In 1970, I was assigned as pastor of St Albert the Great Parish here in Minneapolis. However, I departed the Order & the priesthood back in 1977. It was a matter of conscience for me on certain moral issues, e.g. birth control.

    I just wanted to greet you, thank you for your books, and especially for attending Fenwick.

    God bless.

    Austin McGinley

  31. Silvia Shanahan says:

    From another reader who just finished reading “The Longest Road”…I so enjoyed hearing the personal stories of ordinary citizens and their resilience in coping with these changing times.
    After finishing the book, I yearned for more similar travel stories and happened to find the following at a used book sale:

    The Road North: A Woman’s Adventure Driving The Alaska Highway, 1947 1948
    By Iris Woolcock

    She was a photographer, traveling solo with a 27 foot Alma trailer, her cat, and towed by a WWII jeep, from Florida to Fairbanks, Alaska

  32. Robbie Orr says:

    I just finished reading Rumors of War. Best VN book I’ve read so far. A number of us are trying to organize events in St. Paul / Minneapolis for the upcoming 40th anniversary of the end of the war. Not sure just what it will look like yet but would you be willing able to come for book readings? A speech? I am working with Vets for Peace on this but we want to provide a wide diversity of reality because that is what we lived through back then, as much as we wanted to believe there was one right and one wrong side.


  33. Martin Preib says:


    Martin Preib here. We met at the library foundation event. I’m the cop writer. Great to chat with you.


    Thought you would be interested in this essay I wrote recently in light of your coverage of the Days of Rage as a reporter. Would love to chat with you if you ever have the time. Take Care, Marty

  34. Jeff Price says:

    Phil: Happened to catch your talk about Beirut days on The Moth yesterday and wondered how best to get in touch. Hope you’re well, Jeff

  35. Joe Pegnato says:

    Dear Phil,

    Loved your A Rumor of War. After going through Ft. Benning’s Army Infantry Officers School in the Spring of 1965 and not going to Vietnam, I felt guilt over that. But after reading your detailed account of what it was like, I feel fortunate not to have fought in that jungle.

    Joe Pegnato

  36. John Halter says:

    Dear Mr. Caputo,

    Thought I’d read all the good boat books ever written and then a friend slipped me a copy of The Voyage. Your description of riding through a hurricane is so believable that I have to wonder if you haven’t been upside down in a boat at least once in your life. Which is not to say that the rest of the book didn’t keep me spellbound, too. There’s nothing quite as exciting in literature as discovering a kindred soul. Next up: The Longest Road. Is it okay to read backward through one’s oeuvre?

    Kind regards…

  37. Kid New Mexico says:

    Mr Caputo,

    I envy your trip and applaud your talent as a writer and I salute you. I am especially fond of your section in your book The Longest Road where you give a shout out to my home state of NM. I only wished more people from the east coast would venture west of the Mississippi and visit. (And not just California.) Maybe then they would notice how vast and how special the American West was. Kerouac knew this as did Steinbeck. I hope to read more of your books. Your books have the right touch of philosophy with people’s individual stories mixed in. Thank you for your talent.
    Keith “Kid NM” Andrew, born NM proud in Silver City, NM

  38. Kid New Mexico says:

    the american west is, is is is !!!!

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