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A Rumor of War Paperback – November 15, 1996

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

20th-anniversary edition of Caputo's memoir of fighting in Vietnam.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.


“To call it the best book about Vietnam is to trivialize it . . . A Rumor of War is a dangerous and even subversive book, the first to insist—and the insistence is all the more powerful because it is implicit—that the reader ask himself these questions: How would I have acted? To what lengths would I have gone to survive? The sense of self is assaulted, overcome, subverted, leaving the reader to contemplate the deadening possibility that his own moral safety net might have a hole in it. It is a terrifying thought, and A Rumor of War is a terrifying book.”—John Gregory Dunne, Los Angeles Times Book Review

“Caputo’s troubled, searching meditations on the love and hate of war, on fear, and the ambivalent discord warfare can create in the hearts of decent men, are among the most eloquent I have read in modern literature.”—William Styron, The New York Review of Books

“Every war seems to find its own voice: Caputo . . . is an eloquent spokesman for all we lost in Vietnam.”—C. D. B. Bryan, Saturday Review

“A book that must be read and reread—if for no other reason than as an eloquent statement against war. It is a superb book.”—Terry Anderson, Denver Post

“This is news that goes beyond what the journalists brought us, news from the heart of darkness. It was long overdue.”—Newsweek

“Not since Siegfried Sassoon's classic of World War I, Memoirs of an Infantry Officer, has there been a war memoir so obviously true, and so disturbingly honest.”—William Broyles, Texas Monthly

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 356 pages
  • Publisher: Holt Paperbacks; Reprint edition (November 15, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080504695X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805046953
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (307 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #14,600 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Novelist and journalist Philip Caputo (1941 -- ) was born in Chicago and educated at Purdue and Loyola Universities. After graduating in 1964, he served in the U.S. Marine Corps for three years, including a 16-month tour of duty in Vietnam. He has written 15 books, including two memoirs, five books of general nonfiction, and eight novels.

Caputo recently completed the travel/adventure book THE LONGEST ROAD: Overland in Search of America from Key West to the Arctic Ocean. It describes an epic road trip from the southernmost point in the U.S., Key West, Florida, to the northernmost that can be reached by road, Deadhorse, Alaska, on the Arctic Ocean. The journey took 4 months and covered 17,000 miles. Though it bears Caputo's unique stamp, the narrative fuses elements of John Steinbeck, Jack Keruoac, William Least Moon, and Charles Kuralt. Caputo interviewed more than 80 Americans from all walks of life to get a picture of what their lives and the life of the nation are like in the 21st century. Henry Holt will publish "The Longest Road" in Summer 2013.

Caputo's first book, the acclaimed memoir of Vietnam, A Rumor of War, has been published in 15 languages, has sold over 1.5 million copies since its publication in 1977, and is widely regarded as a classic in the literature of war. His 2005 novel "Acts of Faith," a story about war, love, and the betrayal of ideals set in war-torn Sudan is considered his masterpiece in fiction, and has sold 102,000 copies to date, His most recent novel, Crossers, set against a backdrop of drug and illegal-immigrant smuggling on the Mexican border, was published in hardcover in 2009 by Alfred A. Knopf and in paperback by Vintage in 2010.

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. Topics included profiles of novelist William Styron and actor Robert Redford, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and the turmoil on the Mexican border.

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. In 1977, he left the paper to devote himself to writing books and magazine articles.

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 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.

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.

Recently (Jan., 2013), his 2009 novel, Crossers, has been optioned for a feature film or TV apaptation by American Enterainment Investors, Inc., one of the leading financial advisors to the independent film industry. AEI's clients include such prominent production companies as Alcon Entertainment, River Road Entertainment, and Exclusive Media Group. AEI also advised Goldman Sachs and Assured Guarantee on restructuring The Weinstein Company in 2010."

Visit http://www.PhilipCaputo.com for more information.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

244 of 248 people found the following review helpful By Harold Y. Grooms on June 5, 2001
Format: Paperback
For anyone who has ever asked, "What was Vietnam really like," Marine Lieutenant Philip Caputo's book, "A Rumor of War," is a must read. In this autobiographical account of his time as an infantry officer in, "the `Nam," he describes the experience in authoritative terms enhanced by collegiate English studies and time spent as a combat journalist. The result is the most well written account of life in an infantry platoon in Vietnam that I have ever read.
Phil Caputo could have been virtually anyone in America in the early `60's. A young, idealistic, all-American boy who joined the Marines in search of adventure, and out of a patriotic desire to answer John Kennedy's challenge to, "Ask not what your country can do for you. . ." He and his platoon marched off to war to find glory and honor. What they found was, "death, death, death."
Caputo takes you into the muddy foxhole with him, making you feel the heat and annoyance of the ever-present insects, and the sniper shots that all united to deprive you of the precious commodity of sleep. He takes you on patrol with them down, "Purple Heart Trail," where the main enemies were the heat, the insects, and endless mines and booby traps. The reader can feel the rage of the infantrymen who fought endless battles with an enemy that was everywhere, yet nowhere. Gradually enthusiasm turned to pessimism; pessimism to despair; and despair to rage; rage that ultimately vented itself in mindless violence against anything Vietnamese. They were then left with the heat, the insects, and guilt borne of actions taken that they would never have dreamed of a few short months before.
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51 of 53 people found the following review helpful By Brian Leverenz on August 25, 2000
Format: Paperback
To anyone who thinks of war as a glorious enterprise or some kind of Nintendo game, they should read Caputo's book. THe author himself was once an idealistic, glory seeking young man eager to participate in "a splendid little war,' but by book's end he has become an unfeeling, unremorseful and scared shell of a human being. THis may have been what kept him alive, but Caputo is angry over the deep emotional damage done to many men like himself who were thrust into a civil war and cultural revolution in a country and place we had little understanding of. Caputo manges to show us how this transformation took place. Its not a pleasant read or ride, but in the process we discover why the war was unwinnable at a price America was willing or should have paid, and what damage we inflicted on men like Caputo in putting them in such a difficult position. BUt don't read the book for any lengthy history or diatribe on Vietnam or America's policies toward it. First and foremost its a memoir of war and preparing for war. From boot camp thru training, to Vietnam and back home, Caputo keeps you riveted with descriptions of crawling through leech filled swamps, nights in the sticky jungle being consumed by insects, and witnessing the irony of pigs eating charred human corpses. When not focusing on battles, we are privy to the insanity of body counts and body bags and the tense downtime between jungle patrols, as well as the dynamics of a Marine platoon. Caputo's insights and ability to reflect back upon the events and physical and emotional carnage he inflicted upon himself and others is what makes this memoir special. There is also no small irony that Caputo was part of the first marine unit to go to Nam, and that as a journalist some 10 years later, he was one of the last to leave.Read more ›
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34 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Mcgivern Owen L on December 31, 2000
Format: Paperback
"A Rumor of War" is a darkly disturbing book. It is set in what was the early, "optimistic" Vietnam in the spring of '65 when we thought we were fighting for "freedom" and before the reality of the place hit home. Vietnam hits Lieutenant Caputo very quickly, as it must have for all Marine Corps platoon leaders. It's all right there-booby traps, mines, trip wires, leeches, foot blisters, jungle rot, constant shelling, dysentery, pigs eating corpses and cold C Rations. As a Vietnam vet, I was surprised the author never mentions RATS!, but we both know they were there too. (THEY were everywhere). Lt. Caputo's transfer to a staff job is worse than the field, so he transfers back to the bush as a platoon leader.It's more of the same-patrolling and repatrolling the same trails, the same hills, the same villes. All watched over by unsupportive and bureaucratic commanders. "RW" offers yet another look at the Vietnam War, one more pessimistic than most because so many of us felt that the years of '65 and '66 were more positive than this. I might suggest reading Joseph Owen's "Colder Than Hell" to compare the Marine experience in Korea with Lt. Caputo's. Reading the late Bernard Fall's "Street Without Joy" will make us aware, again, that perhaps there was never a time to be optimistic about Vietnam. I must admit that I constantly found myself curious as to how I would have handled many situations in "RW". How would I have measured up? What would I have done? How would the men have judged me? While the story of "RW" tends to stray at times, I found no fault since the author is relating a painful part of his past. One small point: "RW" would benefit from better maps-these are so often lacking in military books.Read more ›
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