Means of Escape A War Correspondent's Memoir of Life and Death in Afghanistan, the Middle East, and Vietnam

Philip Caputo

Holt Paperbacks



Trade Paperback

400 Pages



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In Means of Escape, journalist Philip Caputo tells the reader in moving and clear-eyed prose how he made himself into a writer, traveler, and observer with the nerve to put himself at the center of the world's conflicts. As a young reporter he investigated the Mafia in Chicago, earning acclaim as well as threats against his safety. Later, he rode camels through the desert and enjoyed Bedouin hospitality, was kidnapped and held captive by Islamic extremists, and was targeted and hit by sniper fire in Beirut, with memories of Vietnam never far from the surface. And after it all, he went into Afghanistan. Caputo's goal has always been to bear witness to the crimes, ambitions, fears, ferocities, and hopes of humanity. In his haunting prose, he describes what he has seen to the reader as only such a gifted author and keen observer could.


Praise for Means of Escape

"Recounts his adventures, his near-death experiences, in Vietnam and Lebanon, Israel and Afghanistan, while he was working as a journalist. There are some good yarns to be told, and Mr. Caputo has a fine voice for telling them."—The New York Times Book Review

"Philip Caputo is one of the few absolutely essential writers at work today."—Robert Olen Butler, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain

"An intensely personal, albeit consistently affecting and frequently riveting memoir of years of living dangerously. Caputo has witnessed much of the worst violence that marked the latter half of the 20th century. A combat veteran of Vietnam, he went on to cover trouble spots throughout the Third World as a roving correspondent for The Chicago Tribune. Describing himself as drawn to history (if not to the sound of the guns), the globe-trotting author has reported on insurgency in Eritrea, civil strife in Lebanon, Israel's October War, the fall of Saigon, and a host of lesser belligerencies. Looking for a 'good war' several years after having quit the journalism trade, Caputo accepted an assignment from Esquire that took him deep behind Soviet lines in Afghanistan. Venturesome to the point of rashness, he has paid the price of boldness on many occasions. Though he made it through Vietnam without a physical scratch, for example, the author was imprisoned by Palestinian guerrillas in Beirut and later sustained severe wounds (at the hands of Christian militia) in the same city, leaving him with a still-painful limp. Peacefully settled in one place now, he's content to let a workroom window overlooking a salt marsh on the Long Island Sound serve as his new means of escape. Caputo nonetheless looks back on his days as a rolling stone with some relish and few apparent regrets. Indeed, he retains a rueful sense of barracks humor neatly summarized in an ultra rude anecdote whose moral is: 'the final indignity is that there is no final indignity.' An episodic, impressionistic, and dead-honest narrative that affords memorable as well as consequential insights into a chaotic era's noteworthy conflicts."—Kirkus Reviews

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Philip Caputo

  • After serving in Vietnam, Philip Caputo worked at the Chicago Tribune, where he was part of a Pulitzer Prize-winning team of journalists covering election fraud. He went on to become a correspondent covering the Middle East and the Soviet Union. Caputo also has written six novels and a second volume of memoir. He divides his time between Connecticut and Arizona.

  • Philip Caputo Rob O’Neal
    Philip Caputo