Caleb Carr

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Caleb Carr
Born (1955-08-02) August 2, 1955 (age 60)
Manhattan, New York, US
Occupation Historian and author

Caleb Carr is a military historian and author born August 2, 1955 in New York, New York.[1][2] Carr is the second of three sons born to Lucien Carr and Francesca Von Hartz.[3]


"I wanted nothing less than to be a fiction writer when I was a kid" --Caleb Carr [4]

Early years[edit]

Born August 2, 1955 in Manhattan, Carr grew up between Greenwich Village and the Lower East Side.[5] Carr is the second of three sons born to Lucien Carr and Francesca Von Hartz. His father's close circle of friends included William Burroughs, Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, who Lucien had known since his college days. Their frequent presence in the Carr household affected Carr’s future career, but not in the way one might expect: "They were noisy drunks that were a disruption," he said in a 2005 interview. "They made me determined never to be a fiction writer."[6]

Caleb Carr received his primary education from St. Luke’s School in Greenwich Village, his secondary education from Friends Seminary, also in downtown New York City.[7] He attended Kenyon College from 1973-1975 and returned to New York City in 1975 to complete his education at New York University, where, in 1977 he was awarded a Bachelor of Arts in Military and Diplomatic History.[7][8]

Much of Caleb Carr’s fiction deals with violence perpetrated by people whose behavior has its origins in childhood abuse.[9][10] These stories are rooted Carr's family history. The author's father, Lucien Carr, was born in 1925 in New York City. Lucien's parents separated when he was five, and the balance of his childhood was spent in St. Louis, where both the elder Carrs, Russell and Marion, had been born to socially prominent families.[11] When he was 12 or 13, Lucien met 28-year-old Scout Leader David Kammerer, who developed a romantic passion for him and who sexually abused Carr from the time they met.[12] Kammerer followed Lucien wherever the younger man went—including moves to out-of-state schools. Eventually the two landed in New York City.[13] Lucien Carr had left Chicago University after a failed suicide attempt, which he tried to pass off as a piece of performance art, and enrolled at Columbia University.[14] Kammerer followed him and took up residence in the West Village, not far from where his friend William Burroughs was by then living. While at Columbia, Carr met Allen Ginsberg and, through another friend, Jack Kerouac. Lucien in turn introduced the two men to one another and to Burroughs. This circle of friends, with Lucien Carr at its hub, became the nucleus of the Beat Generation. On the outside looking in was David Kammerer.[12][15]

Accounts of the Lucien Carr/David Kammerer story have varied widely. Whatever the truths behind their relationship, it ended on August 13, I944 in New York's Riverside Park. Carr stabbed Kammerer to death with a Boy Scout knife and dumped his body into the Hudson River.[16] Afterwards he went to Burroughs, who told him to turn himself in to the police. Carr instead sought out Kerouac, who helped him dispose of the murder weapon. Then the two went to a movie.[14] Finally Carr went to the New York District Attorney's office. He was charged with second degree murder, pled guilty to first degree manslaughter, and was sentenced to one-to-twenty years in prison, with a recommendation from the judge for psychiatric treatment.[11] He served almost two years of his sentence before being released on parole. Kerouac and Burroughs were arrested as material witnesses but soon were released.[17] The trial received a great deal of media attention in its day, and thrust several of the principals—Burroughs, Kerouac and Ginsberg—into the spotlight.[12]

After his release from prison Lucien Carr went to work for United Press (later United Press International). While there he met and married reporter Francesca von Hartz, and the couple had three sons: Simon, Caleb and Ethan. From 1946 until his retirement in 1993 Carr rose steadily through the ranks from copy boy to manager of the world news desk.[3]

Lucien Carr inflicted physical and emotional abuse upon his wife and children. Caleb remembers being singled out for his father's beatings: "He was enormously threatened by me, from the time I was a child—threatened by my tendency to speak what I perceived. Alcoholics don't tend to like children like that." The physical and verbal abuse fueled by alcohol and rage didn't stop even after Caleb's parents divorced when he was eight. Caleb Carr didn't learn about his father's crime until he was 18. He recalls being shocked, "but not exactly surprised."[18]

The frequent presence of Kerouac, Ginsberg and Burroughs in the Carr home was a "little unnerving." "They could be perfectly nice people one-to-one," Caleb Carr told Salon in a 1997 interview. "Kerouac was a very nice man. Allen could be a very nice guy. Burroughs was a little strange for a child. But they weren't children people. You needed to be grown up to be around them if you wanted to not be terrified. What they were up to was not gonna make any child reassured."[4]

After the Carrs' divorce Kerouac proposed marriage to Caleb's mother, but she turned him down and afterwards married writer John Speicher. Carr's new stepfather was another heavy drinker, and there were weekly visits to Lucien. "There was a lot of craziness in the family," Carr remembers, "and a lot of alcoholism among the adults." Speicher had three daughters from a previous marriage, and they and the three Carr brothers bonded, a group that Caleb would label "the dark Brady Bunch." They spent most summers at a house originally bought by Carr’s maternal grandparents, then owned by his mother, in upstate New York.[19] "When the adults weren't around it was a place of great solace. When they were, it was a place of great exploration because being in the house too much wasn't an option."[3]

Likewise, when the family was back in New York Caleb spent as much time as possible away from their apartment.[20] Among his favorite havens, other than the streets of Manhattan themselves, were the city's movie theaters. He at first preferred classic and then war movies, and in fact became increasingly interested in military history. "Part of it was a desire to find violence that was, in the first place, directed toward some sort of purposeful end, and second, governed by a definable ethical code. And I think it's fairly obvious why I would want to do that," he told New York magazine in 1994.[3]

Caleb Carr received his primary education from St. Luke’s School in Greenwich Village, his secondary education from Friends Seminary, also in downtown New York City.[7] Carr’s interests in military history didn’t help him fit in at Friends Seminary, a Quaker school. He was an excellent student but also was guilty of pranks like setting off cherry bombs in the school lavatories. So when he discovered that his school transcript was marked “Socially Undesirable” he was “stunned. We had guys in our school who dealt opium and cocaine out of their lockers, and the teacher would take them aside and have conversations…” The designation was enough to keep him out of Harvard.[3] He attended Kenyon College from 1973-1975 and returned to New York City in 1975 to complete his education at New York University, where, in 1977 he was awarded a Bachelor of Arts in Military and Diplomatic History.[7][8][21]


Carr has written plays and screenplays, one of which, Bad Attitudes was made into a TV movie in 1991. He was one of the contributing screenwriters for the film prequel to The Exorcist, released as Exorcist: The Beginning, for which he received a shared story credit. He also received a shared screenplay credit on Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist, which received high praise from William Peter Blatty (the author/screenwriter of The Exorcist).[22] In television, he appears on the PBS program American Experience as a guest commentator/narrator, such as on the episode of the NYC subway system, "New York Underground".


Carr taught three semesters of military history at Bard College as a Visiting Professor. He was also a close friend and confidant of historian James Chace, with whom he collaborated on America Invulnerable: The Quest for Absolute Security from 1812 to Star Wars.




  • 2006 The Ghosts in Baker Street: New Tales of Sherlock Holmes, essay contributor: "Some Analytical Genius, No Doubt" [1]
  • 2006 The Cold War: A Military History; essay contributor with James Chace: The United States, The U.N., and Korea [2]
  • 2003 What Ifs? of American History, Eminent Historians Imagine What Might Have Been; essay contributor: William Pitt the Elder and the Avoidance of the American Revolution [3]
  • 2001 No End Save Victory: Perspectives on World War II; essay contributor: Poland 1939 [4]
  • 2001 What If? 2: Eminent Historians Imagine What Might Have Been; essay contributor: VE Day--November 11, 1944 The Unleashing of Patton and Montgomery [5]
  • 1999 What If?: The World's Foremost Military Historians Imagine What Might Have Been; essay contributor: Napolean Wins at Waterloo [6]


  • 2003 New York Observer: Historical Context M.I.A.: Blame the Commander in Chief [7]
  • 2003 New York Observer: On Beholding Baghdad [8]
  • 2003 New York Observer: Handicapping Military Is Order of the Day; Maureen Is Feasting [9]
  • 2003 New York Observer: The Ferocious Spectacle in Baghdad [10]
  • 2003 New York Observer: Fear Subsuming Offensive Goals of War on Iraq [11]
  • 2003 New York Observer: Strategic Bombing Brings Ups Quandary of Military Ethics [12]
  • 2003 New York Observer: Trouble in Turkey, Al Qaeda Capture Intensify the Heat [13]
  • 2003 New York Observer: Bush's Conflict: Military Methods At War For Iraq [14]

Opinion pieces[edit]

  • 2015 Vanity Fair: The Frantic Media Response to San Bernadino Is Making Us Less Safe [15]
  • 2015 New York Daily News: Let Europe lead the war in Syria: History counsels caution for American troops [16]
  • 2015 Los Angeles Times: If France wants to succeed against Islamic State, it should study the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan [17]
  • 2012 Wall Street Journal: To Fiction, Through History [18]
  • 2006 Los Angeles Times: A war of escalating errors [19]
  • 2006 Los Angeles Times: Why Good Countries Fight Dirty Wars [20]
  • 2006 Washington Post: Let Them Have Their Civil War [21]
  • 2005 Washington Post: Wrong Definition For a War [22]
  • 2002 The New York Times: Costs of Targeting Civilians [23]
  • 2001 The New York Times: The Art of Knowing the Enemy [24]
  • 2001 The New York Times: Americans Don't Understand Their Heritage Is Itself a Threat [25]
  • 2001 The New York Times: The Myth of a Perfect Defense [26]
  • 2001 Salon: Information Poisoning [27]
  • 1999 Los Angeles Times: When Considering Ground Troops in Kosovo, Remember Sherman [28]
  • 1997 The New York Times: The Ramsey Case Revisited [29]
  • 1997 The New York Times: Myths and Criminal Masterminds [30]
  • 1993 The New York Times: The Humanitarian Illusion [31]
  • 1987 The New York Times: Security Precedes Credibility [32]
  • 1986 The New York Times: ABOUT MEN; An Incident of Wolves [33]
  • 1974 The New York Times: Letters to the Editor: Kissinger's 19th-Century Diplomacy [34]

Journal publications[edit]

  • 2007 "Terrorism": Why the Definition Must be Broad, World Policy Journal, Vol. 24, No.4, (Spring, 2007), pp. 47–50 [35]
  • 1996/1997 Terrorism as Warfare: The Lessons of Military History, World Policy Journal, Vol.13, No.4, (Winter, 1996/1997), pp. 1–12 [36]
  • 1995: Internationalism in the Age of Factionalism, World Policy Journal, Vol. 12, No. 2, (Summer, 1995), pp. 67–70 [37]
  • 1994: The Dark Knight, MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History, Vol. 6, No. 3, (Spring, 1994), [38]
  • 1994: Aldrich Ames and the Conduct of American Intelligence, World Policy Journal, Vol. 11, No. 3 (Fall, 1994), pp. 19–28 [39]
  • 1993: The Consequences of Somalia, World Policy Journal, Vol. 10, No. 3 (Fall, 1993), pp. 1–4 [40]
  • 1992: The American Rommel, MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History, Vol. 4, No. 4, (Summer, 1992) [41]
  • 1990: The Troubled Genius of Oliver Cromwell, MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History, Vol. 2, No. 4, (Summer, 1990) [42]
  • 1989: The Man of Silence, MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History, Vol. 2, No. 4, (Spring, 1989) [43]
  • 1989: Poland, 1939, MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History, Vol. 2, No. 1, (Autumn, 1989) [44]


  • 2002 The New York Times: Dealing With the Work of a Fiend [45]
  • 2000 The New York Times: Nor Any Drop to Drink [46]
  • 1993 The New York Times: James the Ripper? [47]
  • 1992 The New York Times: Should War Be Left to The Generals? [48]
  • 1992 The New York Times: Minnesota Death Trip [49]



  1. ^ Macintyre, Ben (October 12, 1997). "Gaslight". The New York Times. 
  2. ^ Lehmann-Haupt, Christopher (September 29, 1997). "'The Angel of Darkness': Pursuing a Mysterious Kidnapper in Old New York". The New York Times. 
  3. ^ a b c d e LLC, New York Media (1994-04-04). New York Magazine. New York Media, LLC. 
  4. ^ a b Garner, Dwight. "The Salon Interview, Caleb Carr". Salon. Retrieved 2016-01-29. 
  5. ^ Miller, Tom (2013-04-17). "Daytonian in Manhattan: The 1917 No. 92 Grove Street". Daytonian in Manhattan. Retrieved 2016-01-29. 
  6. ^ "Carr trouble - Books - Entertainment -". Retrieved 2016-01-29. 
  7. ^ a b c d "Ezequiel Vinao: Merlin the Opera (about Caleb Carr)". Retrieved 2016-01-29. 
  8. ^ a b Purdy, Matthew. "ON THE LOWER EAST SIDE WITH: Caleb Carr; Writing to Flee the Past", The New York Times, May 19, 1994. Accessed November 7, 2007. "CALEB CARR inhabits two New Yorks. There is the New York of 1994, where he lives alone in a somewhat messy Lower East Side walkup."
  9. ^ "Time Traveler :". Retrieved 2016-01-29. 
  10. ^ "BookPage Interview". Retrieved 2016-01-31. 
  11. ^ a b Lawlor, William (2005). Beat Culture: Lifestyle, Icons and Impact. 
  12. ^ a b c "Son of famous Beat murderer Lucien Carr disputes ‘Kill Your Darlings’ film’s version of events". The Daily Caller. Retrieved 2016-01-29. 
  13. ^ Garner, Dwight. "The Salon Interview, Caleb Carr". Salon. Retrieved 2016-01-29. 
  14. ^ a b Campbell. This is the Beat Generation. 
  15. ^ "Columbia University | Treasures of New York | Video | THIRTEEN - New York Public Media". THIRTEEN - New York Public Media. Retrieved 2016-01-29. 
  16. ^ Adams, Frank (August 17, 1944). ""Columbia Student Kills Friend and Sinks Body in Hudson River"". The New York Times. 
  17. ^ Oliver, Myrna (2005-01-30). "Lucien Carr, 79; Catalyst, Muse for Beat Writers". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2016-01-31. 
  18. ^ "Carr trouble - Books - Entertainment -". Retrieved 2016-01-29. 
  19. ^ a b Wadler, Joyce (2005-05-12). "Caleb Carr: Rebuilding the Past in Words and Wood". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-01-07. 
  20. ^ woodruff, wil gerken, nathan hendler, doug floyd, amy burnham, zak. "Books: Man Possessed (NewCity . 11-03-97)". Retrieved 2016-01-31. 
  21. ^ "PBS: New York City, Caleb Carr interview". 
  22. ^ Bruce Westbrook, " "Dominion" director says he feels vindication with movie's release - Latest prequel on demons matches Harlin's version ," Houston Chronicle, May 21, 2005
  23. ^ "Anthony Award Nominees and Winners". Bouchercon. Retrieved June 30, 2014. 

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