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Arts in Review: Books

Author Philip Caputo, photograph by Michael Priest

Philip Caputo novel Some Rise by Sin

SOME RISE BY TALENT: Author Philip Caputo (photo by Michael Priest)

Philip Caputo’s Novel Some Rise by Sin Ascends from His Daredevil Journalism

By GREG BEAUBIEN    April 18, 2017


PHILIP CAPUTO THRIVES ON DANGER. As a war correspondent for the Chicago Tribune, he covered the fall of Saigon in 1975 and was later wounded in Lebanon and held prisoner by Palestinian fighters. In 1977, at the age of 36, he established his career as an author with his best-selling book A Rumor of War, a memoir of his experiences as a U.S. Marine in Vietnam.

Caputo is also a world traveler. His novel Horn of Africa (1980) is set in Ethiopia; his book of three novellas Exiles (1997), partly in Australia and Vietnam; and Acts of Faith (2005), in Sudan. His new novel and sixteenth book, Some Rise by Sin—which Henry Holt and Company published May 9—takes place in Mexico, and derives from his reporting on the country’s narco gangs.

Caputo is drawn to conflict zones, but his novels are more character-driven than propelled by plot. Some Rise by Sin tells the story of a middle-aged American priest exiled to a remote town in Mexico after his tangential involvement in a church scandal in Los Angeles. A brutal, pseudo-religious drug gang is terrorizing the Mexican village, and the priest—a tough man of tested faith, wracked by his own memories and desires—is faced with the moral and spiritual quandary of whether to betray his vows to fight the criminals.

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Some Rise by Sin includes two characters who originally appeared in Caputo’s 2009 novel Crossers, which likewise took place in the border territory between Arizona and Mexico. Although Some Rise by Sin picks up the story of those two characters 10 years later, they are not main characters in either book.

The new novel is “loosely related to Crossers, in that two characters from that book reappear in Some Rise By Sin, but it’s not a sequel,” Caputo told Moresby Press.

He explained how his new novel grew from his work as a journalist: “I did two stories on the Mexican drug wars and related border issues,” Caputo said. “One was in 2007 for The Virginia Quarterly Review, the other in 2009 for The Atlantic. The latter assignment, which took me into Juarez and deep into the state of Chihuahua, gave me the inspiration for Some Rise By Sin. My translator and assistant told me a story about a Catholic priest who’d become a snitch for the Mexican Federal Police by revealing the confessions he heard from drug traffickers. In that tale, the priest was Mexican and had turned informant for venal motives. For the purposes of my novel, I created an American missionary priest who violates the seal of the confessional for altruistic reasons.”


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