Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book

Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Ward S. Just  

Pen Name: Ward Just

Genre: Fiction Non-Fiction

Born: 1935 in Michigan City, Indiana

-- Ward S. Just on WorldCat --

Illinois Connection

Just was raised in Waukegan, Illinois, the son and grandson of newspaper publishers, and the great grandson of Chicago mayor George B. Swift. In 1946, the family moved to the Lake Forest.

Biographical and Professional Information

From the age of fourteen, Just worked summers at the family newspaper, ''The News-Sun'' and returned as a reporter after dropping out of Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. In 1959 he joined the Chicago bureau of ''Newsweek'', and went on the bureaus in Washington and London. He joined ''The Washington Post'' in 1965 and became its Saigon correspondent later that year. In 1967, he returned again to Washington as a political reporter for the newspaper and, in 1968, as an editorial writer. The following year, he left the newspaper business with the intention of writing fiction. In the years since, he has written many novels, collections of short stories, a play, a memoir, and a study of the United States Army. His novel ''An Unfinished Season'' was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2005. ''An Unfinished Season'' was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2005. ''Echo House'' was a finalist for the National Book Award in 1997. He has twice been a finalist for the O. Henry Award: in 1985 for his short story ''About Boston'', and again in 1986 for his short story ''The Costa Brava, 1959''. He was also a PEN/Hemingway finalist in 1999 for his novel ''A Dangerous Friend''. His work is widely anthologized and has been translated into French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, and Russian.Just currently resides in Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts.

Published Works Expand for more information

Titles At Your Library

ISBN: 0915308614

Graywolf Pr. 1984

Stringer is a civilian intelligence agent who is teamed up with a very "Army" West Point captain on a guerilla mission to locate and destroy an enemy supply convoy in Vietnam. He is a failed newspaperman and a dropout from two colleges and one marriage a man at the edge of his own life who wants to be a the center of things. He ends up in the center of the Vietnam war. There is, he understands, "no possibility of making sense of the whole."

In the City of Fear: A Novel (Norton Paperback Fiction)
ISBN: 0393307220

W. W. Norton & Company. 1990

"Not many people can write splendid fiction about the inner workings of the American political state. In fact, Ward Just is the only one i can think of." ―Boston Globe

In this novel of political intrigue, Pulitzer Prize finalist Ward Just captures the best and brightest of Washington amid turmoil of the sixties and its repercussions twenty years later. In the City of Fear follows the intersecting lives of a good congressman, his good wife, and the good wife's lover, an infantry colonel whose memories of the war, and a secret plot concocted by the Washington power brokers to win it, are more than he can bear.

The Congressman Who Loved Flaubert: 21 Stories and Novellas
ISBN: 0395901375

Mariner Books. 1998

This masterly volume comprises the best shorter fiction written by Just over the last 25 years. "The working life, the war, politics, love affairs, and marriage seem to be the waters in which my boats set sail," Just writes. Here is a generous selection of the work that has earned Just his reputation as "one of the most astute writers of American fiction."

A Soldier Of The Revolution
ISBN: 1586480979

PublicAffairs. 2002

"Ward Just took time off from the editorial page of The Washington Post to write his first novel, A Soldier of the Revolution, the story of a young man who is sent to South America to work for an Ameri"

The Translator
ISBN: 0395957664

Mariner Books. 1999

Sydney Van Damm loves living among foreigners: having escaped Germany and his boyhood memories of World War II, he makes a life as a translator in Paris. There he meets Angela, an American expatriate who becomes his wife. Their marriage is brushed by tragedy, and in the turbulent seventies and eighties, as the new Europe is born, Sydney gets involved in an East German scam that comes crashing down around him.

Lowell Limpett and Two Stories
ISBN: 1586480871

PublicAffairs. 2001

The acclaimed author of A Dangerous Friend explores his signature concerns-the moral dilemmas of journalism, law, and public life, and the limits of love-in a new play and previously uncollected fiction.

Lowell Limpett is a journalist at the end of his career. He addresses the reader in a voice that is melancholy, honest, and wonderfully, comfortably compelling about the beauty of a clean lead, the death of old friends, and what we read when we read the news. Two stories, both previously uncollected, will follow Lowell Limpett. The issues of work, love, and duty to the self are addressed as only Ward Just could in the three pieces. In a new foreword, Just discusses the new-for him-experience of writing a play and the process of compiling this new collection.

Exiles in the Garden
ISBN: 0547336012

Mariner Books. 2010

“Ward Just is not merely America’s best political novelist. He is America’s greatest living novelist.”—Susan Zakin, Lithub

"One of the most astute writers of American fiction" (New York Times Book Review) delivers the resonant story of Alec Malone, a senator’s son who rejects the family business of politics for a career as a newspaper photographer. Alec and his Swiss wife, Lucia, settle in Georgetown next door to a couple whose émigré gatherings in their garden remind Lucia of all the things Americans are not. She leaves Alec as his career founders on his refusal of an assignment to cover the Vietnam War — a slyly subversive fictional choice from Ward Just, who was himself a renowned war correspondent.
At the center of the novel is Alec’s unforeseen reckoning with Lucia’s long-absent father, Andre Duran, a Czech living out the end of his life in a hostel called Goya House. Duran’s career as an adventurer and antifascist commando is everything Alec’s is not. The encounter forces Alec to confront just how different a life where things — "terrible things, terrible things" — happen is from a life where nothing much happens at all.
Once again, "Ward Just writes the kind of books they say no one writes anymore: smart, well-crafted narratives — wise to the ways of the world — that use fiction to show us how we live" (Joseph Kanon, Los Angeles Times).

Echo House Pa
ISBN: 0395901383

Mariner. 1997

“Ward Just is not merely America’s best political novelist. He is America’s greatest living novelist.”—Susan Zakin, Lithub

A Finalist for the National Book Award

An epic chronicle of three generations of Washington power brokers and the women who loved them (except when they didn't), Echo House is Ward Just's masterpiece. The Washington Post described this novel as "a fascinating if ultimately painful fairy tale, complete with a family curse. The decline of the Behls represents the decline of Washington from the bright dawn of the American century into the gathering shadows of an alien new millennium."

Forgetfulness Pa
ISBN: 0618918493

Mariner. 2007

“Ward Just is not merely America’s best political novelist. He is America’s greatest living novelist.”—Susan Zakin, Lithub

“Just's a master at blending the personal and political. Forgetfulness gets at the heart of terrorism and revenge.”—USA Today

Thomas Railles, an American expatriate and former “odd-jobber” for the CIA, is a successful painter living with his beloved wife, Florette, in a small village in the Pyrenees. On an ordinary autumn day, Florette goes for a walk in the hills and is killed by unknown assailants. Was her death simply a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, or was it somehow connected to Thomas’s work with the CIA? When French officials detain four Moroccan terrorists and charge them with Florette’s murder, Thomas is invited by his boyhood friend (and former agency handler) Bernhard to witness the interrogation. Thomas's search for answers in this shadow world will lead him to a confrontation that will change him forever.

Rodin's Debutante
ISBN: 0547504195

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2011

Tommy Ogden, a Gatsbyesque character living in a mansion outside robber-baron-era Chicago, declines to give his wife the money to commission a bust of herself from the French master Rodin and announces instead his intention to endow a boys’ school. Ogden’s decision reverberates years later in the life of Lee Goodell, whose coming of age is at the heart of Ward Just’s emotionally potent new novel. Lee’s life decisions€”to become a sculptor, to sojourn in the mean streets of the South Side, to marry into the haute-intellectual culture of Hyde Park€”play out against the crude glamour of midcentury Chicago. Just’s signature skill of conveying emotional heft with few words is put into play as Lee confronts the meaning of his four years at Ogden Hall School under the purview, in the school library, of a bust known as Rodin’s Debutante. And, especially, as he meets again a childhood friend, the victim of a brutal sexual assault o

An Unfinished Season: A Novel
ISBN: 061856828X

Mariner Books. 2005

"The winter of the year my father carried a gun for his own protection was the coldest on record in Chicago." So begins Ward Just's An Unfinished Season, the winter in question a postwar moment of the 1950s when the modern world lay just over the horizon, a time of rabid anticommunism, worker unrest, and government corruption. Even the small-town family could not escape the nationwide suspicion and dread of "the enemy within." In rural Quarterday, on the margins of Chicago's North Shore, nineteen-year-old Wilson Ravan watches as his father's life unravels. Teddy Ravan -- gruff, unapproachable, secure in his knowledge of the world -- is confronting a strike and even death threats from union members who work at his printing business. Wilson, in the summer before college, finds himself straddling three worlds when he takes a job at a newspaper: the newsroom where working-class reporters find class struggle at the heart of every issue, the glittering North Shore debutante parties where he spends his nights, and the growing cold war between his parents at home. These worlds collide when he falls in love with the headstrong daughter of a renowned psychiatrist with a frightful past in World War II. Tragedy strikes her family, and the revelation of secrets calls into question everything Wilson once believed.
From a distinguished chronicler of American social history and the political world, An Unfinished Season is a brilliant exploration of culture, politics, and the individual conscience.

A Dangerous Friend
ISBN: 061805670X

Mariner. 2000

“Ward Just is not merely America’s best political novelist. He is America’s greatest living novelist.”—Susan Zakin, Lithub

Set in Indochina in 1965, A Dangerous Friend, tells a story of "the devolution of an innocent American crusading for democracy" (Vanity Fair), a man living the conflict of so many Americans caught in a political and spiritual crossfire. Sydney Parade, a political scientist, has left home and family in an effort to become part of something larger than himself, a foreign-aid operation in Saigon. Even before he arrives, he encounters people who reveal to him the unsettling depths of a conflict he thought he understood, and in Saigon the Vietnamese add yet another dimension. This "fabulous, tense and dramatic" (Los Angeles Times) narrative needs neither combat nor bloodshed to tell its tale.

A Dangerous Friend is the beautifully constructed story of civilians who want to reform Vietnam—but the Vietnam they see isn't the Vietnam that is.

A Family Trust
ISBN: 1586480340

PublicAffairs. 2001

Jonathan Yardley called A Family Trust "his longest, his most ambitious and his best… a book with serious purposes that manages to entertain at the same time…rich in carefully observed details, in quick, sharp perceptions that reveal more than one at first understands…a fine, satisfying, rewarding book, the work of a mature and accomplished novelist," upon the book's initial publication in 1978. The passing of Amos Rising, town elder and editor of The Dement Intelligencer, leaves the Rising family without a patriarch and the town with a hole in its center. The ambitions and talents of the Risings, the changing face of the town and the life of the spirited, intelligent, and attractive Dana Rising fill the pages of this extraordinary novel. Ward Just's A Family Trust is about the public face and private souls of America's Heartland in the same way his other novels are about Germany, Vietnam, or Washington D.C.

The time has come to bring A Family Trust back into print.

American Ambassador Pa
ISBN: 0618340785

Mariner. 2003

“Ward Just is not merely America’s best political novelist. He is America’s greatest living novelist.”—Susan Zakin, Lithub

“A gripping international thriller” about a Foreign Service officer—and the son who turns to terrorism to spite him (Los Angeles Times).

William North Jr. inherited his father’s keen political instincts and passion for justice. But the last time Ambassador North saw his son he seemed like a stranger—and a hostile one at that. Now, just as North prepares to take a new post in Germany, reports emerge that Bill Jr. is aligned with a German terrorist organization.

Suddenly, a private conflict between father and son escalates to a matter of national security. North is faced with a terrifying dilemma as loyalty to family and country are directly at odds.

The American Ambassador is at once a riveting tale of suspense and a thoughtful meditation on the fragility of Western values in an age of terrorism.

“Haunting and persuasive . . . Charged with authenticity . . . A splendid book that is both thoughtful and fast-moving.” —The New York Times

Jack Gance
ISBN: 0395856027

Mariner Books. 1997

A young pollster named Jack Gance becomes a savvy Washington political insider and eventually a U.S. senator - but not without paying the usual dues, which turns out to be a dirty business. Gance wastes his love on married women, but ultimately learns who his true mistress is: "I had arrived an apprentice from Chicago, but Washington had taken care of that. It was a great city. . . . It gave and gave and gave and gave and expected nothing in return but loyalty."

A Soldier Of The Revolution
ISBN: 1586480979

PublicAffairs. 2002

"Ward Just took time off from the editorial page of The Washington Post to write his first novel, A Soldier of the Revolution, the story of a young man who is sent to South America to work for an Ameri"

To What End: Report From Vietnam
ISBN: 1891620770

PublicAffairs. 2000

"As a young man, Ward Just spent eighteen months in Vietnam as a correspondent for the Washington Post. The experience would earn him both a citation from the Overseas Press Club and a Combat Infantrym"

The Weather in Berlin: A Novel
ISBN: 0618340793

Mariner Books. 2003

In this astute novel of Americans abroad, Ward Just turns his keen eye toward the dark underpinnings of nationalism, fame, and artistic integrity. When a famous Hollywood director travels to post-Wall Germany to rekindle his genius, he is unexpectedly reunited with an actress who mysteriously disappeared from the set of his movie thirty years before. Masterly and atmospheric, The Weather in Berlin explores the subtleties of artistic inspiration, the nature of memory, and the pull of the past.


In the Spring of 1999, he was a Rome Prize fellow.

James Fenimore Cooper Prize of the Society of American Historians in 2001

Speaking Engagements

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