Fred Kaplan grew up in the Midwest (to be precise, in Hutchinson, Kansas, which makes a comical cameo in one of his books, page 29) and, somehow, as a teenager, fell hard for movies, jazz and Lenny Bruce. He went off to Oberlin College as a prospective lit major, with vague ambitions to become the Robert Warshow of his time. But the Watergate hearings, which he watched every day in the summer after his freshman year, switched him to poli-sci, initially with an activist bent (Kaplan worked the next summer for a tenants’ rights group in Harlem and spent a Winter Term with the Citizens Action Program in Chicago), until he was drawn to the chessboard allure of International Relations. In grad school, at M.I.T., he immersed myself in the still-headier world of nuclear strategy, arms control and military force-planning, on which he then built a career.
In 1978, Kaplan moved to Washington and worked as Rep. Les Aspin’s defense-policy adviser in the House of Representatives. After two years, he realized that he wasn’t cut out for even the outskirts of officialdom, left the Hill, and wrote THE WIZARDS OF ARMAGEDDON, an inside history of nuclear strategy. By the time Kaplan finished the book, nukes were a big issue; the major newspapers were hiring “experts” as their defense correspondents; he got a call from the Boston Globe, and joined up. (he’d always thought it would be fun to be a newspaper reporter.) Kaplan stayed at the Globe for 20 years --- in D.C. through the 80s, as Moscow bureau chief in the early post-Soviet era, then New York bureau chief for seven years during Giuliani Time and the attacks on 9/11 --- all the while doing occasional free-lance writing, too (including reviewing jazz, high-end audio, and movies, which he still do for Stereophile and Home Theater).
At the end of 2002, Kaplan quit the Globe and got hired by Slate to be the “War Stories” columnist. It was the best professional move he ever made. He found his voice as a writer, continued to do longer pieces for other publications, and churned out three more books --- DAYDREAM BELIEVERS, about American foreign policy in the early 21st century, 1959: THE YEAR THAT CHANGED EVERYTHING, (which fuses all my interests and passions), and, most recently, THE INSURGENTS: David Petraeus and the Plot to Change the American Way of War.
Meanwhile, Kaplan's been married to Brooke Gladstone since 1983. For more than half that time, they’ve lived in Brooklyn and have never known a more convivial home. Their wonderful twin daughters, Maxine and Sophie, live nearby.