“I think my favorite [book of the Iraq War] so far is The Long Walk, a memoir by a bomb-disposal technician, Brian Castner.” – Tom Ricks, author of The Generals, The Gamble, and Fiasco

“A candid and unflinching account … [that] warps the arc of the traditional coming-of-age story.” – Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

3 booksAn Amazon Best Book of 2012

A Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Selection

An Indiebound Next List Selection

Chautauqua Literary & Scientific Circle 2013 Selection

Soon to be an American Lyric Theater opera

On February 6th, 2010, I went Crazy. I didn’t know why, or how to fix it. I just knew it was intolerable, and it had to stop, one way or the other. I make sense of the world by writing, so to understand what was happening to me I wrote a book about it, the best way I knew how.

The Long Walk: A Story of War and the Life That Follows is the intertwined story of two journeys: an outward struggle of surviving the urban combat of modern war in order to return home at all costs, and the inward journey to find the new person that emerges after undertaking such a task. I had the privilege to command two Explosive Ordnance Disposal units in Iraq. We disrupted roadside improvised explosive devices, investigated the aftermath of car bombs, and searched house-to-house to find bomb makers where they lived. It was a job I embraced and enjoyed, and I found meaning in the work and camaraderie in the Brotherhood of operators who do that job. And despite being surrounded by the gory horrors of war and facing near-death experiences, I somehow never considered what life would be like once I went on the final call to dismantle a roadside bomb.

Once I got back to the United States and left the military, once I was home alone with nothing but my thoughts, I couldn’t put the war aside and move on. Even as I had trouble remembering the formative moments that comprised my former life – children being born, family milestones – small everyday occurences reminded me of each mission in Iraq, and the experience of the war endured. After countless trips to the hospital emergency room for heart attacks that never happened, I realized that the problem was in my mind. This book examines my struggle to confront the new person who came home from Iraq.


The Long Walk is a raw, wrenching, blood-soaked chronicle of the human cost of war. Brian Castner, the leader of a military bomb disposal team, recounts his deployment to Iraq with unflinching candor, and in the process exposes crucial truths not only about this particular conflict, but also about war throughout history. Castner’s memoir brings to mind Erich Maria Remarque’s masterpiece, All Quiet on the Western Front. ” – Jon Krakauer, author of Where Men Win Glory

“Do you want to know a little something about our war in Iraq?  Begin with The Long Walk, Brian Castner’s elegant, superbly written story about the bomb-disposal guys.  As you read think of Alan Sillitoe’s The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner.  Castner gives us that steady rhythm of one foot in front of the other.  Think of Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five.  Here is the reality of the exhausted mind, and of profound thought wandering all Creation: this is what I saw, this is what I did, this is what I have become.  It’s the story of the long walk out, as they say, from the Humvee to the bomb in the street, and the long look back.” – Larry Heinemann, author of the National Book Award-winning Paco’s Story and Close Quarters

“Castner has written a powerful book about the long cost of combat and the brotherhood of men at arms.  Remarkably, he has made the world of EOD entertaining, occasionally hilarious, and always harrowing. His honesty is refreshing and the book is written with such candor and openness that one can’t help but root for him. And did I mention that it is entertaining? There were scenes at work with the bomb disposal unit where I found myself holding my breath.”– Anthony Swofford, author of Jarhead

“It may be the most important book written about modern war.” – Stephen Phillips, author Proximity and The Recipient’s Son



New York Times – August 19, 2012

Dallas Morning News – July 27, 2012

The Boston Globe – July 20, 2012

The New Yorker – July 12, 2012

USAToday – July 12, 2012

Fresh Air – July 9, 2012

The Daily Beast – July 2, 2012


Video & Panels:

VICE Motherboard Robot vs IED Documentary – April 2015

National Writers Series – November 2014

Chautauqua Institution – August 15, 2013

Seattle Town Hall – April 15, 2013

San Jose Rotary Club Talk – April 10, 2013

Silicon Valley Reads Kick-Off – January 30, 2013

Miami Book Festival – Panel – November 18, 2012

Newsweek/The Daily Beast Hero Summit – Interview – November 15, 2012

BBC – September 6, 2012

Tavis Smiley Show – August 24, 2012

BookTV – July reading at Talking Leaves Books in Buffalo, NY


Latest Press:

Veteran Artist Program Podcast – May 19, 2015

Michiko Kakutani’s essay on Iraq and Afghanistan War Lit – December 26, 2014

War, Literature and the Arts – Interview by Matthew Hefti – 2014

Wounded Warrior Project AAR Magazine – Winter 2013

Chautauqua Daily – Interview, Analysis, Book Club Impact – August 2013

NPR Weekend Edition – TLW as Opera – July 20, 2013

Prime Time Radio – Interview – July 16, 2013

Faith Middleton Show – Interview w/ Kevin Powers & I – July 11, 2013 (rebroadcast, originally fall ’12)

The Dennis Miller Show – Interview – May 27, 2013

WordPress – Interview – May 22, 2013

Jeff Schechtman at KVON – Interview – April 21, 2013

Buffalo Spree – Interview and Profile – March, 2013

Foreign Affairs – Review – March 5, 2013

Sunday Express (UK) – Review – February 22, 2013

Proceedings of the US Naval Institute – Review – February 2013

Marquette Magazine – Alumni Profile – February 1, 2013

Commonwealth Club of California – On-stage Interview – January 30, 2013

The Advocate – Review – January 30, 2013

Psychotherapy Networker – Review – January/February 2013

NPR’s Talk of the Nation – November 20, 2012

The Nation – Review – October 29, 2012

Berkeley NPR: Bookwaves – Interview – September 27, 2012

Christian Science Monitor – Review – September 20, 2012

Minnesota Public Radio: The Daily Circuit – Interview – September 11, 2012

NPR Morning Edition – Interview & Review – September 11, 2012

Minneapolis Star Tribune – Review – August 25, 2012

The Agony Column – Book Review & Podcast – August 18, 2012

Southern California Public Radio: Madeleine Brand Show – Interview – August 13, 2012

Associated Press – Profile – August 4, 2012

The Smoking Poet – Review – August 1, 2012

Austin Statesman – Review – July 28, 2012

KERA (Dallas NPR): Think – Interview – July 25, 2012

The Buffalo News – Review & Interview – July 17, 2012

WNYC: The Leonard Lopate Show – Interview – July 16, 2012

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – Review & Interview – July 13, 2012

WAMC (Albany NPR): The Roundtable – Interview – July 12, 2012

The Bill Newman Show – WHMP in Western Mass – July 12, 2012

Buffalo Spree – Interview – July 11, 2012

Everyday eBook – Review – July 10, 2012

The Agony Column – Preview & Analysis – July 5, 2012

Artvoice – Interview by author Mick Cochrane – June 28, 2012

Kirkus Review – June 15, 2012

AudioBuffalo – Interview/Podcast by Nick Mendola – June 6, 2012

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel Summer Book Preview – May 25, 2012

USA Today’s Summer Book Preview – May 24, 2012

Publisher’s Weekly Interview – May 7, 2012

Thomas Ricks’ Review at his Foreign Policy blog – May 4, 2012

Publisher’s Weekly Starred Review – March 19, 2012


Official DoubleDay Trailer for The Long Walk

Interview for Knopf’s Writer’s on Writing series

31 thoughts on “THE LONG WALK

  1. Any idea of an audiobook version of this coming out? I’m a tech who lost my eyesight in an IED blast in Afghanistan in 2010… And I would really enjoy a chance to read this.


    • Hey Kemp – we crossed paths in Kirkuk, right? Sorry to hear you got hurt, bro – I hope recovery has gone as well as it can. Yes, an audioversion is coming out, we just don’t know who is reading it yet. So more to come. Be safe.

  2. Pre-ordered the other day so it should hopefully arrive soon. Can’t wait to read this and share with all my friends. Thank you so much for writing this. I had a friend who never made it home last fall, I’ll be thinking of both you and him as I read it. Thank you.

  3. Brian,

    I caught the tail end of your interview on Fresh Air with Terry Gross. I haven’t read your book, and I don’t want to presume that you share my attitudes but it sounds like maybe you do, so here goes.

    We have turned the word ‘hero’ into a cliche. Anyone who puts on a uniform, who goes into a war zone, or who is injured or killed, is a hero. It is a manifestation of how much we love war, that we so much love the warrior.

    Ours is a war-mongering culture. We don’t admit that to ourselves, but it is. I noticed at the start of the Gulf War how we drank it up an loved it, epitomized by George H. W. Bush’s remark that we have “kicked the Vietnam syndrome”.

    I have not been a warrior, so coming from me it does not carry any weight, but I think that to end our love affair with war we first stop praising the warrior. To say that out loud in our society invites scorn. If former warriors would say it, it might effect a change.

    Tim Seiter

  4. Just bought “A Long Walk” at the PX at Ft. Hood. Its great to see a fellow Marquette Alum write such an inspirational book for our troops to reflect and gain perspective on the effects of war. We all can relate to your story in one or another. I also just Nate Self’s book “Two Wars” which is another inspirational story to reflect on faith, family and war. Do you have any plans to speak at Marquette or share your story with Marquette Cadets? Book signings? Hope all is well and best of luck to you with the book.

    Always Warriors!

    CPT Kellan S. Sams, MU Army ROTC ’08
    1-8CAV, 2BCT, 1st Cav Div

  5. Thank you for writing this book. It was powerful and thank you for your service. Please don’t stop writing. You have a gift.

  6. Brian,
    Thank you for your bravery and courage in writing this book. I came back from a 1 year contract in Kuwait teaching high school and after experiencing everyday horrors to humanity (I was in a Christian organization helping human trafficking victims….this was the only way I could justify receiving money from this country) I had extreme panick attacks. I was lucky enough to eventually advocate for myself by reaching out and getting counseling. But the first 6 mos back I thought I was going crazy, too. It was hell and indescribable to anyone that has not gone through it. Through therapy, perscribed medication, family and friends I’m now, by the grace of God, BACK.

    You are a talented writer that cuts to the heart with authenticity and strength.

  7. I heard you this morning (Sept. 14)in an interview with Richard Wolinsky/KPFA.
    Frankly, I don’t know if I have the right to have a reaction to your tale as,so far, I’ve been something not entirely enviable: a violence virgin. In my 63 years (tomorrow)I haven’t even seen a real fistfight. The closest I’ve been to a war environment were the two visits by the Blue Angels, pre-Fleet Week air show, as they did numerous practice/publicity ‘buzzings’ over the San Francisco financial district. Only the bombs were missing. Had they not been missing, we might have an entirely different ‘defense’policy.

    phil allen, west Berkeley

  8. Glad you are writing another book. Your long walk, it seems to me, is far from over. I finished reading “The Long Walk” during the course of a three-day, cross-country business trip. Flying over the desert southwest intensified the mental imagery of your prose with actual visual imagery for me. This morning I found my copy of Tim O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried.” It’s been called the masterwork of the Vietnam era, and your book reminded me of it. I am a West Point grad who served in the ’80’s. I missed Vietnam and did not hang around for the current wars, though many of my classmates did. Thank you for sharing your interior journey, it helps. There where a couple of references in “The Long Walk” to a rosary. Where did it go?

  9. I love you, Mr. Castner. I wish I could give you a great big hug in person–you are a beautiful human being. Your audiobook was one of the best I’ve ever heard. Thank you for sharing your self with all of us.

  10. Hi Brian! Great seeing you tonight at the Vineland Library! Thank you for appearing at all our libraries and colleges in San Jose.

    My friend, Virginia Arslan, also left you a reply up above in the thread; she and I worked in Kuwait as teachers. Very horrible experience and most teachers left with PTSD. Oddly enough, I worked as a Navy PACE instructor on warships in the Persian Gulf during wartime, and THAT was far less stressful than working in Kuwait.

    I don’t see my earlier reply to you (about a month ago). Hmmm…where did it go?

    As for the women who couldn’t read your book in their book club (10 down to 3), well, that made me sick for my own gender. C’mon, women, get into those gory details and immerse yourself in the story, for crying out loud. I’d like to see more gory details and more cussing, thanks so much! What a bunch of gutless crybabies.

    Can’t wait to read your next book.

    Know that WE LOVE YOU and are rooting for you and supporting you, every step of the way.

    God bless you for your service to America and for your courage to tell your story.

    Natalia Miles

  11. Brian, Today (my 71st birthday) I picked up your book at the City of Tonawanda library. I had it on a list of books I wanted to read. From the first word, I couldn’t put it down, though I also couldn’t read every description. It’s a story/life that I know will stay with me.
    Anything I want to say sounds very hollow to me. Please know this–you’ve done something few others have done, in so many ways.
    I pray that your spirit continues to prevail…Paula

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