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Harold Stephens

Stephens in Shanghai, 2008
Born December 3, 1926(1926-12-03)
Bridgeville, PA, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Occupation Author
Nationality American
Writing period 1957-present
Genres Travel Writer, Novelist

Harold Stephens (December 3, 1926) is an American author known for his explorations of World War II, China and his world travels and adventures.



Harold Stephens was born in Bridgeville, Pennsylvania, and raised on a nearby farm.[1] When the farmhouse burned down he went to work in the coal mines and later in the steel mills of Pennsylvania. A month before his seventeenth birthday he joined the Marines and four months later found himself fighting in the Battle of Okinawa.[2] When the war ended he went to China as a China Marine, landed in Tsingtao, attended Chinese language school and become an interpreter. He remained in China until the Communist takeover.

Back in America, not wanting to return to the steel mills, Stephens re-enlisted in the Marines, went to Paris as a Marine Security Guard and became aid to the American Ambassador, Jefferson Caffery.[2] Stephens met and married an American girl who was working in Paris and, realizing the need for an education, they returned to America; he took his discharge and with an appointment from Ambassador Caffery he entered the Foreign Service School, Georgetown University. One classmate was Jackie Kennedy, the wife of then Senator J.K. Kennedy.[3]

After graduating from Georgetown in 1955, Stephens went into law, but ultimately dropped the program to take a job with the National Security Agency. Before long, he felt that working for the government was far worse than working in the steel mills of Pennsylvania. Around that time, his marriage began to crumble and they divorced.[2]

Stephens long career as a writer began in China, when he started writing short stories and skits. While with the government in Washington he began writing travel articles for the Washington Post. After his divorce, he made up his mind that he would write full time. He gave up the government service, and began a life of travel and adventure. He went to Tahiti to live, until the French turned the islands into a nuclear testing ground and he moved on to Asia. He began his life of adventure by joining a camel caravan in Kabul, Afghanistan,[2] and crossing the country by camel. He hiked in Tibet and traveled deep into Bhutan. He went on to Spain, where he could live inexpensively and write, and there met Ernest Hemingway, James Michener, Anthony Quinn, Ava Gardner and the great bullfighters of the time, including the American bullfighter John Fulton (Short). It was in Spain that Stephens began his friendship with Michener, who was a great help and an encouragement.

Stephens eventually returned to Southeast Asia where he joined the staff of the Bangkok Post and became a travel correspondent for Royal Orchid Holidays at Thai Airways, a position he still holds.[4]

Stephens did marry again, Michelle, an Asian girl on the staff of the Bangkok Post, and who is very understanding and supports his wandering ways and his writing. They have three sons, all of whom have attended colleges in the U.S., with Paul, the youngest, graduating from Berkeley. His daughter from his first marriage, Denise, is a successful stockbroker, and his son, Peter, is a rancher.

Stephens has written over 25 books and some 4,500 magazine and newspaper articles. He is presently writing about the expat artists of Bali and he plans to build another boat in Singapore with his nephew, photographer Robert Stedman to explore the rivers of Asia. His also outfitting another vehicle for a motor drive across China into Tibet and Mongolia.


The subject matter for Stephens’ books comes from his travel and adventure experiences. In Who Needs a Road? he tells the story of driving a Toyota Land Cruiser 42 252 miles around the world, setting the record for the longest motor trip. In The Last Voyage – The Story of Schooner Third Sea he tells of building and outfitting a schooner that he sailed for 18 years around the Pacific and Asian waters, including many rivers of Asia. From aboard Schooner Third Sea he dove on wrecks and discovered the HMS Repulse and President Kennedy’s PT-109 but was run out before he could salvage the wreck. From his experiences in China he wrote Take China, The Last of the China Marines, and from his time in Paris as aid to Ambassador Jefferson Caffery came his novel The Tower & The River. In his travels Stephens wrote about the people he met, treasure divers, pirate chieftains, expat tycoons, renegade artists, and it is these characters who appears in his books At Home in Asia and Tales from the Pacific Rim.

He began exploring the Oriental Jungle with the Malay Game Warden (who became a close friend), taking stock of the wild elephants, rhino, tigers and other wildlife. The jungle trips and his search for lost cities and Khmer ruins gave him good story material for Return to Adventure Southeast Asia.

He also writes about history in For the Love of Siam, The Story of King Narai and His Greek Foreign Minister, and he reveals his trade secrets on becoming a writer in The Education of a Travel Writer.


Discover the Orient With Harold Stephens (1966 Asia Pacific Press)

Who Needs a Road? (1967, 1999) (ISBN 0964252155)

Malaysia (1971 ISBN 9-62421-102-7)

Wander With the Wind (1972)

Turn South at the Equator (1973)

Destination Singapore (1974)

Go Motoring in Southeast Asia (1975)

Singapore (1981 ISBN 962-7031-05-4)

Singapore After Dark (1981 ISBN 962-7031-09-7 )

New Worlds to Conquer (1982)

Asian Portraits (1988)

Asian Adventure (1989 ISBN 9971-73-168-1)

Asia's First: Scandinavian Airlines (1994)

At Home in Asia (1995) (ISBN 0-962521-1-2)

Three Decades of Asian Travel and Adventure (1996) (ISBN 974-202-041-8)

The Last Voyage - The Story of Schooner Third Sea (1997) (ISBN 0-9642521-3-9)

The Tower and the River (1998, novel) (ISBN 0-9642521-4-7)

Return to Adventure Southeast Asia (2000) (ISBN 09642524-6-3)

"The Chao Phraya - River of Kings" (2000) (ISBN 974-410-150-4)

Take China - The Last of the China Marines (2002) (ISBN 0-9642521-8-X)

The Strange Disappearance of Jim Thompson (2003) (ISBN 0-9642521-7-1)

Tales From the Pacific Rim (2007, short stories) (ISBN 0-9786951-0-0)

For the Love of Siam (2008, biographical novel) (ISBN 0-9786951-1-9)

The Education of a Travel Writer (2009, autobiography) (ISBN 0-9786951-2-7)

Notes and references

  1. ^ Rosenblum, Mort. "Biography of Harold Stephens", Associated Press, Paris.
  2. ^ a b c d Myers, Peter. "He Said, She Said: Harold Stephens", Lifestyle & Travel, November/December 2006 issue, ISSN: 1686-2600
  3. ^ Flaherty, Tina Santi. What Jackie Taught Us, pp. 138-9 Perigee Books, ISBN 0-399-5298-8
  4. ^ Gray, Denise. "Expat Society List 300 Who’s Who in Thailand", Tatler Magazine, p. 82. ISBN 974-94765-7-3

See also

The Last Voyage - The Story of Schooner Third Sea (ISBN 0-9642521-3-9)

Who Needs a Road? (ISBN 0-9642521-5)

The Education of a Travel Writer (ISBN 0-9786951-2-7)

External links


Redirecting to Harold Montelle Stephens


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