Synopses & Reviews
Part history, part thriller, Now the Hell Will Start tells the astonishing tale of Herman Perry, the soldier who sparked the greatest manhunt of World War IIa and who became that waras unlikeliest folk hero
A true story of murder, love, and headhunters, Now the Hell Will Start tells the remarkable tale of Herman Perry, a budding playboy from the streets of Washington, D.C., who wound up going native in the Indo-Burmese jungleanot because he yearned for adventure, but rather to escape the greatest manhunt conducted by the United States Army during World War II.
An African American G.I. assigned to a segregated labor battalion, Perry was shipped to South Asia in 1943, enduring unspeakable hardships while sailing around the globe. He was one of thousands of black soldiers dispatched to build the Ledo Road, a highway meant to appease Chinaas conniving dictator, Chiang Kai-shek. Stretching from the thickly forested mountains of northeast India across the tiger-infested vales of Burma, the road was a lethal nightmare, beset by monsoons, malaria, and insects that chewed menas flesh to pulp.
Perry could not endure the jungleas brutality, nor the racist treatment meted out by his white officers. He found solace in opium and marijuana, which further warped his fraying psyche. Finally, on March 5, 1944, he broke downaan emotional collapse that ended with him shooting an unarmed white lieutenant.
So began Perryas flight through the Indo-Burmese wilderness, one of the planetas most hostile realms. While the military police combed the brothels of Calcutta, Perry trekked through the jungle, eventually stumbling upon a village festooned with polished human skulls. It was here, amid a tribe of elaborately tattooed headhunters, that Herman Perry would find blissaand would marry the chief as fourteen-year-old daughter.
Starting off with nothing more than a ten-word snippet culled from an obscure bibliography, Brendan I. Koerner spent nearly five years chasing Perryas ghostaa pursuit that eventually led him to the remotest corners of India and Burma, where drug runners and ethnic militias now hold sway. Along the way, Koerner uncovered the forgotten story of the Ledo Roadas black G.I.s, for whom Jim Crow was as virulent an enemy as the Japanese. Many of these troops revered the elusive Perry as a folk heroawhom they named the Jungle King.
Sweeping from North Carolinaas Depression-era cotton fields all the way to the Himalayas, Now the Hell Will Start is an epic saga of hubris, cruelty, and redemption. Yet it is also an exhilarating thriller, a cat-and-mouse yarn that dazzles and haunts.
" Koerner's gripping account of a little-known manhunt details the brutality of jungle life while also illuminating larger issues of race and prejudice during the war."
- Entertainment Weekly
" Remarkable . . . Koerner has done a great deal of digging into obscure corners of dusty records and has managed to reconstruct a tale well worth telling."
-Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post Book Review
" A fascinating, untold story of the Second World War, an incendiary social document, and a thrilling, campfire tale adventure."
A true story of murder, love, and headhunters, this work tells the remarkable tale of Herman Perry, a budding playboy who winds up in the Indo-Burmese jungle--not for adventure, but rather to escape the greatest manhunt conducted by the U.S. Army during World War II.
An epic saga of hubris , cruelty, and redemption, Now the Hell Will Start
tells the remarkable tale of the greatest manhunt of World War II. Herman Perry, besieged by the hardships of the Indo-Burmese jungle and the racism meted out by his white commanding officers, found solace in opium and marijuana. But on one fateful day, Perry shot his unarmed white lieutenant in the throes of an emotional collapse and fled into the jungle.
Brendan I. Koerner spent nearly five years chasing Perry's ghost to the most remote corners of India and Burma. Along the way, he uncovered the forgotten story of the Ledo Road's GIs, for whom Jim Crow was as powerful an enemy as the Japanese-and for whom Herman Perry, dubbed the jungle king, became an unlikely folk hero.
About the Author
A contributing editor at Wired whose work appears regularly in The New York Times and Slate, Brendan I. Koerner was named one of Columbia Journalism Review’s Ten Young Writers on the Rise. For more information on Now the Hell Will Start, visit www.nowthehellwillstart.com.