A wonderful new book: 'Now the Hell Will Start'

I read Now the Hell Will Start because I know and like the author. You should buy and read it because it's really good.


The is the first book by Brendan Koerner, a polymath writer in his 30s whom I met a decade ago when we were both at US News. Since then he has worked for Wired, the New York Times, and during its brilliant four-year run, Legal Affairs magazine. The book is different from anything he has attempted before and is a wonderful example of how narrative non-fiction should be done.

To say too much about the story would be unwise. I'll just say that it's a The Fugitive-style manhunt saga set before and during World War II. Like The Fugitive, it has its wronged protagonist on the run, chased by various obsessed pursuers. Unlike The Fugitive, it's a completely true story -- and one that along the way conveys fascinating historical, cultural, political, and scientific info. For instance, about segregated wartime life in Washington DC, how young women in headhunting tribes in Burma choose their mates, why Chiang Kai-Shek was a terrible general but a masterful schemer, what it's like to have dengue fever, and how the military justice system works. Above all it describes the realities and tensions of a U.S. military fighting tyranny worldwide but keeping its own black members in a separate caste.

I had never heard of this drama, involving a fugitive named Herman Perry, so I was surprised and moved by the ending (which gives the book's title great poignancy). Check it out.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.


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