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.