Now the Hell Will Start: One Soldier's Flight from the Greatest Manhunt of World WarII

Now the Hell Will Start: One Soldier's Flight from the Greatest Manhunt of World WarII

by Brendan I. Koerner


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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780143115335
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/26/2009
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 400
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

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

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

" 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."
-George Pelacanos

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Now the Hell Will Start: One Soldier's Flight from the Greatest Manhunt of World WarII 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
pbirch01 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
For a first novel, Koerner has done an impressive job of weaving together many plotlines to develop an impressive work of historical non-fiction that manages to be entertaining as well as informative. Koerner does an excellent job describing military history and culture specific to China and the India-Burma theater of World War II and is able to do so in a way to please readers with varying levels of military knowledge. The actual story of Herman Perry constitutes only a small portion of the book with the remainder of the book describing background information and describing the Ledo Road itself which was important enough to be its own character. One minor criticism with the writing is the frequent use of colloquialisms (ie "on the lam", "staggeringly drunk", etc.) and frequent use of nicknames in lieu of proper names (ie "Peanut" for General Kai-Shek). As a whole, it is a unique book which does a good job bringing light to an area of WWII that has been largely neglected by history.
patricia_poland on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It isn't easy to delve into one man's view of life as a soldier of the U. S. Army in World War II but Koerner does more than a decent job. Herman Perry of the 849th Engineer Aviation Battalion, Company A, a black regiment, goes to India to help build the Ledo Road (aka Stilwell Road). It's back-breaking and mind-numbing; the day-in and day-out relentless physical work takes its toll on many soldiers. Perry, in order to cope, turns to the easy-to-get opium and marijuana. Strung out, he makes a terrible decision - he shoots and kills a superior white officer. The murder is witnessed by at least two other soldiers. Perry flees into the jungles of Burma and somehow manages to survive. It's an almost fantastical tale, where Perry lives with a native tribe, marries the chief's daughter, makes a stupid attempt to steal some supplies and is captured, tried, sentenced to be hung, and escapes again! He is, of course, captured again and the execution is carried out. But Koerner's persuit of the story, his travels to what remains of the Ledo Road, are impressive. The story is at its best when focused on Perry and his family back in the states including the side story of Aaron Perry, Herman's younger brother who had a promising career as a boxer that he foolishly threw away. The Perry family lived in Monroe, North Carolina during their childhood years - Koerner does attempt to connect the racist attitudes of Monroe during those childhood years to Herman's fragile mental state. Essentially, in spite of Monroe's own turbulent civil rights era (Robert Williams), it is really the attitude of the times, not just Monroe, that shaped and formed many an African-American's mental outlook and future - not just Perry's. This is a book well-worth reading to learn about the black soldier in World War II. Many historians point to the Burma and Ledo Roads and the Negro soldiers who built them as the catalyst in the desegregation of the Army. Note: It is exciting that Spike Lee is interested in making the book into a film and Koerner is supposedly working on the script at this time.
RicTresa on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"In the Army's segregationist spirit, a black chaplain had been assigned to offer Perry solace, and a black medic recruited to deal with Perry's corpse. The Chaplin lacked the nerves for the job; standing next to the noose, he burst into tears. Perry was the one who had to do the consoling. "Don' cry, Chaplin," he said. "I'm the one who's going."This poor guy was mistreated by the government from the beginning of his Army career, treated like nothing but a black slave and when he shot a white officer out of fear of a beating they hunted him like some kind of a wild animal. In the end they strung him up. The hangman didn't even know how to tie a proper knot, stood him on a chair, kicked it out from under him and then watched him dance for several minutes.This book is worth reading if only to show the world the other side of life during Roosevelt's Time.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I had high hopes for this book. It sounded like an exciting story. I realize it's based on a true story but some true stories read like good fiction, this one did not, there was too much content waisted on people I didn't care about, especially since they were all racists and rednecks. I wanted more action and suspense. It read like a documentary which I found boring and monotonous. I almost quit reading it and tossed it in my goodwill box but I had to find out what happened in the end. It turned out exactly how I figured it would. It was shocking and sad to know that blacks were treated just as badly in the War while fighting for our country as they were treated back home. They were treated like slaves. They had to fight the Nazis and the white man at the same time. The character got screwed and would have had a fair trial and lived a long life if this event didn't take place in the 40's. I did learn more about WWII and that's always interesting to me.