1968. Henry's just turned 18 and his birthday present is a 2nd class ticket to the Vietnam war. The Vietnam war you've never heard about.
THE HERO Versus Me & Monkey Jo chronicles the adventures of Henry Neis who arrives in Vietnam an innocent youth from Kansas, and quickly falls in with addicts and lost souls. Shepard's prose pulls us into the "scene" immediately, and propels us on a journey that is at times exhilarating, shocking, and moving. A rollicking read and an eye-opening look at the Vietnam War.
Henry Neis (pronounced "nice"), fresh out of high school from Kansas, is drafted and sent to Vietnam. Trained as a helicopter mechanic, he is instead assigned to a personnel unit, a fitting introduction to the insanity of this war that makes no sense to him.
Henry falls in with the company misfits and drug users, becoming an addict and dealer himself, yet his fundamental innocence shines through to the final page.
While on a dangerous mission, Harry rescues a baby monkey, who becomes his faithful companion. Henry volunteers to leave the relative safety of his camp and travel from DaNang to the DMZ on a mission to get active-duty soldiers to put their signatures on insurance paperwork required by the US military. Many of the soldiers had left their Notification of Next of Kin forms blank; some put Mao Zedong and Ho Chi Minh down as their beneficiaries. Military command insisted on getting the proper names of their next of kin, given their likelihood of dying in battle, and it is Henry's job to find them.
Henry and Monkey Jo travel gathering stories and dispensing drugs. They interact with hooch-maids, waitresses, drug dealers, remnants of the French colonizers, the Viet Cong "Hells Angels," and the North Vietnamese Regular Army. Along the way Henry records the stories of fellow GI's and works to supply what he feels his fellow soldiers need to survive in the surreal environment during the Vietnam War — including their next fix. Fiction that feels like memoir.
Fascinating, hilarious, terrifying, wondrous, and enlightening—sometimes all at once. I couldn't put it down, and when I got to the end I only wished there were more.
~ John Bodle, fmr. USAF (JAG)