More About the Author
"Hervey opened the door to the way we would be seeing Indochina--on the page and in our heads--well into the 21st century...even in his wildest moments Hervey caught something true that those of us more than twice his age can only bow before."
PICO IYER - Foreword to "Congai - Mistress of Indochine"
Today, Harry Hervey's name and works are as obscure as the lost Khmer city he once searched for in the jungles of Southeast Asia. But in the first half of the 20th century, his dramatic tales of adventure, mystery, scandal and romance captivated millions of Americans while earning ample praise from critics of literature, stage and screen.
Hervey captivated the public with his alluring, self-made persona as author, adventurer, explorer and "Orientalist." He packed his writing with so much color, drama, danger, and unbridled emotional power that readers couldn't help but believe that the man himself embodied these traits. Much of what they imagined was an illusion, but in many ways Harry's life was as fantastic and melodramatic as some of the leading characters he invented.
Harry Hervey dreamed of adventure, craved adventure, and invented adventure long before he made it a reality in his life. On November 5, 1900, he was born into a middle class family that operated small hotels in the southern United States. As his biographer, Harlan Greene, observes, Hervey's "humble beginnings, were certainly problematic as he seemed to have inhaled a taste for exoticism and splendor with his first breath....it's easy to picture the dreamy boy sitting in palm-decked lobbies, perusing 'piles of books' and 'yellowed geographic journal[s] containing pictures of far-off places and people.' "
As the 1920s began to roar, pulp fiction magazines featured Hervey's gritty short stories, packed with graphic prose pioneering the noir fiction genre. Hervey published 12 popular fiction and non-fiction books during his career, scripting one into a successful Broadway play starring Helen Mencken, Humphrey Bogart's first wife. That success earned Hollywood's attention; soon he was writing concepts and screenplays for films starring Marlene Dietrich, Dorothy Lamour, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Anthony Quinn and other movie legends.
By 1951, however, Hervey's fame, finances and health had faded. That summer he traveled to New York City to seek treatment for throat cancer. After a series of gruesome and painful surgeries he lost his voice and finally his life. He died on August 12 of that year, at age 50. Days later, he was laid to rest in Savannah's Bonaventure cemetery.
Today, more than half a century later, people are rediscovering Hervey's pioneering works. In 2013, "King Cobra - Mekong Adventures in French Indochina," was republished in an expanded, illustrated modern edition with foreword by Pico Iyer. 2014 saw the republication of "Congai - Mistress of Indochine," also with a foreword by Pico Iyer, and enhanced with extensive appendices expanding on Hervey's prose.
For more information visit www.HarryHervey.org