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Head of Zeus
Wuhan John Fletcher

A multi-stranded historical epic set in China in 1937, when Wuhan stood alone against a whirlwind of war and violence.

'A book so vivid and evocative it is like a kind of time travel' Adam LeBor
'Wuhan takes us to the very heart of a collective agony – an extraordinary achievement for a debut novelist' Graham Hurley


Soldiers of the Empire of Japan sweep through the country, killing and displacing the millions who stand in their way. As vast swathes of the country fall to the invaders, Wuhan, an industrial city in the centre of China, is appointed wartime capital. While the rest of the world looks the other way, the citizens of Wuhan stand alone against a whirlwind of violence – transforming militarily, educationally, medically and culturally.

Their heroic efforts halted the Japanese.

Weaving together a multitude of narratives, Wuhan is a historical fiction epic that pulls no punches: the heart-in-mouth tale of a peasant family forced onto a thousand-mile refugee death-march; the story of Lao She – China's greatest writer – leaving his family in a war zone to assist with the propaganda effort in Wuhan; the hellish battlefields of the Sino-Japanese war; the approaching global conflict seen through a host of colourful characters – from Chiang Kai-Shek, China's nationalist leader, to Peter Fleming, a British journalist based in Wuhan and the prototype for his younger brother Ian Fleming's James Bond.

Head of Zeus * Historical Fiction
22 Jul 2021 * 768pp * £20 * 9781800249875
'1937. Ravenous Japanese armies are eating China alive, and the Great Black Dragon of War is prowling amongst the broken shards of a ruined society. The panoramic sweep and ambition of this brave, accomplished novel is overwhelming, as are the many voices – fictional and otherwise – raised on page after page. Wuhan takes us to the very heart of a collective agony, an extraordinary achievement for a debut novelist'
Graham Hurley
'A book so vivid and evocative it is a kind of time travel. John Fletcher takes us back to Wuhan in 1937 when the city was the epicentre of China's resistance against the brutal Japanese invaders. This true story, little known in the west, sets the stage for a panoramic cast of finely drawn characters in this captivating, impressive debut'
Adam LeBor
John Fletcher
John Fletcher
John Fletcher is a Neoplatonist and an anarcho-syndicalist. Over the course of his life he has been many things, including a construction worker, a shepherd, a white van driver, a gravedigger, a steelworker, a cleaner, a teacher, a broadcast journalist, and a writer. Wuhan is his first novel.