Thoroughly engrossing….We want to believe that Saddam Hussein was a monster, but reading this, you’ll learn that he was quite human—which is even more chilling. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in our recent war in Iraq, or in the heights and depths of human nature.
-Karl Marlantes, New York Times bestselling author of Matterhorn and What It Is Like to Go to War
Reminiscent of Truman Capote’s "In Cold Blood," Will Bardenwerper’s "The Prisoner in His Palace" offers a riveting and harrowing exploration into the nature of evil and the mind of a murdering psychopath—but also into how even the execution of a guilty man can later haunt those involved in his death. . . . Like Capote before him, Bardenwerper brilliantly portrays not a cardboard villain but a complicated man who was unquestionably sadistic but also manifested flashes of generosity and compassion. . . . Bardenwerper has revealed one of the greatest little-known war stories in American history.
-Andrew Carroll, New York Times bestselling author of War Letters, Behind the Lines, and Operation Homecoming
Offers shocking insights into the banality of evil….an Alice-In-Wonderland tumble through Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s dark psyche. Will Bardenwerper vividly exhumes some of the tyrant’s twisted brutalities—all true—and yet reveals the gritty humanity of Saddam through the eyes of the young American soldiers assigned to guard him in the last months before he is hanged. A disturbing and entirely captivating piece of literary journalism.
-Kai Bird, coauthor of the Pulitzer-winning American Prometheus and author of the New York Times bestseller The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames
In war, the enemy is always the "the other." What makes "The Prisoner in His Palace" so captivating is how Bardenwerper brilliantly juxtaposes the brutal acts that Saddam Hussein perpetrated against his own people, with the dignified, and even tender, manner in which the Iraqi dictator interacted with his American guards. What the book reveals is that our common humanity turns ‘the enemy’ into someone quite unexpected.
-Peter Bergen, New York Times bestselling author of Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for Bin Laden from 9/11 to Abbottabad
Will Bardenwerper has succeeded in writing a book about the Iraq War from a wholly new perspective. This superb account of the twelve men assigned to guard Saddam Hussein forces us to acknowledge that there can be honor and courage on all sides in war. Absolutism is for people who’ve never been there.
-Nathaniel Fick, author of the New York Times bestseller One Bullet Away
In the American imagination, Saddam Hussein functions as nothing more than a two-dimensional despot, a monster who terrorized and gassed and desecrated his own people. He was. He did. Will Bardenwerper’s "The Prisoner in His Palace" reveals something else about Saddam, though, something less simple than that known caricature and certainly more troubling: he was a human being, a human like all of us, a human being with hopes and dreams and regrets that woke him in the dead of night. Saddam wrote poetry and longed for his family and treated the American soldiers tasked with guarding him during his trial with kindness and generosity of spirit. This is a brave and piercing book.
-Matt Gallagher, author of the novel Youngblood and Kaboom: Embracing the Suck in a Savage Little War
"The Prisoner in His Palace" finds humanity in a singularly inhuman figure, Saddam Hussein. Through meticulous reporting and beautiful storytelling, Will Bardenwerper has crafted a portrait that is both deeply moving and deeply disturbing. This book challenges the tired constructs of "good versus evil" that have led us into so many ill-conceived wars.
-Elliot Ackerman, author of Green on Blue and Waiting for Eden
A moving and perception-altering book that exposes how wrong we are in so much of what we assume about war. In the fifteen years that America has been at war we’ve imprisoned, injured, and killed thousands of foreign citizens. It’s time we got to know some of them. Will Bardenwerper introduces us to a name we know well, but a story about which we know little. Saddam Hussein’s execution was not just about the death of a tyrant. It’s about the Americans who were tasked with guarding him, interrogating him, and preparing him for his death. . . . Mr. Bardenwerper forces us to turn our gaze not only on those we have killed but on those who were there to see the task done.
-Eric Fair, Pushcart Prize–winning essayist and author of the memoir Consequence
Through meticulous research and a keen eye for detail, Bardenwerper does the near impossible: convinces the reader to empathize with Saddam Hussein during his sad final days. "The Prisoner in His Palace" is a deeply human book, and though we all know the ending, I couldn’t put it down.
-Brian Castner, author of The Long Walk and All the Ways We Kill and Die
A bracing account of Saddam Hussein’s final months through the eyes of those who guarded and interrogated him—eyes that are uncomfortably opened to the complexity of evil. Reminiscent of twentieth-century Nazi character portraits such as Gitta Sereny’s "Into That Darkness," Bardenwerper’s "The Prisoner in His Palace" will be many things to many people. To this writer and combat veteran, it is an exhilarating, extraordinary, and damning look in the mirror.
-Adrian Bonenberger, author of Afghan Post
An astonishing, riveting story. . . . As twelve young American guards spend their days in the same room with this brutal gangster killer, a chilling, Shakespearean portrait emerges. Intriguingly, we meet a man who, while sometimes manipulative and petty, is also avuncular, joking, charming, wistful, and physically affectionate. There is even a scene of the Beast of Baghdad hugging an American soldier in a moment of tenderness. This is an unforgettable, essential read.
-William Doyle, author of A Soldier’s Dream: Captain Travis Patriquin and the Awakening of Iraq and PT 109: An American Epic of War, Survival, and the Destiny of John F. Kennedy
The Prisoner in His Palace" is an important contribution to the literature from America’s 9/11 wars. Will Bardenwerper has written a concise and engrossing account of the final days of Saddam Hussein. The stories of the American soldiers who guarded the Iraqi leader serve as a sharp reminder of war’s complexities, contradictions, and costs.
-J. Kael Weston, author of The Mirror Test: America at War in Iraq and Afghanistan
“The Prisoner in His Palace" is a searing, beautifully crafted exploration of humankind’s capacity for both boundless savagery and awe-inspiring perseverance. By tracking down and listening to the soldiers who stood watch over Saddam Hussein during the dictator’s final days, Will Bardenwerper has done far more than just commit a heroic act of journalism; he has also created an extraordinary work of history that should be read by all who seek to understand how evil can flourish, and how it can be defeated.
-Brendan I. Koerner, author of The Skies Belong to Us and Now the Hell Will Start
Bardenwerper’s examination of how soldiers, trained to focus on the inhumanity of the enemy, struggle to frame and reframe that inhumanity, is the focus of "The Prisoner in His Palace." The book’s action will pull you along like any great military adventure, but bubbling underneath is an absorbing and sometimes heartbreaking survey of young men grappling with a moral certitude that begins to shift below the desert sands they’re standing on.
-Tim Townsend, author of Mission at Nuremberg