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War Magician por David Fisher
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War Magician (original 1983; edição 1983)

por David Fisher (Autor)

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1494183,287 (3.7)2
The incredible true story of the greatest illusionist of modern times and the man who altered the course of the second world war. Soon to be a major film starring Benedict Cumberbatch 'A richly entertaining read' SUNDAY TIMES Jasper Maskelyne was a world famous magician and illusionist in the 1930s. When war broke out, he volunteered his services to the British Army and was sent to Egypt when the desert war began. Here, he used his unique skills to save the vital port of Alexandria from German bombers and to 'hide' the Suez Canal from them. He invented all sorts of camouflage methods to make trucks look like tanks and vice versa. On Malta he developed 'the world's first portable holes': fake bomb craters used to fool the Germans into thinking they had hit their targets. His war culminated in the brilliant deception plan that helped win the Battle of El Alamein: the creation of an entire dummy army in the middle of the desert.… (mais)
Membro:ACSchriber
Título:War Magician
Autores:David Fisher (Autor)
Informação:Coward-McCann (1983), Edition: First Edition, 315 pages
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The war magician por David Fisher (1983)

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I first learned of Jasper Maskelyne on a History Channel documentary. This British magician was born to magicking a family going back for several generations. Early on in WWII he realized that his misdirection and prestidigitation skills could have valuable wartime uses. He repeatedly approached military and government figures hoping to convince them of this and, ultimately, was sent to serve in north Africa—where no one knew what to do with him.

Gradually the benefits of his skills became known, and he performed feats that truly seemed like magic during the war. He and his team created a false harbor to the north of an existing harbor and through lighting, faked destruction, and a whole lot of putting up, taking down, and general scrambling, tricked German bombers into making nighttime attacks on the fake harbor, rather than the real one. He created a fake aircraft carrier that prevented German attacks on smaller vessels nearby. With a handful of team members, three small boats, and three barges that were no long useful for their original purpose, he convinced the Nazi army that a major amphibious assault was underway just at the moment a real, land-based assault was beginning far to the north.

You can see why I found him so fascinating.

When I first learned of Jasper Maskelyne, the only "popular" biography of him was David Fisher's The War Magician (1983), which had been out of print for years, had become a collector's item, and was priced well beyond my purchasing power. This year, The War Magician was re-released—apparently a film version of it starring Benedict Cumberbatch is in the works—so I snapped it up now that I could get a copy at a reasonable price.

The War Magician provides an introduction to Maskelyne's military career, but it's of limited value in some ways. First, The War Magician is fiction based on real life, but one doesn't know which parts of the book are fictitious and which are documented fact. Second, the book covers the start of Maskelyne's work with the army in north Africa; he went on to serve on multiple continents, so much of his story isn't included here. Finally, the book is dated in ways that make it less engaging for readers than it might be, containing lines like "The men scattered like Scotsmen at the scent of a bill." Nonetheless, if one is looking for a book about Maskelyne, The War Magician is what's available.

So I read the book, rolling my eyes regularly, and was wowed by Maskelyne's exploits. My hope is that if a film is being made of The War Magician—with Benedict Cumberbatch!—perhaps new biographies accessible for popular reading will be produced. The War Magician is definitely worth a read, but I'm hoping that even better titles are on the horizon. ( )
  Sarah-Hope | Aug 31, 2023 |
I first heard of this book when reading The Zig Zag Girl, the first entry in Elly Griffiths' Stephens and Mephisto mystery series, set after World War II. Reading this book inspired her to create a fictitious group of camouflagers, stationed in Scotland, to which the two main characters had belonged during the War. They are the stage magician Max Mephisto (aka The Honorable Max Massingham) and Edgar Stephens, now a detective inspector.

This review might be called a spoiler if you just want the book without hearing about the controversy.

I became suspicious of the amount of detail in War Magician, particularly conversations, which would have required an avid diarist as a source. There are absolutely no sources given, not even Maskelynes' book Magic -- Top Secret. So I did a little digging, beginning with the Jasper Maskelyne entry in Wikipedia which led me to Richard Stokes' Jasper Maskelyne website detailing his research into the magician's story.

Richard Stokes has gathered a great deal of material, much of it new, "including interviews with Jasper Maskelyne's son, Alistair; declassified documents from the National Archives; overlooked, out-of-print books from the British Library; rare biographical information on Maskelyne's invisible ghostwriter; and significant material from Jasper Maskelyne's missing private scrapbook, Deceptive Camouflage Ideas 1941-1945."

David Fisher said of his book: "The events depicted in this book are true. Everything Jasper Maskelyne is credited with doing he actually accomplished. Some of the characters are composites, however, and the names of others have been changed for legal reasons." (Title page verso). Richard Stokes has suggested that this be replaced by: “The events described in this book are false. Most of what Jasper Maskelyne is credited with doing he did not actually accomplish. Most of the characters are cardboard composites, and their names, activities and conversation have, for the most part, been invented for narrative convenience.”

According to Alistair Maskelyne, "my father was most self creative in his own imaging. All of his geese were swans." Both of Jasper Maskelyne's "autobiographies," including the earlier (c.1936) White Magic were written by a ghostwriter who "improved" on what he got from Jasper, making them unreliable. Alistair says that David Fisher relied on this imperfect source plus the "diaries" (actually scrap books of clippings and the like) for his book, and then embellished the story. Alistair and Stokes agreed that War Magician "belong[s] to the genre of creative non-fiction." Alistair considers it about 40% correct. Early in Fisher's book, for example, he recounts detailed tender scenes between Jasper and his wife Mary in England on the night before he left for war. According to Alistair, he, his mother, and sister were in New Zealand at the time. Jasper's good friend Francis Knox is apparently an invention. According to Stokes, one cannot argue that Fisher was simply mislead by a faulty biography; he added falsehoods of his own.

I wonder if it is also untrue that Jasper's father, Nevil, worked with T. E. Lawrence. The story of Jasper's distant ancestor, John Maskelyne, is recounted as a legend, but I don't believe that they were transporting witches to the nonexistent "American plantations" in the 16th century.

This is a great disappointment to me: I don't think I would have started the book had I known it was largely fiction, but others may enjoy the story, keeping in mind that it is rather loosely based on the truth. I left it unfinished, having too much else to read. ( )
1 vote PuddinTame | Nov 12, 2017 |
Can the secrets of stage magic (misdirection and deception) be applied to warfare? For professional magician Jasper Maskelyne, the answer was, 'yes'. Finally convincing the British government to give him a chance, Maskelyne conjured up camoflage paint for tanks, moved Alexandria Harbor, made the Suez Canal vanish, and numerous other stunts that read like fiction. There may indeed be some embellishment (Maskelyne was a performer, after all) but many of the basic concepts are based in fact. ( )
  BruceCoulson | Apr 18, 2014 |
There is a lot of discussion on whether or not this book is fact or fiction. I picked it up to read because it was a work of "Non-Fiction". But after reading it I am not sure. The book does have verifiable historical detail. But it is filled with complete conversations of the characters/subjects. It seemed to me to be more of a historical novel. Though I do not think everything in the book is accurate, Most of what he is attributed to have done is plausible.

The War Magician written by David Fisher claims to be a true account of the exploits of the illusionist Jasper Maskelyne during the Second World War. Mr. Maskelyne comes from a long line of magicians. And like his ancestor who used his magic knowledge to help T.E. Lawrence in Arabia in WW I, he wanted to do his part in WW II. And so he does. His skills are used to help the British forces in developing new and creative weapons of illusion. Like making the armies look larger then they actually were. To innovations in camouflage, which are very interesting. And these camouflage techniques would take a mind such as Maskelyne had to conceive and execute.

The book makes for very interested reading. And just goes to remind us, that with enough ingenuity and hard work, anything can be accomplished. Regardless if the book is all factual, or if there is some embellishment, it is worth the read. ( )
  mramos | Nov 7, 2007 |
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Burnett, DavidFotógrafoautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
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The outbreak of the 1939 war, foretelling inevitable misery to everyone, meant different things to different people. To me it involved something very strange and rather alarming -- the focusing of my whole imagination and knowledge on the problem of how best to mobilize the world of magic against Hitler.

-- Jasper Maskelyne
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This book is dedicated to
Richard Curtis
Bob and Catherine Carlen Forgione
Joyce Heilberger
Paul Heller
Rosemary Rogers
for their support
while I wandered in my own desert.
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During the sixteenth century, it is said, a stocky English farmer named John Maskelyne served the Cheltenham district as justice of the peace. (Introduction)
Spring 1940

Jasper Maskelyne was drinking a glass of razorblades when the war began.
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The incredible true story of the greatest illusionist of modern times and the man who altered the course of the second world war. Soon to be a major film starring Benedict Cumberbatch 'A richly entertaining read' SUNDAY TIMES Jasper Maskelyne was a world famous magician and illusionist in the 1930s. When war broke out, he volunteered his services to the British Army and was sent to Egypt when the desert war began. Here, he used his unique skills to save the vital port of Alexandria from German bombers and to 'hide' the Suez Canal from them. He invented all sorts of camouflage methods to make trucks look like tanks and vice versa. On Malta he developed 'the world's first portable holes': fake bomb craters used to fool the Germans into thinking they had hit their targets. His war culminated in the brilliant deception plan that helped win the Battle of El Alamein: the creation of an entire dummy army in the middle of the desert.

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