In 1993, two significant developments influenced my research.
Firstly, I finally tracked down a rare copy of Magic–Top Secret in an English library and arranged it to be brought to Australia on a loan.
I would soon be able to compare Maskelyne’s original account with Fisher’s later version.
As we shall see, there are important discrepancies—not minor oversights, but major inconsistencies —between the two accounts.
Secondly, at my son’s birthday party in the Blue Mountains, I met up with Angela Maskelyne, the granddaughter of Jasper Maskelyne. (Angela happened to be a friend of my then partner, Niekie Hoving.) I asked Angela if I might contact her father, Alistair Maskelyne. Permission was granted.
I duly assembled a ten-page letter critiquing Fisher’s book and bluntly questioning Jasper Maskelyne’s wartime activities.
When I began my research, Alistair Maskelyne, Jasper’s son, was in his mid-sixties, and had retired to Queensland after a long career as a commercial airline pilot. Would he be willing to talk about his family’s past? I knew already from his daughter Angela that he might be sensitive to enquiries from an outsider and might not wish to discuss his father’s memoirs or Fisher’s book. I realised that my letter, critical of the accepted accounts, could easily be interpreted as an attack on his father’s reputation. The name Maskelyne is revered in the magic world. Edwin Dawes’ classic book The Great Illusionists regards the Maskelyne family as “a dynasty that has no parallel in the annals of British conjuring and one which, in presenting a theatre of magic continuously in London for sixty years, cannot be matched anywhere in the world.”
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