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DEADLY DUEL

After an inauspicious start—being treated as a mere magician who should be entertaining on the stage not making a fool of himself in the fighting arena—Jasper Maskelyne was given the bizarre task of confronting the Imam of the Whirling Dervishes. Or so Fisher would like us to believe.
The Imam had warned that any troop movements across his territory would trigger a jihad. To avert a military crisis, Prince Hassan arranged a meeting between Maskelyne and the Imam in Damascus. Hassan was aware of Nevil Maskelyne’s secret work with Lawrence of Arabia in the First World War. (Nevil, Jasper’s father, sent three trained magicians into the desert to foment rebellion against the Turks. This mission, ‘recorded’ in White Magic, is not mentioned in reputable sources.)
Jasper Maskelyne’s encounter with the ageing Imam soon developed into a deadly duel of tricks. The English conjuror courageously matched and then surpassed the fraudulent holy man. Maskelyne performed a gun trick and pretended to fire a bullet through the palm of his hand; the Imam responded by forcing a spear through his own stomach. This sham disembowelment made use of a gimmicked belt.
Impressed by Maskelyne’s magical abilities and fearing exposure as an imposter, the Imam allowed the British safe passage through Syria. Or so the ludicrous story goes ...

My uncompromising theory is that this masochistic duel never took place. The ghost writer of Magic–Top Secret, with Maskelyne’s approval, concocted this nonsense. Fisher came along thirty-five years later and built upon the earlier fabrication.

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