I was reminded of Sheridan Morley’s warning about David Niven’s unreliable Hollywood anecdotes: “the truth was often rearranged to lead up to a better punch line ... Even the best and most famous of the stories tend to fall apart when double-checked.” Have Jasper Maskelyne's wartime adventures been similarly exaggerated? Or is there a kernel of truth to the tale?
As historical research, The War Magician is frustrating because it fails to cite sources and has no information on how scenes were reconstructed. Without this underpinning, there is no way of backtracking and validating the material once doubts set in. It also makes no mention of Ultra, the secret intelligence gathered from breaking the German ENIGMA codes. This omission is curious for a book published as late as 1983.
In 1949, Jasper Maskelyne ‘wrote’ an account of his wartime career entitled Magic–Top Secret. Booth suspected Fisher’s book was based not only on this earlier version but also on further unpublished material, perhaps compiled by Maskelyne during his retirement in Kenya. This sounded plausible. Fisher never met or corresponded with Maskelyne. He wrote The War Magician several years after Maskelyne’s death. The level of detail does suggest an extra source.
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