“A richly entertaining read.” —Sunday Times (London)
Based on an extraordinary true story and soon to be a major film produced by and starring Benedict Cumberbatch, The War Magician is the remarkable tale of the man who used the powers of illusion to fight the Nazis—and created the most remarkable feat of legerdemain since the Trojan Horse.
When England went to war against Hitler in 1939, it mobilized its entire military and industrial resources. But there was no place in that vast army for legendary stage magician Jasper Maskelyne, whose family was renowned for creating the modern theatrical illusions. Maskelyne was determined to fight the Nazis using his only weapon: he intended to apply the techniques of popular magic to the battlefield. Initially ignored and ridiculed by the staid military leadership, he eventually cajoled his way into the Camouflage Corps and was sent to the Western Desert where he created a new type of warfare.
With his small group of artists, the Magic Gang, Maskelyne designed and developed ingenious weapons, then tricked the Desert Fox, General Rommel, and his fabled Afrika Corps into believing there were tanks and battleships where there were none, concealed the Suez Canal, and even successfully “moved” Alexandria Harbor.
But it required all his skills to pull off perhaps the largest and most complex magic trick in history. As General Bernard Montgomery told Maskelyne on the eve of the Battle of Alamein, “The entire war will turn on what happens here. What I am about to ask you to do is impossible. It can’t be done, but it must be done. I hope you’ve brought your magic wand with you.”
This is the fact-based story of the illusion that won the war in the desert.
“A literally marvelous war tale, well told.” —Foreign Affairs
“A remarkable tale, delightfully told.” —Soldier magazine (UK)
“[Maskelyne’s] feats were deucedly clever, and the details of their contrivance are intriguing.” —Kirkus Reviews
“This is one of those books that once you start, you can’t give up…A fascinating read.” —Regiment
David Fisher is the award-winning author of almost one hundred books, including twenty-six New York Times bestsellers. He has written works of nonfiction, fiction, reference, and humor and collaborated with legendary figures in a variety of fields, from Hall of Fame athletes to Nobel Prize–winning scientists. He lives in New York with his wife, Laura.