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The War Magician: The man who conjured victory in the desert [Hardcover]

David Fisher
2.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)

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Book Description

14 Oct 2004
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 where the desert war had just begun. He used his 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 won the Battle of El Alamein: the creation of an entire dummy army in the middle of the desert.

Frequently Bought Together

The War Magician: The man who conjured victory in the desert + Maskelyne's Book of Magic (Dover Magic Books)
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Orion; First Edition edition (14 Oct 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0297846353
  • ISBN-13: 978-0297846352
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 15.2 x 4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 237,012 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'Right from his memorable opening line [Fisher] shows a sure touch... a richly entertaining read.' -- THE SUNDAY TIMES

'This is one of those books that once you start, you can't give up... a fascinating read' -- REGIMENT

'a remarkable tale, delightfully told.' -- SOLDIER magazine

Book Description

The story of the greatest illusionist of modern times and the man who conjured victory in the desert - to be made into a film starring Tom Cruise

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Jasper Maskelyne was drinking a glass of razor blades when the war began. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mixed feelings 31 Aug 2007
By Peter M
I agree with the previous reviewer, you never know what's historical truth and what's dramatisation. I'm not sure that matters though, because the story is fascinating. You know that Rommel is going to get beaten in the end, but you're not sure how much damage he did before El Alamein so you keep on reading. The style's very dry and I must admit I skipped pages when one mission seemed too much like another, but I enjoyed the book all the same, and wanted to know more about the subject which is for me is a fairly reliable test of whether it's a good read or not.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Read 9 Jun 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I can't for the life of me understand why the previous reviewers are so sceptical and critical of this book. What's the problem?

So what if it mixes historical narrative with supposed conversations between Maskelyn and his fellow Magic Gang members?

Although it was relatively undemanding to read, I found `The War Magician' superbly entertaining, informative and revealing. I regard it as a significant plus that `The War Magician' isn't bogged down in a dry-as-dust recital of military operations and strategy in the N African desert campaign of WWII.

Fisher should be applauded for writing in a style which has managed to humanise the subject. This is a rare feat in what can be a dry subject area. That he has achieved this so successfully, makes `The War Magician' far more readable as a result.

If readers crave a hugely comprehensive and in-depth overview of deception techniques used by the British in WWII, then they ought to try Holt's book, mentioned previously.

However, `The War Magician' does exactly what it says on the tin: it focuses on Maskelyne - the man, the illusionist, the forgotten hero of WWII.

A cracking read. Thumbs up.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fact or fiction 7 Oct 2007
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.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Splendid facts, dubious fiction. 19 Jun 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a work full of interesting facts about Jasper Maskelyne and his Magic Gang and their hugely successful attempts to deceive the Germans and Italians during the war in North Africa and, for the serious student, would normally have deserved five stars. However, David Fisher, in an attempt to make the story flow, has almost turned the book into a semi-fictionalised narrative by interspersing the text with dialogue and incidents which could not possibly have been recorded. As with certain Wikipedia articles, I feel like peppering the text with (citation needed).

The saving grace is that Maskelyne's work is sufficiently important to have been described in a single volume and its own context without loading the book with the numerous other deceptions not perpetrated by him and the Magic Gang.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Very odd read! 9 Nov 2011
I found the 1985 Corgi pb in my local second hand bookshop. Very strange way of writing I thought - like the script of a dramatised documentary. I also wondered if it was originally written for the US market - the text is English spelling but littered with references to candy and cookies. "Glasshouse" has been replaced with "workhouse", presumably because americans would find the term puzzling. Workhouse makes no sense in this context. Why not use "military prison", a name familier on both sides of the Atlantic? I was also amazed to see that the author referred to "Tiger" tanks being used by the British in 1941. Clever that, using a German panzer a year before it went into production!
All this led me wonder about the source of the claims made in the book and the authors knowledge of history - to that end I did my own research. Check out Richard Stokes' interesting work on Maskelyne at,

Save your money!
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars enlightening 1 Aug 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a really interesting book, to see how "magic" and illusion was used during the second world war. Secrets that you never knew about - great
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