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Confessions of a Fake Sheik: ‘The King of the Sting’ Reveals All Hardcover – 1 Sep 2008
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"This is an appalling piece of journalism."
Her Majesty The Queen, referring to the "Sophiegate" exposé
"Thanks for my underpants. It's a fair cop and I suppose it's a great honour to be exposed by the most famous journalist in Britain."
Four star review in London Lite
"This is an appalling piece of journalism."See all Product description
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These are the tales of the News Of The World's `fake sheik' and the stings undertaken on a variety of celebs, royals and crooks. It's easy to be dismissive because of the newspaper concerned or this type of journalism but the reality is that the `fake sheik' uncovered some major stories over the years. It is amazing how many people were taken in my reporter Mazher Mahmood dressed like a sheik. Victims include Sven Goran Eriksson, Royals such as Sophie Wessex, Diana butler Paul Burrell, the directors of Newcastle football club and assorted TV stars, models and some very dodgy crooks. Told in brief chapters it is actually quite entertaining and an insight into the type of journalism but also the extreme greed of so many people.
Far more fun then it ought to be.
Mahmood clearly has a highly moral outlook and has a sincere drive to expose those who he feels have done wrong. For me, he comes across as somewhere between a hero and vry arrogant. After saving the life of a female doctor (by setting up her former-lover who was planning to have her murdered), he seems surprised that she wrote to complain to the PCC rather than to thank him. Similarly he seems surprised when Michelle Collins wrote to complain about the article regarding her abusive husband, rather than thank him for exposing her plight. I can't help but think that had he approached them before the articles were published and explained to them his concerns, and warned the female doctor that he planned to name her and have photos of her, that they would have been more positive towards him. Sometimes the quotes come across as unrealistic (would a friendly East End villain/informtant really have said "I'd sort them all out myself but I'm busy fighting the biggest fight of my life, so it's down to you"?) , sometimes he comes across as a bit too moralistic, branding Jerry Sprinder 'a dirty two-faced toe-rag' for daring to question the morals of porn stars on his show with whom he had slept the night before (in Mahmood's mind, it seems, celebrities cannot have a professional personae that contradicts their real-life behaviour). Sometimes Mahmood 'over-eggs the pudding' with certain things, it's a fun game to see how many times he mentions that he's Asian (in the British sense) and that he doesn't drink alcohol (only to be 'forced' to drink in Chapter 6).
Overall, the book is pro News of the World (would Britney really find the NOTW "a strong ally in her public battle against Federline" given that it isn't even published in the US?) and pro Mazher Mahmood, which can be a little annoying at times (he's very very proud of those 'thank you' letters and kind words of high-ranking police officers). You do, however, get the feeling that this is a man who has done an awful lot of good work, bringing down the baddies and often putting his life on the line. It's fun to read the 'behind the scenes' stories and how thin the veil of his pretence can be, and it heart-warming to know that newspapers can and do fund these operations to stop and expose crime.
It is effectively a "greatest hits" compilation that deals with all of his most high profile cases including Sven, The Beckhams, Britney Spears and Sophie Anderton amongst others. However, as he explains, it isn't all glitz and Mr Mahmood has helped to nab a whole rogues gallery of crooks, including the shocking tale of the woman who tried to sell her young daughter's virginity to the highest bidder. In fact, to date, over 230 criminals have been brought to justice because of his work and it is this fact that elevates this book from being not just great fun but "Exhibit A" into the importance of journalism today.
Mr Mahmood writes in a very engaging way that covers all the stings without delivering rehashed versions of the News of the World stories. He expands upon them by giving un-expected anicdotes at the point of scene with a particularly explosive insight into his expose upon chat-show legend Jerry Springer. Generally, we all know what happend, but Mr Mahmood makes the book engaging by telling the reader how it happend, why it happend and what happend next.
It all works on so many levels, it is great fun to read for celeb fans but for journos it does deliver a timely reminder that journalism is no "pen and paper" trade. The Sheik delves into this to excite and entertain with the public interest at heart. It is this attitude that has helped save lives and bring down the corrupt.
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