Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A load of hooey

You know the biography of Jasper Maskelyn I just finished? After doing a little bit of internet snooping I found out that most of it was pure fiction. In part because Maskelyn himself was involved in the production of a ghost written autobiography, released sometime after the war when Maskelyne was desperately in need of cash. According to Maskelyne's family, he admitted that certain episodes were made up as the ghost writer thought it would be 'more exciting' that way. But to a greater extent, the author of this current bio, Fisher, has evidently made up episodes, incidents and people wholesale. This is not on. According to WWII espionage expert, Nigel West, this sort of thing is quite common. The powers that be tend to take the line: We can neither confirm nor deny. So while more and more classified info is becoming available from MI5 and MI6, they don't usually make much of an effort to clear up questions about what did or did not really happen. Reading this book has been an unfortunate experience. It has rather put me off this area of research as how am I to know if what I am reading is true? Or is the author knowingly and calculatingly lying? It is disappointing precisely because some of the more bizarre incidents did occur and because there were some amazingly brave people involved - this sort of meddling with the truth does these people a great disservice.

So while we are talking about things being a load of hooey I feel I need to mention that I ignored the advice of Mr Movietone News and saw the recent Sherlock Holmes film last night. Dear, dear me. Now I've never been a super fan of Mr Holmes - always considered him a bit of a smartarse actually (though this is typical of detective fiction of the era - the days of the puzzle novel, where readers had the opportunity to solve the crime themselves, is yet to come). But what on earth have they done to Sherlock Holmes??? A vaguely passable action movie but not what Holmes and Watson deserve. Cheap.

I've just noticed that David Fisher's publisher now lists The war magician as fiction. Pity they didn't do that the first time.


Anonymous said...

Faction is not my cup of tea either. I do know that a certain book MacRobertson: The Chocolate King is full of correct facts and absolutley no made ups to make it more exciting. At least not in this version.
Could you see whether any of Mrs Bailie Reynold's books are hiding in any of Melbourne's book stores??? M

Curvy Kitty said...

The chocolate king eh? I must buy a copy! (For those who don't know, M is the author of this delightful - and factual - tome.)

Shall endeavour to scout for Mrs B R. Don't fancy your chances though...