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The Meinertzhagen Mystery: The Life and Legend of a Colossal Fraud [Hardcover]

Brian Garfield

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Book Description

Jan. 1 2007
Tall, handsome, charming Col. Richard Meinertzhagen (1878-1967) was an acclaimed British war hero, a secret agent, and a dean of international ornithology. His exploits inspired three biographies, movies have been based on his life, and a square in Jerusalem is dedicated to his memory. Meinertzhagen was trusted by Winston Churchill, David Lloyd George, Chaim Weizmann, David Ben Gurion, T. E. Lawrence, Elspeth Huxley, and a great many others.

He bamboozled them all. Meinertzhagen was a fraud. Many of the adventures recorded in his celebrated diaries were imaginary, including a meeting with Hitler while he had a loaded pistol in his pocket, an attempt to rescue the Russian royal family in 1918, and a shoot-out with Arabs in Haifa when he was seventy years old. True, he was a key player in Middle Eastern events after World War I, and during the 1930s he represented Zionism's interests in negotiations with Germany. But he also set up Nazi front organizations in England, committed a half-century of major and costly scientific fraud, and -- oddly -- may have been innocent of many killings to which he confessed (e.g., the murder of his own polo groom -- a crime of which he cheerfully boasted, although the evidence suggests it never occurred at all). Further, he may have been guilty of at least one homicide of which he professed innocence.

A compelling read about a flamboyant rogue,The Meinertzhagen Mysteryshows how recorded history reflects not what happened, but what we believe happened.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 386 pages
  • Publisher: Potomac Books Inc; 1 edition (Jan. 1 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1597970417
  • ISBN-13: 978-1597970419
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 16.3 x 3.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 680 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,761,923 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description



About the Author

. He lives in Studio City, California.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.0 out of 5 stars  12 reviews
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Man who Life wasn't Big Enough to Hold July 19 2007
By Grey Wolffe - Published on
Richard Meinertzhagen was a military hero, explorer, spy, friend of Israel, diarist, world renown Ornithologist and prevaricator. Unlike most people, he reveled in the lies that he told and the reactions of those he told them to. He left an 82 volume library of his 'life', much of which was wishful thinking or down right false, but like Dr.Goebbels he believed that if you tell "The Big Lie" forceful enough and long enough, people will begin to believe.

Why would a man who was respected as a world class ornithologist, get himself barred from the British Museum for stealing? Was it for the notoriety? Having re-written his diaries (in some cases many times) and destroying all the previous versions, did he want to be caught after his death? Like publicity, being remembered, whether for good or bad, is still being remembered.

Garfield, who admits the man was one of his heroes as a child, spends a lot of time trying to find back-up information to prove RMs tales. But the more his digs, the more his finds that it like digging a hole in the dessert, it buries you. When RM writes that he did so-and-so, Garfield is able to find that not only wasn't he involved, but that RM might not have even been anywhere in the area (much less on the same continent) when the event occurred.

Ian Fleming had written that RM was the archetype for "James Bond". He could not have known how right he was in basing his fictional spy on a real-life falsified spy. The sad part is, had RM just written about his real accomplishments, his story would still be one of an outstanding personality; it just wasn't outstanding enough for him.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A history lesson and a thriller all rolled in to one. March 28 2007
By M. Silverglade - Published on
Col. Richard Meinertzhagen's exploits are those of either the greatest and most daring man ever to wear a British Military Uniform, or that of the most whopping fraud to walk the earth. Excellent research and a great read.
14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An unfair account Oct. 29 2007
By Seth J. Frantzman - Published on
This is not so much a biography of Richard Meinertzhagen as it is an attempt to destroy his reputation. Meinertzhagen was a warrior, a famous collector of rare bird specimens, supporter of Zionism, African hunter and war hero from the First World War. Most of all he was an adventurer. He had a keen sense for history and felt sympathy for the Jews and deep hatred for Hitler.

But all this has been stolen from him because of a number of allegations of impropriety. There are the stuffed birds that he is alleged to have stolen and re-labeled. There is the fact that no one recalls him being in Haifa in 1948 (although who would have?). Most of all there is the controversy over his diary and his meetings with T.E Lawrence. Meinertzhagen was sure that people would 'find out' about Lawrence and his having made things up and it seems that Meinertzhagen may have fabricated a number of diary entries including meetings with Lawrence.

This book attacks Meinertzhagen even for the exploits that are widely known to have been his most brave and audacious. He once dropped fake plans behind Turkish lines in order to deceive them in the battles for Beersheba and Gaza in 1917. He is attacked here for having not come up with the original idea. But the proof for this is that other people claimed to have had the same idea. But why believe their claims and not Meinertzhagen's?

Most of the rumors and stories about Meinertzhagen cannot be proved and neither can most of the allegations. For those such as T.E Lawrence the legend has remained, why there is so much interest in dismantling the reputation of a minor player such as Meinertzhagen is not clear, if anything he deserves more mention in history books on the Middle East, not less. The best place to start is to read his diary, Middle East Diary, 1917-1956 and then Warrior: The Legend Of Colonel Richard Meinertzhagen.

Seth J. Frantzman
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Unbelievable Mess March 16 2007
By John Matlock - Published on
Brian Garfield is a supurb writer. It doesn't matter if he is writing fiction (Death Wish, the book behind the Charles Bronson movie), military history (The Thousand-Mile War about the part of World War II in the Aleutians), or a non-fiction book like The Meinertzhagen Mystery. His writing style is captivating and even otherwise dull subjects come alive. Any book is highly recommended.

Col. Richard Meinertzhagen left a history of heroic deeds so dramatic that he was used as the model for Ian Fleming's 'James Bond.' Or at least it is so rumored. His diaries are full of stories so outrageous that you'd think they have to be made up.

It turns out that most of them now appear to have been made up indeed. The difficulty is to split out what is true from what is false. And then we need look at what historians have reported as fact based on what is now seen to be false. It's enough to make you wonder about all of history.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More evidence of fraud Sept. 5 2008
By Paul Sullivan - Published on
In Kenya Diary, Meinertzhagen lists game counts throughout the book to the nearest animal, an impossible achievement when animals and observer are in motion. I've tried. Some years ago I asked the University of Nairobi's Mathematics Department to confirm that the game count totals are random. They are not. Meinertzhagen had "favourite" numbers that recur in a non random fashion. Perhaps this is a small matter, but it is yet another small matter.

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