New York Times Best-selling novel, The War Magician, is coming to life on the big screen with acclaimed producer and actor Benedict Cumberbatch at the helm of its production. The story is based on world-famous British illusionist Jasper Maskelyne and his heroic efforts during General Rommel’s wartime campaign in Africa. Its equally adventurous author and renowned journalist David Fisher, much like our titular hero, is an exciting figure all on his own.
David took on the story of the “War Magician” Jasper Maskelyne after reading a paragraph about Maskelyne’s wartime efforts during the battle of Alamein in World War II, which earned him the reputation of being a master of deception and manipulation. “ Known as a man of his time, Maskelyne’s compatriots labelled him as being an unruly character throughout history. This, among many of Maskelyne’s scruples, made the journalist dig deeper into knowing all the facets of this notorious historical figure, and it all came down to David’s curiosity.
“I became so intrigued that I began following up to learn more about it. I ended up moving to London for six months and living there while researching the project and interviewing many of the people who had been in Jasper Maskelyne’s life or had worked with him in the Western Desert, and the result is this book.”
On the one hand, David’s dedication to writing Maskelyne’s story stemmed from his natural disposition to tell fascinating narratives. Most of which he’s done during his celebrated career as one of the most extraordinary storytellers in his lifetime, having written for various publications such as LIFE Magazine as a sports writer and all-around journalist.
His main drive to finish the book was to give life and show another side of Jasper Maskelyne’s Byronic/larger-than-life persona. This would be a thrill for history enthusiasts, readers and future cinemagoers since the fascination for WWII hasn’t faded into obscurity.
But what kept David motivated to write the book was his fascination for Jasper’s incredulous feats of inventiveness. “ The thing that has intrigued me forever is creativity. Why some can see and pursue things differently — I ask people in creative fields questions about their creativity, and nobody can tell you anything precise. I would have loved to ask him where his came from.”
Maskelyne’s actions during WWII made him an unlikely hero amongst his regiment. Initially, he and his Magic Gang were rebuffed for their use of illusions. But Maskelye and his cohorts did the impossible: Making Alexandria Harbour disappear. Aside from that, The War Magician began creating other inventions, such as escape kits that were fitted in the heel of a boot– it was ingenious, and nobody ever thought of it. When it was revealed at the most opportune moment, a lock pick, map and compass would help soldiers get out of sticky situations.
Although critics often had things to say about Maskelyne’s actions, David found Jasper to be extraordinarily creative. “He saw the whole military world in a way that no one else had ever seen it before and was able to do things that nobody else did.” During his time in London, David was fortunate to interview Maskelyne’s nearest and dearest. He made it a point to give people another perspective of The War Magician. “ As you know, he was a bad fit for the British army, which was very officious and regimented, liked to do things in a particular way, in the way most military functions.”
Maskelyne’s cover in Cairo was incidentally an entertainer, and David knew about him through the stories of others who saw Jasper up close and personal. He interviewed the female assistant who loved him and spent time with Robert Harvin, a close associate of Jasper’s who happened to be the world’s master of origami.
For David, Jasper’s introduction to the modern world will be an opportunity for the world to know about the man who helped change the course of history in his way. This time, not just viewing him through military reports but for people to learn about the War Magician’s fascinating, wonderfully flamboyant, brilliant and terribly insecure character who had a zest for life tied with human follies. Which history, unfortunately, does not speak about.
Note: After 30 years, The War Magician by David Fisher will soon make its way to cinemas with a film adaptation in place produced by Sunny March and directed by Jurassic Park Director Colin Trevorrow. To get a copy, get yours HERE.
Written by Cyan Leigh Dacasin