HISTORY

The Confidence Men: How Two Prisoners of War Engineered the Most Remarkable Escape in History

Random. Jun. 2021. 352p. ISBN 9781984853844. $28. HIST
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With this latest work, Fox (Conan Doyle for the Defense) presents a World War I story of two British officers from different sides of the world—Welsh lawyer Harry Jones and Australian magician Cedric Hill—who collaborated to escape from a Turkish POW camp, using deception, a handcrafted Ouija board, and an insanity plea which sent them to the relative safety of an asylum. The case of the Yazgod prison escapees was distinctive because they employed not weapons or tunnels but ingenuity, by beguiling commandants with a fanciful search for hidden treasure and the power of deception. This well-researched book, based in part on the men’s memoirs, gives considerable context to the 20th-century Anglo revival of spiritualism and confidence manipulation, and makes comparisons with the coercive persuasion of later cult leaders and demagogues. It includes photographs of Jones and Hill throughout their careers, along with extensive notes and a bibliography for further research.
VERDICT Fans of military history will appreciate this book’s attention to the Ottoman side of the war; general readers will learn much about the influence of mass psychology. Like Fox’s previous works, this latest is a page-turner.
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