-By Warner Todd Huston
Not long after the book Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace … One School at a Time came out in 2006 it became a best-selling sensation, but now the co-author of the book, beset by questions over whether or not the stories in the book are true, has committed suicide.
On November 14, Three Cups co-author David Oliver Relin, 49, was found dead outside Portland along some railroad tracks and under a roadway overpass. According to Multnomah County medical examiner Peter Bellant, the writer died from a “blunt force head injury.”
Relin co-authored the famed book with adventurer Greg Mortenson who was said to have made a vow to help build schools for girls in remote Pakistani villages because one small village took him in and nursed him back to health after he got lost trying to climb the world’s second highest mountain in the Karakoram range of the Kashmir-administered area of northern Pakistan.
By the early 2000s, Mortenson had joined the lecture circuit to promote his adventures and to raise funds for the Pakistani schools project. Journalist David Relin was assigned the task of writing a book on Mortenson’s cause and met the adventurer on the lecture trail in 2005 to interview him for the book project.
Their relationship was said to have been tense. Regardless, Three Cups of Tea became a huge success selling over four million copies.
But it wasn’t long before serious questions about the veracity of the claims in the book became too much to ignore. By April of 2011, a broadcast of CBS News’ 60 Minutes raised serious questions about the many claims in the book. Worse, there came allegations that Mortenson was mismanaging the charitable group he created to fund his schools project.
Critics say Mortenson’s claim to have been taken in by the remote village is questionable, his story of having been taken captive by the Taliban seems not to have happened, there are questions about the number of schools Mortenson said has been built, and there are questions about his handling of the money donated to his charity, as well.
The adventurer says none of this is his fault. Mortenson blamed his co-author, David Relin, for all the errors, time compressions, and misstatements in the book.
Rather than telling the story of two or three trips to a location, Relin “would synthesize it into one trip,” Mortenson said. “I would squawk about it and be told it would all work out.”
Mortenson has also denied any wrongdoing with his charity.
For his part, Co-Author Relin was hit hard by the flurry of attacks and the controversy over his work. The writer’s family told reporters that he has been very depressed of late.
Relin’s publisher released a statement saying, “All of us at Penguin are saddened to hear of the death of David Oliver Relin. We extend our heartfelt condolences to his family.”
The author’s second book, “Second Suns, Two Doctors and Their Amazing Quest to Restore Sight and Save Lives,” was to be published in June. No word if that schedule has been changed.
“The only end of writing is to enable the reader better to enjoy life, or better to endure it.”
Warner Todd Huston is a Chicago based freelance writer. He has been writing opinion editorials and social criticism since early 2001 and before that he wrote articles on U.S. history for several small American magazines. His political columns are featured on many websites such as Andrew Breitbart’s BigGovernment.com, BigHollywood.com, and BigJournalism.com, as well as RightWingNews.com, RightPundits.com, CanadaFreePress.com, StoptheACLU.com, AmericanDaily.com, among many, many others. Mr. Huston is also endlessly amused that one of his articles formed the basis of an article in Germany’s Der Spiegel Magazine in 2008.
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