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DULL, INACCURATE AND INSULTING
on October 3, 2009
James Patterson should not have lent his name to this book. Why did he do it? Was it greed or bad judgement? Or perhaps both? I don't know, but THE MURDER OF KING TUT is most certainly unreadable--a juvenile sleight-of-hand non fiction that abuses Mr Patterson's reputation as a writer of fiction, and a cruel joke on those willing to invest their time and money on a writer they've come to admire, enjoy and trust.
Paterson paints a false portrait of Howard Carter, showing him as a difficult and disagreeable man, without considering or even realizing that almost immediately after Carter's discovery of the tomb, he and his party were victimized by a deluge of humanity. Newspaper correspondents flocked into the valley dispelling any opportunity to get down to the business of excavation. Standing knee deep in artifacts that would shatter into dust at the slightest touch, Carter had to fend off visitors of every stripe. The visitors came armed with guide books, gawking and descending on workers who tried to emerge from the tomb with delicate artifacts. There were American students with their jazz age slang, half drunk from spending half the night in the bar of the Winter Palace hotel, hucksters, and reporters. On they came, an army of people, arriving on donkeys and two horse cabs , setting up camps, staking claims on the rim of the excavation, from morning until night, knitting, photographing, singing and in some cases getting quite drunk. And if all this wasn't bad enough, royalty and diplomats insisted on private tours. The Egyptian government felt obliged to grant every request for tours, forcing poor Carter to spend days away from the onerous task of labeling all of the artifacts in situ, and preserving and cataloging them. All of this would be enough to drive any sane archaeologist half mad, a fact noted by Arthur Mace, Egyptologist with the Metropolitan Museum, and co-author of Carter's published journal, when he reported that Carter was close to having a nervous breakdown. If Carter, under these circumstances seemed short-tempered, the compassionate researcher would have had to give Carter the benefit of doubt. No such generosity is found in Patterson's book--the sort of thing that happens when the biographer depends on secondary sources and willing to trade his name for research.
I do not like to slam authors, but Mr. Patterson has written a book that purports to be nonfiction, and in doing so ran the risk of having the book exposed for what it is, a sham and a lie, a silly cartoon vision of a great archaeological find, and the inexcusable defamation of an honored British Archaeologist--Howard Carter.
Readers interested in Howard' Carter's world, Egypt of the 1920's, as well as the most exciting archaeological discovery of the Twentieth Century, should read T.G.H James's HOWARD CARTER:THE PATH TO TUTANKHAMUN. Mr. James is the former keeper of Egyptian antiquities at the Briitsh Museum, and his book is considered the ultimate authority on Howard Carter and that tumultuous period covering the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb, and the events that followed. James is a pro and he'll keep the pages turning.