Brian Garfield

Selected Works

Remake of 1987 Garfield-Westlake classic (see information elsewhere)
Novel and movie
Spy pursued by the CIA. The DVD, from Criterion Collection, includes informative interviews with the fine director Ronald Neame and with author-screenwriter-coproducer Brian Garfield.
novel; basis for several movies
"Vigilante" of the streets - novel, basis for several movies; new remake, 2013, to star Liam Neeson
The biography of an amazing fraud
The true life of a colossal hoaxster -- he fooled Churchill, the Old Boy Network, and science
the films of Brian Garfield
Books and Movies
See right-hand column for Links to order
Pulitzer Prize nominee, finalist in history; an exciting narrative history used as a textbook by U.S. Navy. For years the bestselling title of Univ of Alaska Press. "A splendid achievement." --Washington Star
A critical encyclopedia of all "A" Western features shown in the United States from the advent of talkies to the book's publication date. The guide lists films alphabetically from "Abilene Town" to "Zandy's Bride"; each listing provides credits, information, and commentary. Most post-1982 Western films have been mediocre at best, Garfield feels, with a few notable exceptions like "Tombstone".
Historical Fiction
Biographical novel capturing Theodore Roosevelt's true adventures as a young rancher in the wild American West.
Top two lines of the poster: "From the director of SAW and the author of DEATH WISH" -- The 2007 movie "Death Sentence" is derived from the Brian Garfield novel of the same title, and the author contributed screenplays for the film. About Garfield's novel, Booklist reported "This might well be required reading. It's edge of the chair all the way. . . . Wholly fascinating and thought-provoking." Copies of the novel are available through and selected bookshops. About the movie -- Garfield thinks the James Wan-directed film is exciting and thought-provoking, with a marvelous cast. The shooting script -- by Ian Mackenzie Jeffers -- is excellent, he feels. All the same, moviegoers should be advised that "Death Sentence" is a violent action film. It makes its point -- emphatically -- and Garfield says, "While I could have done with a bit less blood-and-thunder, I think it's a stunningly good movie. In the details of its story it's quite different from the novel, but it's a movie, not a novel. In its cinematic way it connects with its audience and it makes the same point the book makes, and those are the things that count." Further information about the movie can be found on this website's "My Works" page, and at the movie's website, .

This earlier poster for the film was replaced by 20th Century Fox with the darker poster at top of column.

THE PALADIN -- by Brian Garfield and Christopher Creighton -- a novel about Winston Churchill and his teen-age hatchet man in World War II. This novel is based on Christopher Creighton's accounts of his adventures in the service of the wartime Prime Minister. The exploits -- some of them behind enemy lines -- may or may not be true; the book is a novelist's recounting of Creighton's tales.

CHECKPOINT CHARLIE brings together Garfield's "Charlie Dark" short stories, featuring the supporting cast from "Hopscotch" in a lighthearted series of clever adventures about an over-age CIA troubleshooter in various overseas hot-spots.

KOLCHAK'S GOLD, which Brian Garfield feels is his best novel to date, is a story about a resolute historian who follows the track of Czarist Russia's treasury -- a trainload of gold and silver bullion -- from the Russian Civil War on the steppes of Siberia to Nazi hijackers in the Crimea to the empire of the late Soviet Union. This rich novel has been described as a sweeping romantic epic -- and also has been used in university courses as an exciting history text.

RECOIL is a harrowing novel about a family whose protectors -- the Witness Protection Program -- are outwitted by Organized Crime, leaving one honest man to fight the Mob in solitary desperation. The screenplay, by Garfield's friend David Morrell, has not yet been filmed.

To order these and other books, click on the links below:

Brian Garfield - Events

and latest publications

Brian Garfield in Normandy 2008

Brian Garfield's most recent public appearance was at the "Left Coast Crime" gathering in Santa Fe, NM, on March 24th-27th 2011.

Garfield will also appear at the Orange County Men of Mystery gathering in October 2011, in Irvine, California; for details see website < > .

Also keep an eye on your local event listings.


A recent remake of Brian's and the late Donald E. Westlake's 1987 movie "The Stepfather" showed in theaters around the country. It received mixed notices, and is available on DVD. The original film, which won awards and became a cult favorite, finally was released on DVD recently. Its performance in the lead role by Terry O'Quinn is mesmerizing.

Garfield and Westlake were longtime friends who collaborated on several ventures -- the comic novel "Gangway!", the movie "The Stepfather", the installation (with Lawrence Block and Justin Scott) of bookcases in Otto Penzler's original Mysterious Bookshop in New York, the Gregg Press edition of Westlake's novel "The Outfit" (under the pen-name Richard Stark; Garfield wrote the Introduction), and Garfield's as-yet-unproduced screenplay for 20th Century Fox based on Westlake's novel -- again under the pen-name Richard Stark -- "Butcher's Moon".

For more about the sorely missed Donald E. Westlake, see websites http:/​/​​2011/​04/​04/​post_78.html and​index1.html.

Bina and Brian Garfield in Alaska 2009

One of the author's more recent appearances was at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, in June 2009, during its three-day book festival.

Previously Brian Garfield appeared in Boston at an April 2009 meeting of the Wardroom Club of the USS Constitution, where he talked about World War II in the Aleutians (subject of his nonfiction book "The Thousand-Mile War").

For future events check back with this site, and/​or write to the author at briagar@​

Brian Garfield and "Christopher Creighton" (The Paladin). For more author photos see bottom of this page.


(It's pronounced MINE-erts-hag'n)

Please note: the book is substantial in size, but a great deal of information about Meinertzhagen's service and travel in Africa (particularly at the turn of the 20th century and again during the First World War) had to be left out. That material is available (text by Brian Garfield with sources and descriptive footnotes), for those who are interested in it, by email from Jerry Rilling -- .

<< Thanks, Jerry. >>

Here's the publisher's summary; below it, see reviewers' comments, followed by complete review from The Wall Street Journal.


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. Much of the Meinertzhagen legend is 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.

In fact he was a key player in Middle Eastern events after World War I, and made several important new discoveries in the natural sciences -- at times he was a figure of genuine stature. 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), while he may have been guilty of at least one homicide of which he professed innocence.

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


“Brian Garfield has done a marvelous job of unraveling the skein of lies, fakes, and fictions woven by one of the greatest scientific frauds of the twentieth century. He has created a nonfiction version of Thomas Mann's Felix Krull-a portrait of a self-invented man. Garfield also offers a unique point of view on many historic events of the twentieth century, while at the same time inviting the reader to wonder how much of what we've read about these events is true. All in all it's an astonishing read.” -- John Seabrook, New Yorker staff writer and author of Nobrow: The Culture of Marketing, the Marketing of Culture

"A fascinating, well documented tour de force through the back streets of British imperial history during the first half of the twentieth century. In his methodical search for the elusive and authentic character of Richard Meinertzhagen hidden behind the public persona, Brian Garfield has produced a rare, intimate, and sobering picture of those who ruled the 'empire on which the sun never sets' from its peak to its demise." -- Jay Shapiro, Israel National Radio

"Brian Garfield's patient detective work finally slots Richard Meinertzhagen's mug-shot in the grandiose section of the British rogues' gallery. . . ." -- The Literary Review, United Kingdom

". . . .a compelling story about a flambouyant rogue, and this book, by its example, cautions us that recorded history sometimes reflects not what actually happened, but what we are told happened." --

“Colossal -- the term is no exaggeration for the magnitude of Meinertzhagen's frauds. Garfield has sifted through myriads of files and fallacies, and now, in a book I could not put down, demolishes the exploits that Meinertzhagen self-promoted into the history books.” -- Pamela C. Rasmussen, Ph.D., renowned ornithologist and assistant professor, Department of Zoology, Michigan State University

"Shredding his way through both Meinertzhagen's four-million-word diary and the layers of sensational anecdote that grew up around him, Mr. Garfield exposes countless self-flattering inflations, from Meinertzhagen's claim to own Darwin's pipe to his boasts of having casually killed any number of men with his bare hands... Mr. Garfield manages both to prosecute Meinertzhagen convincingly and, by means of his lively prose, to keep us engaged." -- The Wall Street Journal, Saturday/Sunday, February 10-11, 2007


"Garfield is one of the best. Anyone settling down with a Garfield book is in for a good time." -- New York Times (reviewing Hopscotch)

"A scintillating, talented writer." -- Newsday (reviewing Death Wish)

"Engrossing and exciting . . . I couldn't put it down." -- Robert Ludlum (commenting on Recoil)


The Wall Street Journal
Saturday/Sunday, February 10-11, 2007


By Brian Garfield
Potomac, 353 pages, $27.50

By Ben Downing

AMONG history's missed opportunities, the most regrettable of all must be the one that Richard Meinertzhagen, a British army colonel, let slip through his fingers in Berlin on June 28, 1939. According to his diary, on that day he paid his third and last visit to Hitler, with whom he pleaded, as before, on behalf of Germany's Jews. Having smuggled a pistol into the chancellery, Meinertzhagen could easily have taken out the Fuhrer, but he lost his nerve at the last moment.
If this dramatic scenario of failed derring-do seems improbable, it is worthwhile to remember that Meinertzhagen was perhaps the one person who might have brought it off. An ardent Zionist (though not Jewish himself), he also happened to be a founder of the Anglo-German Fellowship, which promoted stronger business ties between Britain and Germany. Thus he had access to Hitler. And he was known to pack heat even at London dinner parties, so the pistol bit is plausible.
But in fact the tale IS nonsense, as is a great deal else that Meinertzhagen set down in his diaries, parts of which were published to acclaim in the 1950s and '60s. That, at least, is the contention of Brian Garfield in "The Meinertzhagen Mystery." Mr. Garfield builds an entertainingly damning case against Meinertzhagen, showing him to be a self-aggrandizing fraud.
Though Meinertzhagen died, at age 90, in England in 1967, his fabrications have only recently come to light. One reason for the delay is that Meinertzhagen was no Walter Mitty, a milquetoast who merely dreamed of greatness. Meinertzhagen could rightly lay claim to a range of accomplishments. His Zionism, for instance, was real enough to get a square in Jerusalem named after him: As chief political officer in Palestine during the British Mandate, he argued vociferously for Jewish interests at a time when most British officials leaned toward the Arabs. He counted among his friends the likes of Winston Churchill, T. E. Lawrence and Chaim Weizmann. In fact, he attended the 1919 Paris Peace Conference as part of the British delegation. On the side, he was a respected ornithologist who wrote definitive books in his field. Not least, he exuded a piquant and slightly sinister charm--it did not hurt that he stood a trim 6-foot-500that won over Ian Fleming (who saw him as a 007 type) and many others.
Apparently, this was not enough. Meinertzhagen amassed one of the largest bird-specimen collections in the world. But as reported in the New Yorker magazine lat year, many of his prize "skins (birds stuffed for study rather than display) turned out to be falsely labeled or stolen from other collections--a disaster, it seems, for ornithology itself. Mr. Garfield writes: "It has taken researchers many years and vast expenditures of labor--and they still haven't finished the job--to redraw maps of bird distributions in order to undo Meinertzhagen's misinformation."
Mr. Garfield would appear to have caught Meinertzhagen making other swerves into bogusness, from his claim to have attempted a rescue of the Russian czar and his family in 1918 to his insistence that on a visit to Israel in 1948--at age 70--he had p icked up a rifle and joined a battle to help save the nascent state. Perhaps most damaging to his legend is Mr. Garfield's demolition of the story that first won him fame, the celebrated "haversack ruse" of 1917. Still considered a classic of military deception, it supposedly involved Meinertzhagen, alone in the Negev Desert in Palestine during the war, drawing fire from Ottoman soldiers by pretending to be hurt and dropping, in his escape, faked topp-secret plans. These tricked the Turks into diverting troops, the legend went, making Beersheba and Gaza vulnerable to British forces. According to Mr. Garfield (who refers to Meinertzhagen by his initials), "the ruse was devised, but not by RM. The bag was dropped, but not by RM. It had no effect on the enemy's plans or decisions."
Shredding his way through both Meinertzhagen's four-million-word diary and the layers of sensational anecdote that grew up around him, Mr. Garfield exposes countless self-flattering inrflations, from Meinertzhagen's claim to own Darwin's pipe to his boasts of having casually killed any number of men with his bare hands. The only murder Mr. Garfield suspects Meinertzhagen of actually having committed is one that the colonel denied--namely, that of his second wife, Annie, who died of a bullet wound to the head that was ruled accidental.
A best-selling mystery writer, Mr. Garfield is clearly drawn to Meinertzhagen less for punitive reasons than for the pleasures of detection. He admits that Meinertzhagen "used to be one of my heroes," but he appears not to have an as to grind. He seems to have been consumed by the quest to pick apart his subject's elaborate self-mythology. In his extensive acknowledgments he thanks dozens of Meinertzhagen debunkers, including a researcher affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution who "continues to investigate and clarify the Meinertzhagen bird frauds" and a publisher who withdrew a fast-selling reprint of Meinertzhagen's "Kenya Diary" in the early 1980s because, Mr. Garfield reports, he "had suddenly come to believe it was full of lies."
With such a subject, the biographer's dilemma is that he must be scrupulous in his debunkings without suffocating the reader in detail. While Mr. Garfield does occasionally lay the detail on with a trowel, he manages both to prosecute Meinertzhagen convincingly and, by means of his lively prose, to keep us engaged.
Meinertzhagen was a person of genuine distinction--he made many non-frautulent contributions to ornithology, "he did his best to defend Zionism's interests in the Paris Peace Congress of 1919," Mr. Garfield observes, and a handbook he wrote as an intelligence officer during World War I remains "to this day one of military intelligence's most useful texts." Why, precissely, this man felt the need to embellish his life story so extravagantly is--despite Mr. Garfield's admirable labors--destined to remain a mystery.
Mr. Downing is the co-editor of "Parnassus: Poetry in Review."

Jackson and Matthau signed this "HOPSCOTCH" poster

Brian Garfield Selling Wild West Show Tickets in WILD TIMES

Albino python and Martine Colette and Brian Garfield and same python - Playboy Mansion, 2005

Published in November 2003:

Brian Garfield's "THE HIT and THE MARKSMAN," two crime-suspense novellas. In hardcover from Five Star Press (Gale).

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