David Relin: Author accused of fabrication


David Relin was a journalist who co-wrote the acclaimed 2006 bestseller Three Cups of Tea, but was later accused of the fabrication and embellishment of events in order to promote the book. Relin, who had a history of depression, committed suicide.

In August 2011, Relin's lawyer said that the litigation "had had a negative impact on his livelihood as an author," adding that as he had no personal insurance he was also funding his own defence. Relin had been hurt "emotionally and financially" by the allegations and said he stood by the book.

Relin, a veteran journalist who had reported extensively from Asia and Vietnam in particular, gained notoriety after working with Greg Mortenson on Three Cups of Tea. The book, which has sold about 4m copies and spent four years on the New York Times bestseller list, chronicles Mortenson's failed attempt in 1993 to climb the world's second-highest mountain, K2 in Pakistan, and his encounter with impoverished Pakistani villagers.

He credited them with inspiring him to build schools in the regionand become involved in other regional humanitarian projects. It describes how Mortenson was inspired to take action after he became lost and dehydrated and was nursed back to health by villagers. Relin "understood the potential importance of the story – that it could show that building schools was an antidote to just dropping bombs on that part of the world," said the author Lee Kravitz, who introduced Relin to Mortenson. The book was conceived as a way to tell Mortenson's story and raise money for his Central Asia Institute, which he co-founded in 1996 to build schools in the area.

Relin interviewed Mortenson on numerous occasions, as well as attending his lectures and reading past articles, before submitting a book proposal to the Penguin Group. Accepted, he interviewed and researched further before writing the manuscript.

The credibility of the book, however, came under scrutiny in April 2011, when the CBS news programme 60 Minutes aired an exposé and, along with bestselling mountaineer and author Jon Krakauer, who produced an e-book called Three Cups of Deceit, accused Mortenson of numerous fabrications, including his abduction by the Taliban in 1996. They also claimed that he had mismanaged funds and used his charitable institute to promote sales of the memoir.

Mortenson denied any wrongdoing, though acknowledged some discrepancies in the book, the result of what he called "omissions and compressions" over different periods of time, all done in the name of literary license. In an interview with Outside magazine, he tried to deflect some of the blame, saying that Relin did "nearly all the writing" and that they collaborated to create "the narrative arc", adding that with recollections and memories, "sometimes things come out different ... I'm not a journalist. I don't take a lot of notes." He insisted that the events described did occur.

In his introduction to Three Cups of Tea, Relin had acknowledged potential inaccuracies and wrote that Mortenson's "fluid sense of time made pinning down the exact sequence of many events in this book almost impossible."

In April, a Montana federal judge rejected a lawsuit brought by four readers who had purchased the book, dismissing allegations that the authors, their publisher and the charity had conspired to turn Mortenson into a false hero to sell books and raise money for the charity.

However, in another investigation, not involving Relin, Mortenson was ordered to repay more than $1m in travel and other expenses to the Central Asia Institute, be removed from a position of financial oversight and told to expand the board.

There had been conflict between the two co-authors for some time, and this came to the fore in a 2008 interview with the University of Oregon literary journal Etude. Relin had objected to Mortenson being credited as co-author. He said that in addition to interviewing Mortenson extensively, he conducted more than 200 interviews with people tied to Mortenson's story and travelled three times to northern Pakistan. Relin said, "That's been the only negative thing about this whole adventure for me," adding, "it was published that way over my objections."

Born in Rochester, New York in 1962, David Oliver Relin graduated from Vassar College in 1985, and was later awarded a fellowship at the Iowa Writers' Workshop. He built up and enjoyed a stellar career as a humanitarian journalist, producing and editing pieces about young people in need for America's biggest-selling magazine, Parade, for which he won over 40 awards. He also reported from East Asia, and spent two years writing about Vietnam's growing educational and financial stability, having received a University of Iowa fellowship in 1992 to spend a year travelling through the country by bicycle.

His second book, Second Suns: Two Doctors and Their Amazing Quest to Restore Sight and Save Lives, about two doctors working to cure cataract-related blindness in the developing world, is scheduled for publication by Random House in June 2013.

Relin is survived by his wife, Dawn, his mother and stepfather, Marjorie and Cary, and two sisters.

Martin Childs

David Relin, journalist and author: born Rochester, New York 12 December 1962; married Dawn; died Corbett, Oregon 15 November 2012.

voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Arts and Entertainment
Residents of Derby Road in Southampton oppose filming of Channel 4 documentary Immigration Street in their community
voicesSiobhan Norton on why she eventually changed her mind
Scottish singer Susan Boyle will perform at the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony in Glasgow
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules
filmReview: The Rock is a muscular Davy Crockett in this preposterous film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Life and Style
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

BI Manager - £50,000

£49000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...

BI Project Manager - £48,000 - £54,000 - Midlands

£48000 - £54000 per annum + Benefits package: Progressive Recruitment: My clie...

VB.Net Developer

£35000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: If you're pa...

SAP Business Consultant (SD, MM and FICO), £55,000, Wakefield

£45000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP Business...

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it