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The Greatest Stories Never Told: 100 Tales from History to Astonish, Bewilder, and Stupefy    by Rick Beyer order for
Greatest Stories Never Told
by Rick Beyer
Order:  USA  Can
HarperCollins, 2003 (2003)

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Rick Beyer gives us the kind of history 'made when a chauffeur takes the wrong turn, a scientist forgets to clean up his lab, or a drunken soldier gets a bit rowdy' - history made by serendipity! Some of these illustrated accounts appeared on the History Channel, while the author saved others for this publication. He assures us that, though many sound like urban legends, they have been painstakingly researched and are, most amazingly, true.

Some are familiar, in essence if not in detail, like St. Patrick's kidnapping into sainthood, the 1212 Children's Crusade as a basis for the Pied Piper folktale, Pizarro's ruthless conquest of the Incan Empire in Peru, and the messy lab that grew penicillin. But how about Venice as part of Attila the Hun's legacy, settled by refugees who took to the swamps; the banning of soccer by early British kings; the extensive world travels of Ibn Battuta that began in 1325; or a wasp's nest as inspiration for modern paper?

I truly enjoyed the tale of Bjarni Herjulfson, who 'didn't discover America'; an account of early European networking with mechanical telegraphs; one about hugely successful Chinese pirate queen, Hsi Kai; and the first Boy Scout's history as an early James Bond. There's the invention of braille, inspired by wartime 'night writing'; the first female U.S. presidential candidate (in 1872!); how Annie Oakley almost shot Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany; Japan's Schindler, Chiune Sugihara; and many many more

These historical anecdotes do indeed 'astonish, bewilder, and stupefy'; it's fascinating stuff and very addictive. More please!

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