Who was the real 'English patient'? The desert explorer Laszlo Almasy, on whom the character was loosely based, was very different from the romantic hero of the prize-winning novel anmd multiple Oscar-winning movie of that name. But a similar aura of mystery surrounds them both. While the fictional Almasy gave the Germans his desert maps only because he was desperate to keep a promise to his dying mistress, the real-life Almasy worked for Germany military intelligence only because he was desperate for the chance to return to the desert he loved more than anything or anybody else. Or so John Bierman implies in this arresting and carefully-researched biography. Among its many unexpected revelations is that far from being the love of his friend's wife, Almasy was a homosexual with no interest at all in the opposite sex. Nor was he really a count, although he was born into the minor Hungarian nobility. In short, the real-life Almasy remains an enigma. For instance there is good reason to believe that he became a double agent working for both sides in World War II - and compelling evidence that he spied for British intelligence during the Cold War.