'3 Cups of Tea' Co-Author Commits Suicide & Book Scandal May Have Had a Part

Heartbreaking 3

This is so tragic. Three Cups of Tea co-author David Oliver Relin has reportedly committed suicide. And authorities say he died from "blunt force trauma" to the head, which sounds like a horrible way to go. They offered no other details. Relin's family says he was "depressed."

It's dangerous to speculate why anyone commits suicide. Relin seemed to have it all: He was a bestselling author, had a family, he was only 49. But the journalist and his coauthor, Greg Mortenson, were involved a scandal last year that may have been weighing on his mind.

Three Cups of Tea was an enormously popular book about Mortenson building schools in poor villages in Pakastan and Afghanistan. The book, which has sold over 4 million copies, also raised millions for a charity founded by Mortenson.

But last year author Jon Krakauer alleged that Mortenson had fabricated large portions of his book. 60 Minutes did a segment on it. Mortenson was also accused of misusing funds for his charity and eventually paid back $1 million to it.

Relin wasn't accused of any wrongdoing but it's not a huge leap to imagine this must have weighed on him. It can be difficult to fact-check everything a co-author is telling you. You check what you can, but essentially you are there to make someone else's story into a readable narrative. This is an arrangement based on trust. It's sad that Mortenson broke that trust with Relin.

I feel bad for Relin. He got caught up in a mess that he had little to do with, and he probably felt as duped as anyone. Relin was a longtime journalist who was respected for his work writing about children's social causes. And yet his most read work ends up being a cloud over his name. He also apparently had a difficult relationship with Mortenson and resented that he was named as co-author. He also had to hire a lawyer to defend himself from a lawsuit against him accusing him and Mortenson of defrauding readers.

Even people who have had nothing like this happen to them can find themselves facing down suicidal tendencies, so there's no saying if this was the "cause" of his suicide. But it sounds like Relin was a fragile soul and it's tragic that his scandal may have contributed to his state of mind.

Did you read Three Cups of Tea?


Image via Penguin


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Michael Crowley

Finally, someone has written something about David's tragic death that give some real thought about how badly David, a prize winning journalist with an impeccable record for nearly thirty years can become trapped into a whirlwind of criticism based largely on the misdeeds of Mortenson that occurred entirely outside anything that every involved David and his work...which was brilliant, heartfelt and wonderful in all respects. His book even starts by saying that it was nearly impossible to pin Mortenson down to any exact timeline. David's own lips were sealed by his lawyers and publishers who did not want his side of the story told. His follow-up book was also held up by the mess and by David being painted with the same messy brush that was used to paint the misdeeds of Mortenson and his charity. This was not ever David's charity and he received nothing from the charity

Michael Crowley


Anyone who knows or has witnessed Mortenson in action knows that the problem lies in his own grandiosity..not in the beauty of a journalist like David. David had to spend a fortune of his own money to defend himself from a money grubbing absurdity of a lawsuit that was dismissed as the garbage that it was by a federal judge who recognized it as such. Dismissed with prejudice...no trial... something quite rare indeed. Thank you for writing a note on his death that is insightful and respectful of the man that was David Oliver Relin. David wrote this wonderful book himself and when he turned it in to the publisher he was forced to include Mortenson as co-author. Mortenson didn't write a single word. i tis an abomination that his name appears as co-author. What a joke - a tragic joke.


nonmember avatar Racine

I am just now reading Three Cups of Tea. How disappointing to discover the scandal and the tragic news about this highly gifted author, David Oliver Relin. His writing paints such splendid imagery of the Pakistani region that for the first time in my life I feel compelled to go to such a forbidden realm and behold it with my own eyes. What a great loss. My heart is heavy and I offer my deepest condolences to his family and loved ones.

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