Wilfred Thesiger - The Life of a Great Explorer by Alexander Maitland Harper Perennial, HK$176 Max Hastings of The Daily Telegraph praised Alexander Maitland's Wilfred Thesiger - The Life of a Great Explorer as 'a model biography', and it's hard to top that. Maitland has done a fine job on the greatest British explorer of the 20th century. Granted access to private papers and with the co-operation of Thesiger in the 11 years until his death in 2003 at the age of 93, close friend and collaborator Maitland separates the man from the myth. What ultimately drove Thesiger to spend the best part of 60 years in places still beyond the reach of his nemesis, modernisation, isn't clear, but Thesiger himself probably didn't know either - nor does it really matter. The Arabian Sands and The Marsh Arabs became classics in his lifetime, which also saw the erasure of their unique identities. Maitland is generous with sourcing, maps and illustrations, but absent are Thesiger's own photographs, which capture something words can't. Maitland's account is fair but firm. He makes no attempt to hide that Thesiger was not a particularly nice person, and nor was his platonic passion for the Arab and African boys he plainly adored.