David Oliver Relin, co-author of Three Cups of Tea, commits suicide

The co-author of the hugely successful book Three Cups of Tea, which raised awareness of the plight of children’s education in Pakistan and Afghanistan, has taken his own life.

Journalist David Oliver Relin was born in Rochester, MinnesotaNew York. In his career he was drawn to telling stories about worldwide inequities involving children. Which is why he was assigned to write a book about fellow Rochester, Minnesota native Greg Mortenson, a mountain climber who had an inspiring story about building schools.

The book sold over four million copies, but as the New York Times writes, some readers found details of the tale suspicious.

In 2011, the CBS News program “60 Minutes” and the best-selling author Jon Krakauer in an e-book called “Three Cups of Deceit” questioned major points in the book. This included a crucial opening anecdote about Mr. Mortenson’s being rescued by the townspeople of Korphe, Pakistan, after stumbling down a mountain when he was dehydrated and exhausted. It was their care and concern, the book said, that inspired Mr. Mortenson to build schools.

The reports also said some of the schools that Mr. Mortenson’s charity, the Central Asia Institute, said it had established either did not exist or were built by others. There were also charges that the institute had been mismanaging funds and that a substantial portion of the money it raised had been used to promote the book, not for schools.

Mr. Mortenson acknowledged that some of the details in the book were wrong. Mr. Relin did not speak publicly about the charges, but he hired a lawyer to defend himself in a federal lawsuit that accused the authors and the publisher of defrauding readers. The suit was dismissed this year.

In April, the Montana Attorney General’s office announced that Mr. Mortenson had agreed to repay the charity more than $1 million in travel and other expenses used to promote the book, including “inappropriate personal charges.”

David Oliver Relin died on November 15, 2012 in Corbett, Oregon. He was 49.