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The Dungeon Master: The Disappearance of James Dallas Egbert III
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The Dungeon Master: The Disappearance of James Dallas Egbert III

3.39  ·  Rating Details ·  147 Ratings  ·  26 Reviews
When William Dear began his search for Dallas Egbert, he had four possibilities in mind: suicide, runaway, kidnapping, and murder. But in the course of his astonishing, grueling investigation of life at MSU--and of a young man's tragic alienation from society--he came to understand that there could be no single explanation for the disappearance of James Dallas Egbert III.
Hardcover, 284 pages
Published January 1st 1984 by Houghton Mifflin
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Kevin Fitzsimmons
Mar 04, 2016 Kevin Fitzsimmons rated it did not like it
I finished this book a few months ago, and have been putting off this review. This book makes me angry. It pains me mentally and emotionally. It is a despicable book, with a cast of despicable people and a child who is being exploited and used by all of them. This is what would happen if Satan wrote David Copperfield.

Anyone who played Dungeons and Dragons as a kid in the 80's would have been, at least parenthetically, familiar with the case of James Dallas Egbert. Notorious hack, Rona Jaffe, gl
Joe  Noir
More than a true crime book, this is a true whodunit. A real life mystery, investigated by a real private detective. William Dear wrote this book (no co-author is listed) about his experiences in 1979 trying to find a troubled 16 year old genius missing from his dormitory at Michigan State University. William Dear is a hugely successful private investigator based in Dallas, whose success allows him to hire several operatives. He is an airplane owner who still can charter Lear jets as necessary. ...more
Aug 18, 2016 Myles rated it did not like it
James Dallas Egbert, a college student at 16, vanished from his campus, seemingly without a trace, and sparked the interest of the nation. Egbert was a genius with computers, but he was fascinated by a certain role-playing game. Dungeons and Dragons was a craze on campus and many students had taken to playing in the utility tunnels that connected all the buildings. This was dangerous activity as most of the tunnels were not lit, had wildly fluctuating temperatures and were unpredictable. The med ...more
Jul 21, 2014 Mike rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction, games
Fascinating. The back cover has what I believe is the only photo of someone who (1) describes a session of Dungeons & Dragons in painful detail and (2) is posing with a tommy gun. That pretty much sums up this oddball book.

(If you haven't heard about the incident, Dallas Egbert was a 16 year old college student whose disappearance inspired the book and movie "Mazes and monsters" wherein a D&D player loses himself so entirely in the game he believes it is real). In reality Dallas also ha
Nov 12, 2015 Sallee rated it liked it
Shelves: true-crime
This book is old, published in 1984, four years after the story came to a sad conclusion. I decided to read the book when I saw it as I come from the same town as that of the young man who disappeared while at Michigan State in East Lansing. James Dallas Egbert, III was a young man of sixteen when he went missing. His parents from Dayton, Ohio owned a successful business. James was a very gifted child, starting college at age 13. He was a computer whiz, wrote poetry and excelled at his school w ...more
Sep 29, 2009 Lisa rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: fans of Into the Wild, Paper Towns or detective novels/memoirs
Shelves: bio-memoir
William Dear relates the story of his search for James Dallas Egbert III, a young genius and avid Dungeons and Dragons player who mysteriously disappeared from the University of Michigan in 1979 in this gripping memoir. Like in any good detective novel, Dear only reveals the clues to his mystery as he came upon them, leaving the reader to form their own hypotheses as they go along. Along the way he also paints the portrait of a very troubled and misunderstood youth for whom one can only feel sym ...more
Dec 21, 2010 Andy rated it it was amazing
Loved this crazy book, an account of a somewhat flamboyant detective who searches for a missing teenage boy genius in the tunnels beneath a university, where the kid was apparently involved in a somewhat seriously advanced version of the then-popular game called Dungeons & Dragons.
Sep 05, 2014 Frank rated it really liked it
This is the book that details the investigation of the disappearance of James Dallas Egbert III, the case that brought Dungeons and Dragons to the collective conscious of the United States, and then caused it to be vilified in the news as well as books such as Mazes and Monsters.

After I read Mazes and Monsters (which is a pretty horrible book) I wanted to know more of the truth, while one can easily look up the information today on wikipedia, I would recommend that one avoids that before reading
Mar 03, 2015 Ridernyc rated it did not like it
Wanted to enjoy this book but finally had to give up on it.

There are a few major issues with this book. First Dear is really writing a boastful biography of himself here. I find his constant stopping to add details of his own colorful and hard to swallow personal history boring and distracting. I also to put it bluntly do not believe much of what he writes. The prime example of this that after being hired by the family the local police were so impressed with his past accomplishments that they tu
As a big Dungeons & Dragons geek, I'm a little surprised it took me this long to read this book. Having finally read it, I wish I would have spent my time doing something else...

It's not a terrible read, but it isn't that great. The story is interesting; the problem is, the author (the private investigator involved in the story) does way too much self-glorification. His huge ego is hard to read around and more than once made want to pitch the book in the trash.

The story is the one that made
Robert A.
Feb 07, 2016 Robert A. rated it it was ok
Well, it's better than Mazes & Monsters though it shares the same problem: it's overlong for the subject matter. As for the reliability of the author, a character to be sure, I really didn't care going in about its reliability already being familiar with the facts in the tragic Dallas Egbert case. The book is a quick read but does tend to seem to spin its wheels simply to fill space though at times it seems to hit on a moment of genuine suspense here and there. It's simply not worth the time ...more
Chris Herdt
Jul 09, 2008 Chris Herdt rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: East Lansing natives, MSU students and alumni, wunderkinds, D&D players
Recommended to Chris by: Alec Lloyd
James Dallas Egbert III caused a media uproar when he disappeared in 1979, and made parents everywhere cry over their Dungeons-&-Dragons-playing children (because D&D, presumably, had made Dallas go crazy and run off into the steam tunnels below Michigan State, engrossed in a fantasy world of his own imagining).

The story is, of course, far more complicated than that, but is well-told by the cocksure private investigator, William Dear. Bill Dear is pictured on the back cover in a 3-piece
Son Poyer
Aug 29, 2013 Son Poyer rated it really liked it
A tragic story of 16-year-old James Dallas Egbert who left his university dorm room to enter the tunnels under the college with the goal of committing suicide. Instead of dying, he woke one night later and went to recover with a male friend. On top of depression he was a closet homosexual. His parents reported him missing. When that made the news, his male friend panicked and passed him to another male friend and then on to another until all of them were panicked thinking they were going to get ...more
Sep 09, 2014 Anthony rated it really liked it
I expected to hate this book. This non-fiction book is one of two books that initiated a negative backlash against Dungeons & Dragons in the early 1980s. However, it's not a D&D-bashing book. In fact, the PI who authored this book is very interested and possibly sympathetic about the missing young compute genius and his reasons for playing this game. In the end, live-action D&D may have been a catalyst for this disturbed you man to run away from his life, but the game was not the cau ...more
Dec 12, 2012 Melanie rated it it was ok
I read this book so long ago back in 88 or 89 (I feel so old!!), I barely remember the mystery. I DO, however, remember being really disappointed. The book was hyped as this kid who lost it playing Dungeons and Dragons, and because he was a genius had actually laid out these intricate plans, clues, etc. beneath the college where he attended school. The truth was far less intense and actually pretty mediocre where boy-genius craziness is concerned. I just remember finishing the book and feeling t ...more
Jan 24, 2013 Dru rated it really liked it
It's been forever since I read this, but I recall this being a fairly sad tale about a messed up boy (too young to be in college, and closeted gay to boot) who happened to use D&D as his escape. It certainly, being true, was more poignant than the Mazes and Monsters movie.

I recall being left with a sense of sadness for the kid, because we're talking about a loner/outsider who didn't need the world to s**t on him, but it did. The investigation by William Dear was remarkable in what it turned
Funny little book -- reads like true crime but nobody got hurt or killed. The investigators come out of the search baffled about what really goes on in the minds of role-playing gamers. Intended as a cautionary tale for parents to prevent their poor widdle children from being destroyed by Dungeons and Dragons, this sold like hotcakes for a short time and then dropped out of sight, leaving a lot of unanswered questions that probably don't even matter.
Robert Scrivner
Jul 02, 2013 Robert Scrivner rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: true-crime
I read this book in high school and thought it was an excellent read. After reading the book I actually tracked down the author and spoke with him by phone. Mr. Dear was a very gracious man who took the time to provide me with a more intimate insight into his investigation. It was truly a pleasure speaking with the author regarding his book.
Oct 14, 2010 Adam rated it did not like it
A private investigator tells the true story of his investigation into the disappearance of a teenager. It was initially thought that the teenager had gone nuts by playing a live-action version of Dungeons and Dragons in utility tunnels. But then it turned out that Dungeons and Dragons had nothing to do with anything.
Megzz Hammond
Jan 03, 2015 Megzz Hammond rated it liked it
I read this book as a teenager and found it amazing as well as spellbinding.... So it's been a very long time ago and I just discovered again just a few minutes ago... This book makes you think and how different games can have an impact on you... I still have a perplexed feeling while thumbing through this book....
Matthew McPike
Mar 18, 2008 Matthew McPike rated it really liked it
Discovered this book while doing my Senior research paper for High School. This is an interesting true mystery story. This book is filled with interesting twists and turns and follows a detective while he searches for a missing boy genius. A great read.

I own a copy but it is packed away right and I would have to locate it if you wanted to borrow it.
Dec 11, 2007 Gregg rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This is the story of the Michigan State student who played D&D in the steam tunnels, and later took his own life.
Phil Kohler
Phil Kohler rated it it was amazing
Dec 14, 2013
J.D. Pasco
J.D. Pasco rated it really liked it
May 22, 2011
Cherise rated it really liked it
Feb 17, 2009
Freya Mercado
Freya Mercado rated it really liked it
May 13, 2015
Renée Szostek
Renée Szostek rated it it was amazing
Aug 21, 2011
Donna rated it really liked it
May 23, 2014
James rated it liked it
Jan 03, 2016
Amy (Other Amy)
Amy (Other Amy) rated it really liked it
Feb 11, 2016
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Dallas-based private investigator. He owns the firm William C. Dear & Associates.

His notable cases include the original steam tunnel incident involving James Dallas Egbert III.

In 1995, he participated as an investigator on the Alien Autopsy a Fox Television program about an autopsy supposedly carried out on an extraterrestrial being.
More about William C. Dear...

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