The Chris Voss Show Podcast – The Mysterious Case of Rudolf Diesel: Genius, Power, and Deception on the Eve of World War I by Douglas Brunt

The Mysterious Case of Rudolf Diesel: Genius, Power, and Deception on the Eve of World War I by Douglas Brunt


The hidden history of one of the world’s greatest inventors, a man who disrupted the status quo and then disappeared into thin air on the eve of World War I—this book answers the hundred-year-old mystery of what really became of Rudolf Diesel.

September 29, 1913: the steamship Dresden is halfway between Belgium and England. On board is one of the most famous men in the world, Rudolf Diesel, whose new internal combustion engine is on the verge of revolutionizing global industry forever. But Diesel never arrives at his destination. He vanishes during the night and headlines around the world wonder if it was an accident, suicide, or murder.

After rising from an impoverished European childhood, Diesel had become a multi-millionaire with his powerful engine that does not require expensive petroleum-based fuel. In doing so, he became not only an international celebrity but also the enemy of two extremely powerful men: Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany and John D. Rockefeller, the founder of Standard Oil and the richest man in the world.

The Kaiser wanted the engine to power a fleet of submarines that would finally allow him to challenge Great Britain’s Royal Navy. But Diesel had intended for his engine to be used for the betterment of mankind and refused to keep the technology out of the hands of the British or any other nation. For John D. Rockefeller, the engine was nothing less than an existential threat to his vast and lucrative oil empire. As electric lighting began to replace kerosene lamps, Rockefeller’s bottom line depended on the world’s growing thirst for gasoline to power its automobiles and industries.

At the outset of this new age of electricity and oil, Europe stood on the precipice of war. Rudolf Diesel grew increasingly concerned about Germany’s rising nationalism and military spending. The inventor was on his way to London to establish a new company that would help Britain improve its failing submarine program when he disappeared.

Now, New York Times bestselling author Douglas Brunt reopens the case and provides an astonishing new conclusion about Diesel’s fate. “Equal parts Walter Isaacson and Sherlock Holmes, The Mysterious Case of Rudolf Diesel yanks back the curtain on the greatest caper of the 20th century in this riveting history” (Jay Winik, New York Times bestselling author).

About the author
Until 2011, Douglas Brunt was CEO of Authentium, Inc. He now writes full time and lives in New York with his wife and three children. He is the author of New York Times Bestseller ‘Ghosts of Manhattan’ and ‘The Means’. His third novel, ‘Trophy Son’, will be released May 30, 2017.

You can lean more about Doug at

Here is a summary of the key points from the podcast conversation:

Douglas Brunt is the author of the new book The Mysterious Case of Rudolf Diesel: Genius, Power, and Deception on the Eve of World War One. It tells the story of Rudolf Diesel, inventor of the diesel engine, who disappeared mysteriously while traveling by ship in 1913.

Diesel was a celebrity inventor at the time. His disappearance sparked speculation that he was murdered by powerful figures like John D. Rockefeller or Kaiser Wilhelm II, who had motives related to Diesel’s inventions that threatened their business interests.

Brunt became fascinated by the diesel engine and Rudolf Diesel’s story when deciding to repower a boat he bought with diesel engines. He learned diesel engines are more efficient, stable, and safer than gasoline engines.

In researching Diesel’s life, Brunt found there was little written about him in English and the mystery around his disappearance was compelling. Though officially ruled a suicide, Brunt presents a theory of what really happened to Diesel backed up by intelligence experts.

The book covers the key history around diesel engines, which still power much of our transportation infrastructure today. It also profiles the fascinating cast of historical figures connected to Diesel like Rockefeller, Churchill, Edison and more.

Brunt has written several novels but chose to write this as narrative nonfiction since he uncovered so much original historical material around Diesel’s story. The book reads like a thriller uncovering the truth behind Diesel’s disappearance.