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During the build up to the Second Gulf War a combined unit of SAS, Delta Force, CIA and British agents was formed to carry out clandestine operations in Iraq. Major Niall Arden, an SAS veteran and black operations specialist, claimed to be the leader of this ultra-covert group. (1) Arden’s exploits were eventually revealed in a book called Desert Fire, which was published by Hodder & Stoughton in June 2006. However, after only a few days the book was withdrawn from sale:

Information provided to the originating publisher Hodder & Stoughton UK since publication has indicated that there are a number of legal issues that necessitate the book’s immediate withdrawal. (2)

Coincidentally another book published exactly eight years earlier, in June 1998, was also withdrawn following “information provided” to its publishers at Random House.

That book, well known to fans of the alternative history genre, was Hall of the Gods by Nigel Appleby. Appleby claimed to have discovered the location of the Hall of Records in Egypt and was leading a group calling themselves Operation Hermes to uncover it. But amidst a backdrop of public controversy – Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities denied they had ever given Appleby, or his organisation, permission to dig. Following hot on the heels of the SCA’s refutation came claims of copyright infringement, misrepresentation and plagiarism by a dozen other writers. Within days Hall of the Gods was withdrawn from sale. (3)

So what’s the connection?

It turns out that Major Niall Arden, SAS veteran and black ops expert, is none other than Nigel Appleby! (4) Desert Fire is, in the words of writer Jon Henley, “complete bollocks”. In reality Appleby’s military career amounts to no more than a few weeks in the Army Cadet Force. (5) He won’t be winning any medals for his imaginary adventures, but Appleby may hold the record for probably the only author to have had both his books withdrawn from sale within days of being published.

(1) Source: Hodder Desert Fire promo blurb
(2) Bookseller and Publisher Magazine, No 1741, 28th Jun 2006
(3) A full account of the “Appleby Affair” can be found in my book Giza: The Truth
(4) The Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/diary/story/0,,1802863,00.html
(5) The Guardian http://www.guardian.co.uk/diary/story/0,,1806556,00.html