Sahara: The Life of the Great Desert, was published by Walker and Co of New York in 2002, and by HarperCollins UK and McClelland & Stewart Canada in 2003. Publisher of record now Bloomsbury USA.
This was produced with Sheila Hirtle after some harrowing and difficult traveling, following the footstep of some of the great Saharan explorers (the Arab voyager Ibn Battuta in the 13th century, the splendid Heinrich Barth in the 19th, Gustav Nachtigal and others). And some lesser figures, many of whom we came to see as more fabulist than reporter, including, sadly, the great Polish journalist Ryszard Kapuscinski, whose work came close to winning him a Nobel Prize, but who, it is now clear, took far too many liberties with facts.
Our book got good notices: National Public Radio in the U.S. called it “a wonderful book about the history, geography, legends, lore, and people of the great African desert. The desert blooms in this fascinating, eminently readable book.”
National Geographic Traveler called it “A cool book about one of the world’s hottest places,” a soundbite used on the cover in subsequent editions. The Boston Herald, for its part, said “Surprises abound in this informative natural history on the world’s most famous desert;” the New Scientist said it was A phenomenal story … with this broad perspective, the authors weave together the ongoing life of the desert that is forever changing.” Ireland on Sunday said breezily that “Michael Palin may have sexed up the Sahara in the tie-in to his TV programme, but this book is a more satisfying read…”, while the Glasgow Sunday Herald: “Fascinating stuff …. This is a genuinely memorable book.”