A leading publisher is to remove a dedication to a special forces hero from the start of one of its books after a group of SAS veterans said the supposedly true story was “as clear a case of stolen valour as you could find.”
The veterans also challenged the book’s author to meet them privately so he could prove he really had served in the SAS, with some dismissing him as a “Walter Mitty clown”.
When Hodder & Stoughton released Pilgrim Spy in September it was billed as “one of the great untold stories of the Cold War”, involving “roof top chases, a beautiful East German female suspected of being a Stasi spy and a climactic gun battle at Colditz Castle”.
Its author, writing under the pseudonym Tom Shore, claimed to have been an SAS soldier who on a hitherto undisclosed secret solo mission took “lethal action” to thwart a plot to assassinate Russian president Mikhail Gorbachev when he visited communist East Germany in 1989.
But The Independent revealed how the thriller writer Jeremy Duns had noticed remarkable similarities between supposed SAS veteran Tom Shore’s “true story”, and the entirely fictional, but relatively obscure 1989 thriller Quiller KGB.
The author of Pilgrim Spy was also accused of having lifted large, unacknowledged chunks of Wikipedia to supply background context for his “true story”.
Hodder stood by the book, saying its editor believed Mr Shore’s story was true and had checked he was in the SAS.
A spokeswoman for the publisher said neither the editor nor Mr Shore had ever read Quiller KGB before the controversy started, and described the lifting from Wikipedia as “sloppy, but not criminal”.
After the story was published, however, an SAS veteran contacted The Independent to say he and ex-colleagues in the special forces and the Cold War BRIXMIS – British Commanders’-in-Chief Mission to the Soviet Forces in Germany – had been enraged by what they had read about Pilgrim Spy. Read more
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