Burden of the Desert…from a Baghdad Hotel Room to a Novel

The proofs for the cover of my first novel, Burden of the Desert, arrived this week. It was a strange experience to see them — exciting, certainly, but humbling too, to think that this story I have carried in my head for so long will soon be a book. Looking at them, I thought of that night long ago when the idea for the novel first came to me in a hotel room in occupied Baghdad.

It was 2004 and I could hear the sounds of the city outside my window, the traffic, the constant gunfire, the American helicopters passing low overhead. It was a remarkable time to be in Iraq, the whole world was watching, and we were right at the eye of the storm. And it came to me, standing at that hotel window, that across the city, across its hot streets teeming with intrigue, there was an American soldier my age, trying to get his platoon home alive. And a few more streets across, perhaps on the other side of the Tigris river, there was an Iraqi insurgent my age, who wanted to kill the American — and probably wanted to kill me too.

And deeper into the city, an innocent victim of the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse. And, further on, an Iraqi who wanted nothing to do with the violence, in a secret love affair that would be pulled apart as community turned on community and the country descended into civil war.

I realised then how we journalists, who thought we were telling the story of Iraq, were only telling a tiny part of it — we had become a part of it after all, hunted through the streets by kidnappers who wanted to behead us.

But those other people stayed with me and solidified in my mind, until I could feel them with me everywhere I went in Iraq. Until I wanted to tell their stories — to tell all of our stories in Iraq: the reporters, the soldiers, the insurgents, the victims, the people just trying to survive. Burden of the Desert is my attempt to tell those stories.

And now, eight years later, it’s being published.

UPDATE SEPTEMBER 2013 — Burden of the Desert is currently available as a Kindle e-book in the USA and Canada. A new edition will be published in the UK in early 2014.

Enhanced by Zemanta


  1. Paul Labesse says

    Can you tell us how I can purchase your book, kindle?

    • Justin Huggler says

      Hello Paul
      Thanks for your interest. The book’s not out yet but it will be available worldwide on Amazon in both paperback and e-book (kindle) in a few weeks. I’ll update when it’s available.

  2. Hi Justin,
    Looking forward to reading your novel.

  3. Congratulations Justin,

    Hope they deliver to Ireland 😉


  4. James English says

    Hi Justin,

    James English here from back in our St. Michaels days. I just wanted to say a huge congratulations on the book and I wish you a huge success with this book and the many more I am sure will come.

    I shall be purchasing a copy and very much look forward to reading it.

    Best regards,


  5. Gemma Timpano says

    Hello Justin,
    You said I’m to little to read ‘The Burden Of The Desert’ 🙁
    But just by reading the first chapter I am looking forward to reading your next book 🙂
    Can’t wait,

    • Justin Huggler says

      Hello Gemma!
      Thank you for your message, I can’t wait for you to read the whole second book!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.