3m pounds question: will Diana be brought to book?

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MYSTERY last night surrounded publication of perhaps the least advertised but most controversial book of the year, which goes on sale across Britain today. It is believed to provide details of the relationship between Major James Hewitt, a former Life Guards officer, and the Princess of Wales.

Bloomsbury, the publishers, have refused to divulge the book's title, price or author. Booksellers across the country have been asked to clear shelves and be prepared for the delivery of a book 'on a sale-or-return basis'.

Major Hewitt has been reported to have been negotiating a publishing contract worth an estimated pounds 3m with a leading publishing house. It was reported in some Sunday tabloid newspapers yesterday that the major had a three-year affair with the Princess. He claimed they became so close that she contemplated leaving Prince Charles. Eventually, he said, 'it got so serious that I was warned to stay away from her'.

Julian Rivers, marketing director of the Dillons chain of bookshops, said: 'I do not know what the book is about. Bloomsbury contacted us in the middle of last week. The book was taken on the basis of the knowledge and trust that exists between Dillons and Bloomsbury.'

A spokeswoman for WH Smith also said they had been asked to clear shelves. The book was being delivered direct from the publishers rather than through the normal distribution chain. She thought it was by Major Hewitt but 'if it's a cookbook we'll all have egg on our faces'.