Rushdie threatens to sue ex-guard over book

August 2, 2008 6:54:45 AM PDT
Author Salman Rushdie is threatening to sue a publisher over a book by a former bodyguard that he says portrays him as cheap, nasty and arrogant and depicts his police guards as drinking on duty.

Rushdie's lawyer, Mark Stephens, said Saturday that he had written to the publisher of "On Her Majesty's Service" demanding it withdraw the book, which has not yet been published.

The book is co-written by Ron Evans, a former Metropolitan Police officer who was one of the team guarding Rushdie while he was under an Iranian-backed death threat for his 1988 novel "The Satanic Verses."

The Guardian newspaper reported Saturday that the book claims Rushdie billed the police force for officers' overnight stays at his house; that guards nicknamed him "Scruffy"; and that at one point they locked him in a cupboard while they went to the pub.

Rushdie told The Guardian that the book portrayed him as "mean, nasty, tight-fisted, arrogant and extremely unpleasant."

"In my humble opinion, I am none of those things."

He said Evans' claims were "fictitious" and "absurd."

"I am not trying to prevent him from publishing this stupid book, but if they publish it there will be consequences and there will be a libel action," Rushdie was quoted as saying.

Stephens, who also does legal work for The Associated Press, said he wrote to the book's publisher, John Blake Publishing Ltd., on Wednesday asking it to withdraw the book and remove "the falsehoods relating to our client and his friends, the various statements that invade their privacy and statements about security precautions that remain in place."

"Unless you are prepared to take these steps, I shall issue proceedings against you," the letter said.

Calls to John Blake Publishing went unanswered Saturday.

The book was due to be published next week, but Internet retailer Amazon lists no date for its availability.

The Metropolitan Police said the force could not comment on Evans' allegations, but said in a statement: "We regret that he chooses to publish this book."

"The Satanic Verses" angered many in the Muslim world and brought a death sentence for blasphemy from Iran's then-leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Rushdie lived in hiding for a decade until the Iranian government distanced itself from the order in 1998, saying it would not back any effort to kill Rushdie. He has since gradually returned to public life, and spends much of his time in New York.