According to one of the Special Branch officers assigned to protect author Salman Rushdie-whose protectors remember as "Scruffy"-when he went into hiding after the Ayatollah Khomeini slapped him with a death sentence and put a price on his head in 1989, Rushdie was an arrogant tight-wad with "a handshake like a wet fish." That officer, Ron Evans, is dishing on his former ward in today's Mail. "[Seargent] Bob said: 'Let's go in and see the great man.' 'What's he like?' I asked. 'Well, he doesn't like the police, hates Thatcher, he can be arrogant and he's a Socialist. Apart from that, he's all right.'"
My first impression was of someone who was tolerant of me - and no more. I was told I was never to call him Salman: his cover name was Joe.
Bob told me: 'We do all our own cleaning, cooking, shopping and the rest. When we do our shopping, we generally ask Joe if he needs anything. He drinks Michelob or Budweiser beer and eats crap - crisps and comfort food.
'When you go shopping for him, don't give him the receipt. He has no idea how much things cost, so just round things up, if you know what I mean. At the end of two weeks, go and see him and he'll pay you in cash - don't leave yourself short.
Another story from the early days of the fatwa was that the original team with Scruffy got so fed up with his attitude that they locked him in a cupboard under the stairs and all went to the local pub for a pint or two. When they were suitably refreshed they came back and let him out.
Evans was outraged when Rushie said he'd like to write about his undercover adventures one day.
Scruffy said he wanted to publish a book about his life under this death sentence and his experiences of being protected by Special Branch.
It infuriated me. We were protecting him in undoubtedly the most expensive operation of its type ever staged and he wanted to make bucketloads of money by writing about us.
Scruffy was told the book might inflame matters by giving the impression that he was making a profit out of his alleged blasphemy.
Of course, all this is excerpted from Evans' upcoming memoir. More here.