PD James quashes Salman Rushdie’s ‘Southwold hideaway’ rumour

THE queen of crime fiction has finally quashed rumours that Salman Rushdie used her Southwold holiday home as a hideout during the aftermath of his controversial book Satanic verses.

Baroness James, otherwise known as author PD James, claims that the local grapevine would have been buzzing with the news had she tried to harbour the controversial author.

'There are no secrets in Southwold,' she said.

Baroness James, who sits on the Conservative benches in the House of Lords, has a seaside home in Southwold and also owns a highly sought-after beach hut.

The rumours about her providing a seaside refuge for Salman Rushdie date back to February 1989, when he was forced to go into hiding under the round-the-clock protection of Scotland Yard's Special Branch after then-Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa on him.

The Ayatollah claimed the author's controversial fourth book The Satanic Verses was blasphemous because of its depiction of the prophet Muhammad and ordered his execution.

The threat of assassination hung over him for nine years until 1998.

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John Miller, who sits on the town council and knows Baroness James through her work with the Ways of Words literary festival, said: 'I have never heard the rumours, although it does sound like it would have been quite exciting.

'I am trying to be modest and honest here, but I think someone would have told John Miller if he had been here.'

He added: 'If the baroness says he was not here then I would accept that – she is pretty straightforward.'

However, Mr Miller did admit that if someone did want a quiet place to hide away, Southwold would offer an ideal location.

'Southwold is the type of place you could quite easily disappear, people wouldn't think of coming here,' he said.

Landlady at the Red Lion, Teresa Baggott, added: 'Southwold was always one of those places where everyone knew everyone so it is unlikely.

'Things have moved on and it has lost that personal feel because we have a lot of holidaymakers and people with second homes here, nowadays the rich and famous come here for a quiet weekend so there is no reason why Salman Rushdie couldn't – but it wouldn't have stayed a secret all those years ago.'