“It was certainly a mistake to describe a certain city in print as: ‘Britain’s largest open prison’. Complaints were made, the mayor denounced the magazine (FHM) and it got a little lively for about five days,” explains former features writer Simeon de la Torre.
“But ultimately, it was a joke. No harm done.
“I did, however, fear physical harm following a call from a very angry strong man – officially one of the World’s Strongest Men, in fact. He’d admitted a host of marital infidelities to me (that’s putting it delicately) during an on-the-record interview and I glancingly alluded to this in my copy. I hadn’t made an incriminating comment or even an accusation; merely a nod to his character.
“On the day of publication, my phone rang early. The strongman was on the other end of the line and he was livid. Quietly, menacingly livid. He was also clearly wary of threatening me directly, but I got the message: he was going to find out where I lived, pay me a visit and smash my skull with an Atlas Stone.
“Was I nervous? Yes. But what he didn’t know was that, for a men’s mag writer, strongmen were a long way down the list of credible threats. He’d have to get in line behind the British gangsters, Sicilian Mafiosi, mercenaries, spies and killer biker gangs that I’d already encountered in my career.
“Oh, and there was also the serial killer.
“If you’re a jobbing journalist, pumping out up to ten thousand words a week of stories pulled from multiple sources, you can expect to get a bit of blowback from readers or interviewees. But when my editor at Nuts magazine rang and said that they’d received a handwritten complaint from a high security prison cell, my stomach lurched.
“The writer was a notorious British serial killer – a true monster. I’m not going to identify him because I don’t want to set him off again, frankly. (He may even be out by now *gulp*.) And he was outraged; peculiarly so. I’d written a profile of him and he’d taken issue with the fact that I’d said that he’d armed himself for his crimes with “a cosh and a stiletto knife.”
“According to our friendly neighbourhood serial killer, he’d used a sharpened screwdriver, not a knife. He had no issue with any of the other gory details I’d written about (at length) and threatened to take me and the magazine to court.”
“Thankfully, my editors stood by me and my story and made the matter go away. To say it was a relief was an understatement. That said, the feeling was short lived. I’d since flown to New York and found myself in a grubby apartment with a Mafia Made Man with a very short fuse. But that’s for another story…”