GQ magazine on the comeback of the bravest bullfighter in Spain: Juan José Padilla

My British GQ article on the comeback of the now one-eyed bullfighter Juan José Padilla is online here. The US edition of GQ sent there own author to interview him afterwards, which was silly, as she hadn’t the first idea about bullfighting – whereas I’ve been doing it since 2009 – nor Padilla and his place in that world – whereas as I had the man as my first teacher. The photo below is of the two of us during one of those lessons. We were both very different men then. He had two eyes…

Fiske-Harrison and Padilla training with a young fighting bull in 2009.

By coincidence, Claire Danes, the beautiful actress on the cover of the issue on which the article appeared is a dear friend whom I thanked in the acknowledgments to the book that came out of those two years in Spain Into The Arena: The World Of The Spanish Bullfight in the first five chapters of which Padilla is so central. So I must thank her once again in the acknowledgments to this article, this time for providing such glamorous packaging.

Padilla is a man of great dignity, aesthetically and internally, but he isn’t exactly pretty. And, as Zed Nelon’s wonderful spread which opens the physical edition of the article shows, he ain’t no cover girl. The photo is in his house, which we went to the day before his comeback ‘fight.’

Please note, should you read the article, that, GQ holds the view, in common with many other publications, that when you pay a writer for his words, you have also bought the right to put words in his mouth.

I, personally, could not write a phrase like “my dread boiled.” (What I actually wrote was “I was worried.”) My dread just doesn’t boil (anymore).

Nor could I have written that the Spanish financial bailout was £80m. I used to work for the Financial Times and know a million from a billion.

Nor did I write the paragraph below, which appeared twice, once as a pull quote. I don’t even really agree with it.

Just so you know. (Bullfighters do not compare bull’s horns to “a Louboutin stilleto”. Ever.)

Anyway, much of the article is mine, and all of Padilla’s words are his own, which on their own would make it worth reading. However, if you come across something in the article that feels wrong, then it probably is, and probably didn’t come from me.

Anyway, if you want to know Padilla’s whole story, and much, much more, read my book Into The Arena: The World Of The Spanish Bullfight. You can purchase it as an eBook via GQ on their website where it tops their recommendation list here. (It was also shortlisted for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award, “the world’s richest sports’ writing prize”.)

If you live outside the UK or want it as a physcial book, other options are here.

Alexander Fiske-Harrison

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  1. Jacobo_23 says:

    You say: “I am not exactly impressed by GQ‘s view that when you pay a writer for his words, you have also bought the right to put words in his mouth.”

    And yet this was precisely the nub of your own criticism against Bill Lyon when he reviewed your book.

    Double standards, anyone?

  2. I am sorry, but I simply don’t understand what you are saying. I didn’t pay Bill Lyon. What are you talking about? (And do you even know?)

  3. Well, I’ll read the GQ version just to have a laugh at their dumbing-down of your article. I know your tone of voice on and off the page so I’ll enjoy what you wrote. All the best from madrid, Sean

  4. Jacobo_23 says:

    Oh, I think I do. I was referring to your outrage at his daring to criticise your book when he had received it as a complimentary copy. I think the principle is the same, although of course you might not agree.
    I am also amazed at your indignation about journalistic inaccuracy. Another case of one rule for you and another for everyone else, perhaps.

  5. How is someone withholding from their readers the fact that they not only know the author, but were sent the copy in friendship – with a dedication – and had made an offer – which was rejected – to edit the book in question, in anyway similar to a magazine writing copy under my name?

    If I write under my name, and I make mistakes, they are mine. If someone else writes under my name, it is fraud. And if they do so without checking their facts, committing errors in my name, it is defamatory fraud.

    So, like I said, you neither have an argument nor a point, merely a grudge.

  6. Cheers Sean.

  7. Kay Bryan says:

    How does it feel to have your dread boil, Mr. Hamilton? I kid, I kid. . . Now that expression is stuck in my head, and I find myself seeing the humor in it, but not in your being quoted as saying it. Can’t imagine why they would fiddle with your words and certainly not without your consent. Go figure.

    Reading your book now since it finally made it to the US electronically. (I did buy the hard copy, but gave it away as a gift – cause I’m generous like that). And I am reading it very very slowly because I don’t want it to end.

    Enjoy your weekend.


  8. Padilla should have died. why is he still here?

  9. For the same reason you are.


  1. [...] write the phrase “my dread boiled”, I wrote “I was worried”. More on this here.) However, I remain deeply grateful to them for allowing to write such an long and serious piece on [...]

  2. [...] I wrote “I was worried”. More on this at the blog ‘The Last Arena’ here.) However, I remain deeply grateful to them for allowing to write such an long and serious piece on [...]

  3. [...] the beginning of March (I accompanied him and wrote about it for GQ magazine – see blog poss here) to Manzanares leaving Seville’s La Maestranza on the shoulders of the crowd in the Feria de [...]

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