Queen of Crime slapped down by estate of earlier Queen of Crime
Scottish crime writer Val McDermid has founder herself caught in a row with the estate of the legendary British crime writer Agatha Christie. McDermid’s publisher Little, Brown has received a letter from the Christie estate’s lawyers forbidding the publisher from using the phrase ‘the Queen of Crime’ because it has trademarked it.
McDermid told the Edinburgh International Book Festival: “A few weeks ago the Agatha Christie estate wrote to my publisher. They said ‘you must cease and desist referring to Val McDermid as the Queen of Crime. We have trademarked this expression. If you call Val McDermid the Queen of Crime, you will be in breach of copyright and this trademark. You may continue to quote other people calling her the Queen of Crime and obviously you cannot prevent someone calling her Queen of Crime on a platform during the event. But should you use this title elsewhere, in other ways, then you will be in breach and our lawyers will be in touch’.”
The author added that she also received a letter from Christie’s great-grandson who runs the estate carrying the same warning.
So it seems that a newspaper or bookshop or festival may refer to McDermid as the ‘Queen of Crime’, but her publisher may not. The row has an air of English eccentricity about it but also shows the importance and power of simple marketing phrases.