Scottish author Val McDermid has revealed a threat of legal action by the Agatha Christie estate.
Christie’s estate raised issue with McDermid’s usage of the phrase “Queen of Crime” as it has been trademarked by the descendants of the venerated crime writer since 2013.
Speaking at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, McDermid said she had received a “a cease and desist” letter from the estate.
The best-selling novelist from Fife is one of the modern writers who have been asked to write new Miss Marple stories by Agatha Christie Ltd, which is run by Christie’s great-grandson James Prichard.
In conversation with broadcaster Allan Little at the book festival, McDermid was asked about quotes referring to her as the “Queen of Crime” on the back of her new novel, 1989.
She dubbed the legal threat “astonishingly pitiful”, saying: “It’s all been going great guns and we’ve all been doing lots of publicity and interviews and writing articles for the papers and stuff, all at the behest of the Agatha Christie estate.
“However, a few weeks ago the Agatha Christie estate wrote to my publisher and 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 in breach of our trademark. You may continue to quote other people calling her the queen of crime, and obviously you cannot prevent someone on a platform during an event calling her the queen of crime.
“‘But should you use this title elsewhere in other ways, then you will be in breach and our lawyers will be in touch.'”
She added that she had also received a letter from Prichard, Christie’s great-grandson, saying he was “shocked” to see her referred to as the “Queen of Crime” on posters.
McDermid stated: “I actually got a letter from Agatha Christie’s great-grandson, who helps to run the Agatha Christie estate, and obviously earns vast sums of money from the Agatha Christie estate.
“He said, ‘You will imagine my shock when my train pulled into Waterloo station and a poster said, new from the queen of crime. You must understand there’s nothing personal in this, but we must protect my great-grandmother’s legacy.’
“Obviously, you see that on the poster, you’re going to go, ‘Oh, queen of crime, we’re not going to read that Agatha Christie any more are we?’ It’s just astonishingly pitiful.”
McDermid has now dubbed herself the “quine of crime”, getting the title printed on a T-shirt and using it to introduce herself at another session of the Edinburgh International Book Festival.