Scottish crime author Val McDermid has been threatened with legal action by Agatha Christie’s estate after she was referred to as the “Queen of Crime”.
The author shared the revelation at the Edinburgh Book Festival, telling fans she had been contacted by Christie’s great-grandson and Chief Executive of the Christie estate James Prichard, who was “shocked” to see her use the phrase.
McDermid has described the “cease and desist” letter as “astonishingly pitiful”.
So, who is the real “Queen of Crime” and what has Agatha Christie’s estate said?
Here’s everything you need to know.
What did author Val McDermid say?
McDermid revealed that Christie’s estate had sent her a cease and desist letter during an interview at the Edinburgh Book Festival.
The best-selling author from Fife, explained that her publisher had been warned against using the phrase “Queen of Crime” to describe her on her website.
McDermid explained: “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.’
“I actually got a letter from Agatha Christie’s great-grandson, who helps run the Agatha Christie estate.
“He said: ‘You will imagine my shock when my train pulled into Waverley Station and a poster said: ‘New from the Queen of Crime.’ You must understand there is nothing personal in this, but we must protect my great grandmother’s legacy.’
“It’s just astonishingly pitiful.”
The author, who has been asked to write a new Miss Marple story, is one of 12 writers to have contributed to an upcoming book being released by the estate.
What did Agatha Christie’s estate say?
Christie’s estate has not publicly commented on the issue.
In May 2013 the organisation registered the title “Queen of Crime” as a trademark, along with the terms Poirot, Miss Marple and Agatha.
McDermid explained the estate has accepted it could not prevent people from calling her the “Queen of Crime” but said she was warned that if she used the title “in other ways” this would breach copyright and their “lawyers will be in touch.”
Who is the Queen of Crime?
The title “Queen of Crime” is popularly associated with crime author Agatha Christie.
During her 60-year career she wrote 66 books and more than 150 short stories, many of which still remain in print.
Christie’s most famous works include Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple, with titles including Murder on the Orient Express and The Mousetrap.
When the author died in January 1976 her estate was left to her daughter, with her great-grandson still retaining a 36% share of her works.
In May 2013, the Christie estate copyrighted the term “Queen of Crime”, which meant that anyone who self-described themselves with this title would be in breach.
Response to the news on social media has left fans confused and questioning if there really can only be one “Queen of Crime”.
Twitter user @CourtneyMillan said: “I don’t think that we should be granting permanent trademark status to a phrase that depicts a temporary position. Even if we all agreed that Agatha Christie was at one time the Queen of Crime, I think we can all agree that there’s no guarantees she will remain so.”