There’s only one Queen of Crime, Agatha Christie’s estate warns Val McDermid

There’s only one Queen of Crime, Agatha Christie’s estate warns Val McDermid Daniel Sanderson -

Val McDermid has been threatened with legal action by Agatha Christie's estate in a row over which of the authors is the true “Queen of Crime”.

The estate of Agatha Christie has sent a warning to Val McDermid, right, about using the term 'Queen of Crime' -

The Scottish writer revealed at an event at the Edinburgh Book Festival that she had received a cease and desist letter demanding that she drop use of the moniker, as copyright of the term was owned by the company that manages Christie’s literary rights. She also claimed to have been sent personal correspondence from James Prichard, Christie’s great-grandson and the chief executive of Agatha Christie Ltd, who said he was “shocked” to see McDermid referred to as the “Queen of Crime” on a poster at Edinburgh Waverley train station.

McDermid described the warnings as “just astonishingly pitiful” and said they had been made despite her working closely with the estate on a new story for a book about Miss Marple, one of Christie’s best-known characters.

“A few weeks ago, the Agatha Christie estate wrote to my publisher,” McDermid told Allan Little, the broadcaster, who interviewed her at the book festival.

“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.

Agatha Christie - left

"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.”

McDermid works on celebration of Miss Marple

McDermid, who has sold more than 17 million books, is referred to as the Queen of Crime on her own website. The term was registered as a trademark by Agatha Christie Ltd in May 2013, more than 37 years after the English writer died. Others trademarked by the estate include Poirot, Miss Marple and Agatha.

Ms McDermid said the estate had acknowledged that it could not stop other people referring to her as a Queen of Crime and could quote other people who had used the term to describe her.


However, she said she had been warned that if it was used “in other ways”, then she would be in breach of copyright and “our lawyers will be in touch”.

McDermid, 67, said that her love affair with crime fiction started when she read about Miss Marple in The Murder at the Vicarage as a child. The book, published in 1930, was the first to feature Miss Marple.

She had been working on a short story, The Second Murder at the Vicarage, for a new collection celebrating the character, to be published next month.

She is described as one of 12 “remarkable bestselling and acclaimed authors” to be contributing to the project, on the Christie estate’s website.

"It’s all been going great guns,” she said. “We’ve all been doing loads of publicity and interviews, and writing articles for the papers and stuff, all at the behest of the Agatha Christie estate.”

Agatha Christie Ltd was approached for comment.


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