You’d imagine, as I did, that the title of a story, like the paint colour for the living room or the name of a first born child is the inalienable right of the owner. You’d hardly expect to turn up at the hospital and find yourself haggling with the midwife over your choice, nor expect the baby to arrive sporting a wristband labeled, ‘Fluffy’. You might check with a knowledgeable friend to be sure the name doesn’t mean ‘canary droppings’ in Russian. But, ultimately, it’s your choice.
I had received a loud nod from my publisher when I first announced the title for my fourth Dr. Siri mystery. I confess I’d been pleasantly surprised at its acceptance as it contained a gynecological reference. Given the North American uproar at the time over the word ‘scrotum’, apparently dropped shamelessly into a book for teenagers – heaven knows we don’t want our youth to know that dogs have sexual organs – I was wondering whether my The Devil’s Vagina would make it past the censors. But pass it did and I headed south to my secret beach to write the book which would accompany my title. I was halfway through when I received an urgent email. The marketing people had decided against it. “Wrong type of image.”
I was distraught as I had grown to love my Vagina and I was all at sea without a name to float my book upon. I reluctantly and unsuccessfully approached the marketeers with “A Note to a Blind Dentist’, but that too failed. “Can’t sell a book with ‘Dentist’ in the title”. And so, after a nationwide survey of bookshops, we ended up with “Anarchy and Old Dogs”. Yes, I’m quite fond of it, but it certainly is no Devil’s Vagina.
And here, for fear of causing another stir, is the rub. My blog was rejected. I can’t begin to tell you what psychological damage this has caused me. I was told that the ‘V’ word, for a number of reasons, was unacceptable. I was asked to submit future blogs with no anatomical references. I’m English. Without naughty bits we have no humour.