God bless hindsight. A Regrettable Kettleful of Herrings was just one of the titles I argued quite hard for when we (Hodder & Stoughton, UK and I) were trying to name the latest (US) Dandy Gilver mystery. Out today! Woohoooo! See below for a "Happy Publication Day" giveaway.
I'm glad my editors stood their ground. If they hadn't I'd have been heartily sick of saying that mouthful.
Editrix Lestrange first suggested "Dandy Gilver and ..." as a title template when my perfect, relevant, intriguing, original title for Book 5 got swiped from under me. The book was set during a miner's strike; it took place in the servant's quarters of an Edinburgh townhouse; and it was about buried secrets. I called . . . In The Dark. Geddit? Coalminers! Basements! Secrets! Then a well-known UK crimewriter whose name rhymes with Bark Millingham brought out a book called In The Dark (for no good reason) and we were stymied.
For a while it had the working title, Trouble Down Below, but only for fun. Then I suggested Deepest Red, like blood and like the flag in the anthem of the organised Left. We could end every event with a rousing chorus, perhaps? Thankfully, that idea got the deepest red raspberry. I love the book's eventual title:
And it might have been a harder sell in America with that whiff of Marxism, am I right?
Since then, Fair Francine (once Editrix's assistant, now a senior editor in her own right and my chief co-conspirator) has honed her Dandy-Gilver-Title-Generator until it spins like a top. You feed in 1920s words - bothersome, unsuitable, most (adv.), crimey words - murder, corpses, trouble, and plotty words - habit (for nuns), ballroom (for dancing) day (for an anniversary), and it spits out a perfect title every time.
In our dreams! What really happens is that Francine and I message back and forth in the kind of exchange that would make the NSA agent assigned to decode it give up and start an artisanal-cupcake business. For instance:
F: Convent, cloister, rosary. Fire?
C: Arson, flames, cinders. Dandy Gilver and the Cinders of . . .
F: Sounds like Cinderella.
C: Oh yeah. 1930s?
F: Goodly, fearful, somewhat.
F: Not that again!
C: Sorry. Okay, Dandy Gilver and the Somewhat Charred Nun.
C: Sorry. Embers, altar, death.
F: I've got it! [pause] HABIT!
C: Dandy Gilver and A Fearfully Bad Habit
F: like nose-picking?
C: Is there any way that lighting farts could help here?
F: Let's stick with DG + Some Nuns for now and work on the jacket copy.
But we always get there in the end. Dandy Gilver & Some Nuns is now the resplendent:
You might have noticed, though, that the title isn't the only thing to go on the outside of a book. The US and UK jackets have parted company in recent years. Luckily I love them both and I don't have to draw them.
If you would like to win a brand-new, 1st edition, signed hardback of THE REEK OF RED HERRINGS (out today!) just comment here. Great 1920s/30s era words are welcome, new terms for old crimes even more so. But "Oy! Gimme a book!" is fine too.