Wednesday, July 12, 2006

If They Loved It Once, They'll Love It Again

I once was on a list where one writer threw a hissy fit that another writer on the list was using “her” title for a novel in a very different genre and with an entirely different target audience. (Oddly, neither writer appeared to realize that the title both were using had been used years before by a well-known novelist and that the novel in question was still a top seller on Amazon.)

It’s a good thing neither of these writers was publishing historical fiction, where some titles are so good that they keep popping up again and again, both within and without the genre. Mind you, I’m not suggesting that this is at all illegal or unethical—my own novel, in fact, shares a moniker with at least two older books, one a 1908 novel long out of print, the other a 1960’s novel out of print but still easily had on the secondhand market. Perhaps, however, it’s time to retire some of the titles below, just like the jerseys of football and basketball greats:

The Court(s) of Love. Used by Jean Plaidy, Denee Cody, Peter Bourne, Alice Brown, and Ellen Gilchrist. Not to mention Geoffrey Chaucer.

The Prince of Darkness. Used by Sharon Penman, Paul Doherty, Jean Plaidy, Emma Dorothy Eliza Nevitte Southworth, Susanna Firth, Ray Russell, and Patricia Dexheimer, just to list a few. And Ozzy Osbourne had a go at it too.

The Sun(ne) in Splendo(u)r. Used by Sharon Penman, Jean Plaidy, Juliet Dymoke, Colin Maxwell, and Thomas Burke. There’s also a book called Splendour in the Sun, which got me to humming an immensely annoying 1970’s song called “Seasons in the Sun” (“We had joy, we had fun, we had seasons in the sun”). Quick, someone play some Ozzy Osbourne.

Gay Lord Robert. Used only by Jean Plaidy as far as I know (in a 1971 novel about Robert Dudley), but it takes a very, very manly man to go into Barnes and Noble nowadays and declare, in ringing tones, “I would like to order Gay Lord Robert.”

Then again, my husband once walked into a bookstore and ordered a book called The Brave Little Toaster for me. A manly man, indeed.


Carla said...

I have a feeling that Jean Plaidy's book accurately dates the emergence of 'gay' in its modern meaning, i.e. to well after 1971. One imagines that any publisher re-issuing it now would have to change the title. Cheerful Lord Robert doesn't quite cut it, though. Any advances?

One advantage of emailing somebody the Amazon page is that it saves those toe-curling moments in bookshops when you mumble the title and the assistant repeats it in ringing (if slightly incredulous) tones.

Kathryn Warner said...

I now have Seasons in the Sun going round and round in my head - or rather, the line you quote, which is the only bit of the song I know. Thanks. ;)

I didn't know there were two other novels called The Traitor's Wife. What are they about?

Susan Higginbotham said...

Carla, I agree that Cheerful Lord Robert doesn't make it, and Lively Lord Robert or Perky Lord Robert don't seem to fill the bill either. Maybe Randy Lord Robert?

Alianor, deepest apologies for "Seasons in the Sun." I do remember other lines from the song, which I'll spare you and the rest of blogdom.

The other Traitor's Wife's were written by David Montross and William Henry Williamson. The Montross one, published in 1962, is a spy novel; I think it has something to do with the Cold War. I don't know anything about the one by Williamson, which was published in 1908.

Sarah Johnson said...

I have Seasons in the Sun in my head now too. I don't know the rest of the song - and I only know those bits because it's on some 70s compilation they used to advertise on late-night TV.

Not sure about Randy Lord Robert. People may assume it's about some British guy named Randy.

Marg said...

That would be confusing because I would of thought that Randy is a pretty American kind of name!!

How about Devilish Lord Robert?

Susan Higginbotham said...

Devilish Lord Robert might suit, or how about Rakish Lord Robert? Of course, that might make people think it's a Regency . . .

Carla said...

Devilish has my vote. Rakish sounds like a Regency romance. I can see the Harlequin cover already. I like Randy Lord Robert - highly appropriate - but seems like it could cause confusion.