Actually, I don’t think there is a villain in this story, certainly not Mr Rankin. He had to say something, poor chap. He went for short and funny. And Romantic Novelists Red in Tooth and Claw is number one in the Crime Writers’ Joke Book.
It surfaces again and again – in Harrogate last year, at a local conference this; in print, in after dinner speeches; year after year, after year.
Rankin said it himself, a few weeks ago, interviewed by The Independent on Sunday. ‘”Crime writers,” he explained, “are usually very well-balanced, approachable people, because we channel all our crap on to the page. In the crime-writing community we joke about romantic fiction writers and how they’re all evil, backstabbing bitches because they don’t have that outlet …” ‘
As I said yesterday, it would be a great story if it were true – rather like Georgette Heyer in Devil’s Cub, saying that ‘Mr Comyn, for all his prosaic bearing, cherished a love for the romantic which Lord Vidal,a very figure of romance, quite lacked.’
But I have just sat reading the RNA Archives, moved to tears sometimes by the affection, the respect, the support these romantic writers have shown for the last fifty years to the new writers (the ‘pre-published’), authors both struggling and successful, and sometimes the damn near post published.
For instance, five years after she died, people were still writing of ‘our dear Mary Burchell’, the ebullient, romantic and supremely generous second President. (Heroic, too. With her heart in her mouth, she and her sister helped Jews escaping from Germany and Austria before the War. Read her autobiography, republished last year as Safe Passage by Ida Cook. )
So – I don’t want to demonise Mr Rankin, or any other writer, of crime or otherwise, and I apologise to anyone who thinks I do. (Really sorry Paula and Eileen, if you think I was carried away.) I don’t even want to stop them telling the joke, if they enoy it. I just thought that someone, sometime, should say, actually it’s not true.
If not now, when?
If not me, who?