Regular readers will know that I shamelessly exploit you all once a year when I ask you to select the title for the new Plank novel. My own entitling skills are poor – remember that the original title for “Fatal Forgery” was the ghastly “A Fraudster and a Gentleman” – and so I rely on you. I settle on a shortlist of five possible titles, give an outline of the plot and why each title might work, and then leave it to the vote. You can see how it worked in 2014 and in 2015 – and of course I will be calling on you again in about July this year. (The title has to be decided quite early on as the cover designer needs it.)
But it cannot have escaped anyone’s notice this week that asking the public to select a name can be fraught with unforeseen dangers. When the National Environment Research Council wanted a name for their new Royal research ship, they made the mistake of not creating a shortlist, but instead allowing people to vote on any suggestion that was put forward. And leading by a country (or should that be nautical?) mile at the moment is the charming RRS Boaty McBoatface. You’d think the NERC would have learned a lesson from Greenpeace, who asked the public to name a whale in the South Pacific in 2007, and had to christen the magnificent beast Mr Splashy Pants. And in 2012 American supermarket chain Walmart held a Facebook poll to stage a concert by rapper Pitbull in any city where there is a Walmart store… The poor chap ended up on a flight to the remote Alaskan city of Kodiak.
Sam, Martha and I sidestep these fates by limiting you with our shortlist – but we do abide by the outcome of the vote. So please stand by your (naming) beds later this year, ready to cast your vote.