[DWJ] Black Maria

Martha Hixon martha.hixon at mtsu.edu
Tue Dec 12 16:09:24 EST 2017

oh, very helpful, Minnow. Diana clearly meant all these connections, then.
I should have guessed, since it's the layers of meaning and puns, as you
say, that make her books so wonderful.

And yes, the UK title likely would have caused a bit of a stir here,
unfortunately, though it never occurred to me, either -- but then, I read
the book as "Aunt Maria," so I already knew who she was when I found out
the British title.



Dr. Martha P. Hixon
Department of English
Middle Tennessee State University
Murfreesboro, TN 37132
615.898.2599 / martha.hixon at mtsu.edu

On Tue, Dec 12, 2017 at 2:24 PM, <minnow at belfry.org.uk> wrote:

> On Mon, 11 Dec 2017 20:28:48 -0600
> Martha Hixon <martha.hixon at mtsu.edu> wrote:
> > hi, everyone,
> >
> > I was reading *The Hanged Man *by P.N. Elrod, and ran across the term
> > a Black Maria, meaning a police van. I immediately thought of Diana's
> > book by that name, and was wondering whether anyone knows whether she
> > was making conscious connections when she used that term, or of
> > course if anyone else has made that connection, or has another
> > insight on that title--?
> >
> > it's *Aunt Maria *here in the U.S., so I'm more familiar with that
> > title--and I confess, I was unfamiliar with that term as a reference
> > to a "real" thing, so "aunt" has always made more sense to me.
> I can slightly answer the question, because I heard all about this when
> the title of the US edition had to be altered to avoid a possible
> racist slur -- which had not occurred to Diana as a problem when she
> wrote it, for some reason: it was 1991, and she should really have
> realised.  The term Black Maria would have been associated with a
> police van by most British readers at the time, at a guess; certainly I
> did instantly. The card game was a surprise to me, because I had always
> called it either "hearts" or "Slippery Anne, the Queen of Spades". (But
> Anne doesn't have a paddy-wagon named after her.)
> Diana was quite upset that the title had to be changed, and a part of
> the play on words lost (she was always keen on layers of meaning, not
> to say terrible puns), but bowed to the inevitable and just felt cross
> with herself for not having thought of it. When she wrote the book she
> was well aware of the card game and the fact that nobody wants to be
> left with Black Maria in their hand/on their hands, and as was quite
> usual with her, pulled in the other possible meaning as well and wove
> it into the strand; but she simply didn't think of "black" as an insult.
> The original title, Black Maria, is sideways reference to being hustled
> into a van and taken away at someone else's behest, constrained; the
> Awful Aunt is called Maria because that is how she behaves, taking
> people in (and taking them in) and then hijacking them to places they
> don't necessarily want to go.  She is a vehicle of oppression; a sort of
> small-scale juggernaut in people's lives, driving them in the direction
> she chooses.
> (Incidentally, Katherine Kurtz must have thought that a Black Maria was
> a police car not a paddy-wagon, because one of her heroes impresses
> people about how well he gets on with the police when they drop him off
> in a black Maria -- nobody would be impressed by your being dropped off
> in a prison van!)
> Minnow
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