Novelist Barbara Taylor Bradford is told to change the name of her latest work and its cover because it was called ‘Blackie and Emma’ after chief character’s nickname

  • Barbara Taylor Bradford says book title Blackie and Emma has been scrapped
  • She accused publishing house HarperCollins of pressuring her to change title
  • Customers feared to misinterpret name Blackie for term of derision or insult 
  • Taylor Bradford alleged publishers told her title was ‘politically incorrect’ 

Barbara Taylor Bradford has revealed her new book title and cover have been scrapped by publishers who are fearful of it appearing ‘politically incorrect’.

The author is writing a prequel to the hugely successful 1979 novel A Woman of Substance, which sold 30million copies and was made into a TV series.

It tells the same narrative from the perspective of one of Taylor Bradford’s leading men – Blackie O’Neill, played by Liam Neeson for Channel 4.

But HarperCollins are accused of pressuring Taylor Bradford, 86, to bin her working title Blackie and Emma in favour of the character’s Christian name – Shane.

In an interview for the MediaMasters podcast, the Anglo-American writer claimed that customers are suspected by the publishing house of misinterpreting the name Blackie – a nickname given to the lead – for an outdated term of derision or insult. 

Barbara Taylor Bradford has revealed her new book title and cover have been scrapped by publishers who are fearful of it appearing 'politically incorrect'

Barbara Taylor Bradford has revealed her new book title and cover have been scrapped by publishers who are fearful of it appearing ‘politically incorrect’

‘Therefore are we talking about a black man?’ she accused her publishers of asking, before they told her the title was ‘politically incorrect’. 

Taylor Bradford said: ‘They’ve done the cover, which was great, and my editor called me last week and said we have to have a new title.  

‘It’s now become Shane O’Neill and Emma Harte – and we’ll see if they accept it.’

She added: ‘You’ve got to have a name in there and I can’t have Blackie. But within four pages, the reader knows it’s Blackie.’

MailOnline has approached HarperCollins for comment. 

The novel A Woman of Substance is the first of a seven-series saga about the fortunes of a retail empire across three generations.

Liam Neeson (right) played O'Neill, who introduces himself to Emma as 'Shane O'Neill's the name, but the whole world calls me Blackie', in the 1984 miniseries

Liam Neeson (right) played O’Neill, who introduces himself to Emma as ‘Shane O’Neill’s the name, but the whole world calls me Blackie’, in the 1984 miniseries

HarperCollins are accused of pressuring Taylor Bradford, 86, to bin her planned title Blackie and Emma in favour of the character's Christian name - Shane

HarperCollins are accused of pressuring Taylor Bradford, 86, to bin her planned title Blackie and Emma in favour of the character’s Christian name – Shane

Cover of A Woman of Substance, 1979

Working cover of Taylor Bradford prequel

The novel A Woman of Substance (left) is the first of a seven-series saga about the fortunes of a retail empire across three generations (right, prequel working title and cover)

Its central character is Emma Harte, who meets Shane O’Neill – described as ‘an exceptionally handsome young’ Irish navvy with hair ‘as black as ebony’ – while a teenager serving at Fairley Hall in rural Yorkshire. 

Liam Neeson played O’Neill, who introduces himself to Emma as ‘Shane O’Neill’s the name, but the whole world calls me Blackie’, in the 1984 miniseries.

The prequel will retell the narrative from Blackie’s perspective, documenting his upbringing in rural County Kerry and learning the navvy trade.

In the press release from November, Taylor Bradford revealed she ‘felt compelled to tell Blackie’s story’ after her husband Bob Bradford died last summer.

The statement added: ‘The true Blackie O’Neill will be revealed and fans of Emma Harte will be able to live his tumultuous life with him.’

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