The French translation of Agatha Christie's hit novel "And Then There Were None" will change its title to remove a racially-charged word already dropped from the British edition decades ago, its editor said Wednesday.

The title "Dix Petits Negres", or "Ten Little Niggers", will become "Ils Etaient Dix" or "They Were Ten".

The decision to change the French title of one of the best-selling books by the "Queen of Crime" was taken by her great-grandson James Prichard, who heads the company that owns the rights to Christie's works.

Prichard told the RTL broadcaster that the book, first published in Britain in 1939 under the title "Ten Little Niggers" after a minstrel song, dated from a time when such language was common.

Not using words "that upset people", Prichard said, "just seems to me a very sensible position to have in 2020".

Publisher Masque confirmed to AFP that the edit was made at the request of the company Agatha Christie Limited "to align it with the English and American editions and all other international translations."

It stressed that "the story itself has not changed."

The word "negre" appeared 74 times in the French version of the book, first published in 1940.

It will be replaced with the word "soldat" or "soldier" in the latest translation by Gerard de Cherge, according to RTL.

Agatha Christie's great-grandson James Prichard said the decision to change the book title was informed by a desire not to 'upset people'
Agatha Christie's great-grandson James Prichard said the decision to change the book title was informed by a desire not to 'upset people' AFP / JACK TAYLOR

And the "Ile du Negre" where the mystery unfolds, becomes the "Ile du Soldat" like the English version's "Soldier Island".

The book gained its current English title in Britain in the 1980s, following the example of the US edition which came out as the non-offensive "And Then There Were None" from its first publication in 1940.

It has also appeared under the title "Ten Little Indians", another racially-loaded term.

The book has sold over 100 million copies, making it one of the best-selling novels of all time.

France, which is in the midst of a debate about alleged racism in the police and society at large, was one of the last countries to continue using the original title.

The decision to change it was not universally popular, with France Inter literary presenter Francois Busnel calling it "absurd" and newspaper Le Figaro saying it was "another triumph for political correctness."

The change came after streaming platform HBO Max in June removed the film "Gone with the Wind" amid mass protests against racism and police brutality in the United States.

The multiple Oscar-winning US Civil War epic released in 1939 remains the highest-grossing movie of all time adjusted for inflation, but its depiction of contented slaves and heroic slaveholders has riled many.

Eight years ago, the popular comic "Tintin in the Congo" caused a stir in France when publisher Louis Delas defended the book written in 1931 and widely criticised as racist.