In Peter Lefcourt's fanciful new novel, Di and I, a scandal erupts when Princess Diana runs off with a middle-aged American TV writer. Now the very idea is causing a scandal. '''My Affair With Diana' Book Row'', screamed a recent front-page headline of London's Sunday Express. ''Fury at 'Sex With Diana' Novel'', chimed The Mail on Sunday. Both tabloids quoted Princess Diana's stepgrandmother, romance novelist Barbara Cartland, who called for the book to be banned. Neither paper, however, reported that Di and I is a comic novel. That its Princess Diana who takes up with schlumpy Leonard Schecter is patently fictional. And that the book satirizes not just the royal family but Fleet Street as well.
''The thing with the Brits is, they can make fun of themselves, but you can't make fun of them,'' says a mildly unnerved Lefcourt, who is not looking forward to his London book tour later this month. ''They also can't quite forgive me because there's sex in the novel.'' The 52-year-old TV writer and Emmy award-winning producer (Cagney & Lacey), who has two other novels to his credit, adds, ''I keep responding to them that it's not torrid or tacky sex.''
The fictional Diana settles down in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., reigning over a McDonald's franchise with her lover. ''I hope it won't be seen as a gimmick,'' says Lefcourt. ''It's really Cinderella in reverse. The premise is that one would rather be in love and work in a McDonald's in Cucamonga than not be in love in Kensington Palace.''
Lefcourt, who conceived of Di and I while writing the 1992 TV movie The Women of Windsor, still fantasizes about having tea with the princess. He believes all would be forgiven if she would just read the novel. ''She'll realize it's a very sweet story,'' he says.