Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Pay Attention, Big Boy!

It’s pleasant to think that book designers and cover artists are endlessly imaginative, that they can produce an ever-expanding array of new and novel covers, each demonstrating a radical departure from what has come before. But of course, that’s simply delusional. As we’ve discovered over time, designers of crime novels (and other books) not only borrow cover themes and image arrangements from each other, they too often duplicate stock art that’s been used prominently on other jackets. As is true of writers as well, designers try to do the best they can, and hope no one notices when they fall short of the heights of genius.

Besides, some ideas just keep on working. Again and again. And again. I was reminded of this recently, when I received in the mail an advance reading copy of The First Quarry, Max Allan Collins’ forthcoming (in October) prequel to his long-running series featuring a hired-killer known as Quarry. The jacket (at right), illustrated by Ken Laager, shows a man seated on a couch (presumably the aforementioned assassin), holding what looks to be a gun, while a curvaceous brunette stands in front of him, quietly but seductively removing her brassiere--though he seems too involved in whatever he’s thinking to notice.

This sort of cover illustration--of a sexy female with her back turned to the book buyer, displaying her virtues to some man (or in one case below, a woman) who is either surprised or distracted by other matters--has become something of a standard. Looking around the Web, I found a number of other similar examples:

Understand, this post is not intended as a knock against illustrator Laager; I like his First Quarry artwork. Just consider it confirmation of that old adage about how there are no new ideas in the world.

(Editor’s note: A revised and greatly expanded version of this piece has been posted in the Killer Covers blog.)


pattinase (abbott) said...

Some ideas just don't get old though. All of them are pretty effective.

Anonymous said...

There ain't nothin' as pretty as a woman's back.


Victor Gischler said...

I think all these covers together would make a good poster.


Jon The Crime Spree Guy said...

I actually have four of these.
I love old paperbacks
..... and especially ones with backs!