Friday, December 30, 2011

Cover to Cover

Come the end of every year, it’s now a tradition here at The Rap Sheet to look back over the preceding 12 months and choose our favorite crime novel fronts. We commenced this custom way back in 2007, and have no interest in discontinuing it. Especially not when there ample excellent candidates from which to select.

Which isn’t to say that every book cover in this genre produced since January 1, 2011, was a winner. Some of them were boring or downright repulsive, while most were simply unimaginative--lacking in wit or surprise. I mean, how many shadowy figures of men and women do we have to see decorating the jackets of mysteries and thrillers before readers and more imaginative graphic designers finally revolt, demanding less safe, less lackluster concepts? On the whole, bottom-line-oriented publishers are not terribly daring; it’s partly the responsibility of designers to convince them to experiment with fresh approaches. But it’s also up to readers to judge more books by their covers--and reject those that don’t display at least some novelty in their façades. We aren’t robots, after all. Part of the appeal of any new book is the way it looks, not just the author’s name (familiar ones selling the best) or the words inside or the price on the jacket flap.

As in previous years, our demanding panel of judges for 2011 is four strong: Linda L. Richards, a novelist and the editor of January Magazine; David Middleton, a graphic artist, illustrator, and photographer who also holds the title of art and culture editor for January; Kevin Burton Smith, the talented editor-creator of one of the Web’s top crime-fiction resources, The Thrilling Detective Web Site; and your humble servant, J. Kingston Pierce, editor of The Rap Sheet. We’ve spent the last year gathering works we thought merited inclusion in this Best Crime Novel Covers competition, and several weeks cutting our roster of two dozen picks in half. Some of the finalists are more audacious than others. One is notorious: the front of Assassin of Secrets, a novel that sparked a plagiarism scandal and was yanked from stores in November. Each of our judges has his or her favorites, but the finalists all rank as remarkable.

Now we want to know your opinions.

Below, you will find our dozen nominees for Best Crime Novel Cover of 2011. At the bottom of this post is a ballot on which you can vote for your favorites. Feel free to choose as many jackets as you think deserve acclaim. We’ll keep the voting open until midnight on Friday, January 6, after which we’ll announce the results.

Click on any of these covers for an enlargement.

One more thing: If you think we’ve neglected to mention some outstanding example of a crime-fiction front from the last year, please let us know about it in the Comments section of this post. And include a Web address where we can see your nominee for ourselves.

READ MORE:My Year of Reading: Favorite Covers of 2011,” by David Abrams (The Quivering Pen); “Favorite Covers of 2011,” by Dan Wagstaff (The Casual Optimist); “The 10 Best Covers of 2011,” by Emily Temple (Flavorwire); “Top Covers of 2011” (Kirkus Reviews).


Ray Garraty said...

I think some Mulholland's covers should be here, other that you've chosen:
Duane Swierczynski's Fun & Games and Lawrence Block's A Drop of the Hard Stuff.
From UK I'd pick the cover of The Dispatcher by Ryan David Jahn:!books/vstc3=the-dispatcher/photostackergallery12=0
Stephen King's 11/22/63 cover is gorgeous but it's not a crime.

John said...

Too many covers here with typographic emphasis for my tastes. What about THE SISTERS BROTHERS? An excellent example of modern illustration in DJ art. Wish there were more illustrators working today instead of "graphic designers." I know, I'm hopelessly old-fashioned.

Ronald Tierney said...

Tough time voting. Really liked cover of The Dewey Decimal System by Nathan Larson and published by Akashic Books. The book is good too.

blorentz said...

Best cover in 2011 was 11/22/63. I was going to buy the ebook, but went with the hardback so I could get the cover.

Louis XIV, 'The Sun King' (Nick Jones) said...

I'm with John on current cover design (no surprise there). Also, was it really necessary to include Assassin of Secrets? Nothing wrong with the design, but considering what Rowan did, surely your judges could have found a different cover to include? The book's not even available anymore.

Greg M said...

A little note about Assassin of Secrets; last time I checked, it is still very much on sale in bookstores up here. Guess plagiarism only goes so far.

As for the covers, some nice stylish choices here. It's a shame that some of them don't make it up here. We got lame covers for Carte Blanche and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Assassin of Secrets, of course, we have the same cover.

dpell said...

Good group here. Looking ahead to 2012, TRIAL OF THE SPELLMANS has a very clever design.

The biggest disappointment is the cover for Burdett's VULTURE PEAK, or maybe it's the title I don't like. Can't beat Chip Kidd's design for THE GODFATHER OF KATHMANDU.

Happy New Year!

Cullen Gallagher said...

Leonard Fritz's cover for Jake Hinkson's HELL ON CHURCH STREET is the most psychotic and creepy cover of the year, in my opinion:

Matt said...

The cursor on Cullerton's book is clever, and I like the deceptive simplicity and sparseness of the Glynn cover, and the Revisionists cover makes me want to read that book because the concept looks intriguing, but from a strictly design perspective, I like the Le Carre best.

Rusty James said...

They all look like crap, but at least the Le Carre reminds me of that creepy kid from the movie Sin City.

Kelly Robinson said...

At least Markham's cover designer didn't plagiarize.