Monday, January 22, 2018

Face Value: Best Crime Covers, 2017

1st Place: Blackbird, by Michael Fiegel (Skyhorse).
Cover design by Erin Seward-Hiatt.

How fitting it is for our purposes here that the expression “don’t judge a book by its cover,” meaning one should avoid estimating the value of something or somebody based solely on appearances, traces its popularity in part back to a hard-boiled 1946 mystery novel by Edwin Rolfe and Lester Fuller. According to online sources, one of the earliest versions of this idiom is found in George Eliot’s 1860 tale, The Mill on the Floss, with a modification of it—“you can’t judge a book by its binding”—cited subsequently in a 1944 edition of the journal American Speech. Rolfe and Fuller’s aforementioned work of crime fiction, The Glass Room, which reportedly started out as a film project for Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, contains yet another form of the cliché: “you can never tell a book by its cover.”

The more often this phrase featured in our sources of popular entertainment (the 1947 film The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer, starring Cary Grant and Myrna Loy, also made memorable use of that wisdom), the more embedded it became in our culture. Today, “never judge a book by its cover” is accepted as common sense. Yet The Rap Sheet’s recent effort to choose the Best Crime Fiction Cover of 2017 asked readers to throw off such advice, and judge which of 15 arresting book fronts they thought made the best use of photography, illustrations, and typography.

Those finalists combined in-house selections, several candidates showcased in design-oriented blogs over the 12 months, and suggestions from Rap Sheet fans. Earlier this month, everybody who wished to take part was invited to cast ballots electronically for one or more of the book fronts. With upwards of 900 votes having been registered, and the poll now ended, we can present the top five vote-getters in this post—see above and below.

2nd Place: G-Man, by Stephen Hunter (Putnam). Cover illustration
by Lorin Michki. Jacket design by Ben Denzer.

3rd Place: Follow Me Down, by Sherri Smith (Forge).
Jacket design by Daniela Medina.

4th Place: Mister Memory, by Marcus Sedgwick (Pegasus).
Cover illustration by Simón Prades.

5th Place: The Fall of Lisa Bellow, by Susan Perabo (Simon & Schuster). Jacket design by Alison Forner.

If you wish to learn the total number of votes received by each cover in contention this year, simply click here. And thanks once more to everyone who took part in this process.

READ MORE:The Best Book Covers of 2017,” by Matt Dorfman (The New York Times); “Notable Covers of 2017,” by Dan Wagstaff; “The Best Book Covers of 2017,” by Jessica Doyle (AbeBooks).

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