Do you judge a crime book by its cover?

They say you should never judge a book by its cover and most of the time that’s true. I don’t know about you but when I look at most thrillers these day’s I’m pretty un-thrilled. I’m not going to name and shame but I’ve read quite a few books in the last year or so that made excellent reading but which had rather bland covers. Big text and a vague, somewhat bleak image of some woods or urban scene, and an indistinct silhouette perhaps. That’ll do for many publishers it seems.

However, when I cast an eye over the Crime Fiction Lover reading pile, there are several that stand out thanks to their fantastic jackets. One of those is The Twenty-Year Death by Ariel S Winter. Hard Case Crime often seems to know what they’re doing when it comes to covers. Lawrence Block’s book Getting Off (he wrote it as Jill Emerson) had a nice, pulp-style cover painted by Greg Manchess. For Twenty-Year Death the imprint commissioned Charles Pyle to paint a cover, and Hollywood actress Rose McGowan posed for the image he created. She was in the Black Dahlia, which is good enough crime fiction cred for me. We are doing an interview with the author here soon, so do join us for that.

Another book with an interesting cover is one that’s currently being read – Slip & Fall by Nick Santora. This one was in the swag bag at CrimeFest in Bristol last month. I had no idea what it was about but started it as a potluck read just because I liked the cover – it’s got some distressed type with a gun worked into the F in Fall and it looks like a strip has been torn off. In this strip a man, shot from a strange overhead angle, is walking along a line. And as it happens the main character does have to walk a fine line as money trouble forces him to mix his personal injury law practise with working for the mob. Pulpy and modern at once, the creative team of Kennedy Simpson designed this one but sadly they have split up. Watch for the review soon.

Hodder sent in a book with a great jacket the other day – Dandy Gilver & a Bothersome Number of Corpses, by Catriona McPherson. It’s set in Scotland and in it Mrs Gilver must pose as an English mistress, and solve the mystery of who is bumping off aging schoolmistresses at St Columba’s College for Young Ladies. Sounds like a cosy, then. The cover, designed by Jessica Hische, has a nice craft-inspired feel that might remind you of sewing patterns, or maybe even those cardboard dolls that little girls could hang cut-out clothing on. Nice textures, bloody type, and a deadly-looking red apple for teacher to boot.

Ben Aaronovitch’s latest arrived the other day. Whispers Under Ground continues on from Rivers of London and Moon over Soho, with rookie-copper-turned-magician teaming up with a beautiful FBI agent and tracking down an evil, ancient, tortured spirit that lurks in the Underground.
The cover, by Stephen Walter, looks like an intensely decorated school exercise book with London’s roads and buildings, trees and parks tightly drawn and annotated with street names and little messages like Peter Pan Country, Madonna + Guy Baby Banda, and Nutters Speak Here. A version of the tube map is superimposed with stations marked in white with the London Underground logo and the lines are, you guessed it, painted in blood. You can see illustrator Stephen Walter’s Mind the Map exhibition at the London Transport Museum at the moment. Watch also for a special ‘London edition’ of the book which features the Olympics site, similarly doodled up by the artist.

There seems to be an increasing number of books combining crime fiction with supernatural and fantasy. We’re not sure what to make of it but have been reviewing some of them. In our most recent interview here on Crime Fiction Lover, James Oswald talks about how he’s combined the two in The Book of Souls and Natural Causes. Hey, he’s had 100,000 ebook downloads so who can argue? Out dilemma though, is do we stick to pure crime or indulge these veerings into the worlds of werewolves, wizards and muggles? For instance, would you like to see a review of the new Ben Aaronovitch book here on CFL?  We’d love to know your thoughts so please comment below.

Meanwhile, publicity for RD Ronald has been in touch about a book called The Zombie Room which has a fetchingly simple cover – the beat-up old door and underplayed type work really well, don’t you think? By the title you might be expecting something that aims to cash in on the current hysteria about zombies. But in fact it’s not about zombies at all, it’s about a sex trafficking ring which three ex-cons stumble into. The author spent time in jail himself for setting up a cannabis farm to help fund his wife’s cancer treatment. The law can be an ass, right? Sex trafficking also features in our recent interview with Danielle Ramsay, however I’d like to leave you with this impressive trailer for The Zombie Room, and a short YouTube interview with RD Ronald.

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2 Comments

  1. Rough Justice Reply

    Looks like we have some great books coming up for review on the site. On the subject of covers HCC always does a great job, as did Dennis Macmillan back in the day. I just hope the rise of e-publishing doesn’t mean they become neglected.
    Personally speaking, I quite enjoy a bit of genre blending, whether it’s crime mixed with horror, fantasy or the supernatural. Still got time for straight up crime too, of course.

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