Monday, April 19, 2010

Shooting gallery

When I met my British publishers, Simon & Schuster, for the first time, we had a long conversation about jacket art.  'No guns' was something we agreed to fairly quickly, for fear of putting off female readers – there's a love story, albeit of a pretty twisted sort, at the core of my debut novel, Free Agent. Well, in the end the British hardback (right) did feature a gun, and I'm very glad it did because I think it was a superb cover.

As the American paperback, due out next month from Penguin (left), also features a gun on the jacket – and I am equally pleased with it! – it looks like I have entered 'thriller-writer with guns on his jackets' territory.

Well, I could be in worse company. Below are a few scans of thriller jackets from my own collection – just click to enlarge them. Which do you think work best?


  1. Midnight Plus One is the coolest design of this bunch (not including your covers of course!). The duotone look w/ target and watches is a strong graphic. Ashenden is the next fave, then they get pretty dated from there. Last Supper is really bizarre!
    -Jason (Spy Vibe)

  2. Hi Jason, thanks for commenting. I also like the Midnight Plus One cover, and it's a great thriller, too. Ashenden has a wonderfully striking design, but very inappropriate for the contents of the book (and I have no idea what the New York Times critic was thinking there!). I dislike the Quiller one purely because I think it's such a shame: it was the last novel in a series of 19 superb spy thrillers, published posthumously, and they put a gun in Quiller's hand. Quiller doesn't carry a gun!

  3. I agree with Midnight Plus One - I like how the pistol is reduced to a tonal dropout design element.

    I remember reading a short bit Paul Bishop wrote about a bookclub he was in - and they put an embargo on books with swastikas or skewered fruit on the cover. Funnily enough, that week I had just bought a swag of Len Deighton paperbacks with skewered fruit on the cover.

    In the spy genre, it's funny what has become a cover cliché. If I was to have a bookcover I'd want a gun, a swastika and skewered fruit on it - so people knew exactly where I was coming from.

    Love the new cover, by the way. Makes me want to buy the book all over again.


  4. Thanks for the comment, David - and by all means do buy my book again!

    In that first discussion I had with Simon & Schuster, I mentioned the Len Deighton 'skewered fruit' designs as something I thought were classics. Some people around the table knew them and some didn't. When I got back home, I emailed them over some examples of what I thought were great spy thriller covers, including those Deighton covers and the earlier ones, the Richard Chopping Ian Fleming jackets, a few of the early Quillers, and so on. A couple of months later, I was sent the art department's first attempt at my jacket - and was stunned. I thought they got it spot on, and had done something that looked both retro and fresh, and that harked back to those classic designs but was original in its own right. And, most importantly of all, I felt it was a design that fitted my novel, and would tell people what sort of book it was.

    I don't think there's any particular moral to the tale - just wanted to share that! Or perhaps the moral is simply that sometimes a gun on a jacket works.