I’ve been working hard on getting the paperback version of Being Richard finalised and my proof copy arrived just before everyone shut down for Christmas. Everything looks tickety-boo apart from a colour bias on the cover, and, as you can see, the cover is predominantly black and white so a magenta cast does make it look pretty weird. I’m checking out with Lulu that this is a one off printing error and no doubt they’ll get back to me as soon as the holidays are over.
I trained in photography and have spent a life-time fiddling around with images in all formats, including fine art and design. Hence I prefer to create my own cover images. They say that people judge a book by its cover, and I’m pretty sure that’s the case in most instances. I say most instances because with well publicised books the hype takes over and often the cover becomes pretty meaningless. Take Fifty Shades of Grey as an example. I first took the book of a shelf in a supermarket while my partner was browsing the magazines. I read a couple of pages, didn’t think much of it and put it back on the shelf. A couple of weeks later I heard all of the hype about its content and went, ‘Wow! Did I miss something? The cover never suggested it was about that!”
So, here I am mulling the colours on the cover of Being Richard and emailing Lulu to get some clarity on the issue when a newsletter comes through from one of my favourite websites www.creativepro.com and they just happen to be running an article about Men’s Pulp Magazines from the 1950’s that has a great display of cover artwork. Here’s the link to the article Men’s Pulp Magazines
Some of the cover designs are pretty aggressive, and certainly very macho, giving the reader a clear signal as to who they’re directed at. There’s no doubt that the stories in these magazines were written with strong men in mind. Women were often treated in a sexist manner, as something to be won, saved or used, but hardly ever as equal.
They come from a different time and many of the covers would probably never be used now. Women are no longer permitted to be seen as alluring sex objects in the voyeuristic manner that many of these covers depict them as. The women are distant femee fatales, alluring yet remote, embroiling the male protagonist into dangerous and deadly situations. Sixty years on and we’re more likely to see the man and woman in a tight embrace indicating that these people somehow have a connection and, even though they may lead each other into danger, are less likely to be the other’s ultimate undoing.
With Stephanie Meyer’s cover art for Twilight we don’t even see a man or woman, let alone a vampire, but we do have the allusion of temptation with the rosy red apple. Is this the temptation of Eve or the seduction of Snow White by her wicked step-mother? Either way it symbolises a fall from grace and that by eating the apple we are either removed from Eden and perfection, or must face up to the challenges of puberty and take our place amongst the grown-ups.
Does all this mean that the reader has become more sophisticated or that we’ve become more secretive about what lies inside the cover?
I’ll leave you with a final image from Raymond Chandler’s hard boiled detective crime novel The Big Sleep featuring the famous down at heal detective Philip Marlowe. It’s a classic. This is the cover art from the first edition as referred to at Wikipedia. It has no picture, only words. We know that ‘the big sleep’ is a euphemism for death; so do we need to be told more?
You can find more Pulp Fiction cover art at Pulp Covers