Sunday, 29 March 2009

Forthcoming, both Good and Bad

A quick survey of some upcoming cover designs...

First, a couple of Orwells. Penguin like to repackage Orwell at regular intervals, and the 60th anniversary of the publication of Nineteen Eighty-Four is excuse enough. I'm not complaining, though: the cover for the edition due in June looks like this:



I hope they don't decide to slap on the title and author at the last minute. Also due at around the same time is the latest repackaging of Orwell's complete novels...



..a collection which holds a particular place in my esteem as it was an earlier (and uglier) edition of this book which was the first thing I ever bought with money I earned through writing.

Later in 2009 Penguin Classics are also republishing some of the best books by Walter Tevis and Eric Ambler, both of whom I like a lot. One of the Tevises makes effective use of a film still...



..while the Amblers have nicely evocative cover photos.




Ambler's rights must have come up for grabs recently, as the books Penguin didn't acquire seem to have gone to House of Stratus, much mentioned round these parts recently. These Stratus Amblers rejoice in some of the ugliest, most hideously slapped-together covers I've seen in a long time.





That last one says "Bring me some paracetamol!" rather than "Thrilling spy shenanigans!". I can't imagine anyone wanting to pick up these books based on the cover designs. ("Wow, some badly Photoshopped ghostly boots on holiday! A must-read!")

11 comments:

Levi Stahl said...

In the United States, Vintage Books publishes Ambler, under their Black Lizard imprint--so they look good, if not spectacular: the standard Black Lizard design of an angled title with a murky, black-and-white photo behind. Effective for Ambler, in that they successfully convey, "Yes, book browser: if you're looking for a thriller, these books are reliable; they will not disappoint." Which is true.

JRSM said...

Those Black Lizards are definitely much nicer than the House of Stratus covers. Ambler is doing sterling service for me in the "now I've read every Graham Greene, what next?" department.

Ben said...

That thing with the 'ghostly boots' is spectacularly strange and misguided.

More than just bad and thoughtless cover designs, I think that and the "Maras Affair" one both suggest the workings of a... somewhat troubled mind.

Steerforth said...

'The Maras Affair' looks like a commercial for Anadin.

Is Ambler any good? I always had his novels down as potboilers.

Rex Parker said...

Ambler is very good and those Stratus covers are Criminally bad.

JRSM said...

Ben, I think a troubled mind is very much on display there. To have created covers that awful in just that particular way shows a certain distinctive way of thinking.

Steerforth, listen to Rex: Ambler is very good indeed. His books are like those novels of his own which Graham Greene called "entertainments"--exciting, intelligent, well-written, with lots of fascinating insights into the political workings of various parts of the globe. Not even remotely James Bondish.

Levi Stahl said...

I came to Ambler via Alan Furst, who is open about his debt to Ambler's novels. One of the things, therefore, that I particularly enjoy in Ambler is that he doesn't go overboard in setting the scene or explaining the historical situation; the novels were written more or less in the time they're set, so he assumes a lot of knowledge casually.

Ian Shimkoviak said...

ouch on those last 3. Fuck that. Let's go to the ER.

JRSM said...

Levi: Alan Furst is great, isn't he? I've still got his most recent one to go, but it sounds characteristically excellent.

Ian: I'll meet you there. My eyes are still bleeding.

John Self said...

I got a rather nice 'limited edition' (well, by definition: duh) proof of the Modern Classic of Ambler's Journey into Fear. If it's decent I may well investigate the other four.

You all say The Maras Affair cover looks like an ad for Anadin - but would a headache tablet really cure the injuries sustained by a large structure on stilts falling on your head?

JRSM said...

I hope you like 'Journey into Fear': it was my first Ambler (the Orson Welles film is good, too, if a bit hard to understand unless you've read the book first). You're right about the Maras Panadol ad: in fact, due to incompetent composoting, the stilts seem to be growing into her skull.