Monday 30 March 2009

In the Family

My father's great-aunts, Ann "Nev" Neville Goyder Joske (1887-1966) and Margot Goyder (1907-1975), were crime writers. The sisters combined to write as ‘Margot Neville’, and with 20-odd novels to their combined name, were a reasonable international success at the time, though they are utterly out of print now.

In hunting around for more information about them, though, I came across a number of covers from the German translations of their books ('Kriminal-Roman'!), which have a very nice early Penguin feel to them.

These editions were published by Goldmann Taschenbuch during the late 1950s and early 1960s. The bright red/orange and black colour scheme seems to have been something of a trademark for them.

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!")

Tuesday 24 March 2009

Ruben Toledo

This is a short one, as I'm about to go away for work for a few days, so I may be unable to answer any comments until the weekend. However, new book design waits not for my pathetic schedule! Or something like that which makes sense...

Anyway, here are three upcoming covers for Penguin Classic Deluxe Editions (some earlier ones were shown here, here, here, here and here).

They're by Cuban-born painter/illustrator/sculptor/designer/etc Ruben Toledo. Wuthering Heights works the best, with the rickety, Gothic feel of the art matching the atmosphere of the book, while Pride and Prejudice probably works least well, since it's a nice bit of design but seems to completely miss the feel of the book. You may, of course, disagree. Here are some tiny details of the Pride and Prejudice back cover, spine and flaps, lifted from the Penguin catalogue. Sorry they're not bigger.

There are some other groovy covers coming up for these oversized Penguin Classics: I'll blather on about those when I get back.

Another Barnaby Duplication

It keeps on happening! This gun-toting lady, as seen on this Raymond Chandler cover from Black Lizard/Vintage US...

..has now appeared on this Penguin US edition of Philip Kerr's latest. Her plunging cleavage is a little less plunging this time round.

(I also messed with it back here.)


The alleged unsaleability of short story collections is much remarked upon (I don't know what they mean: I buy enough of these books to keep a small national economy afloat), so I assume that the logic behind this attractive series of books from Harper Perennial US is to lure people towards new writers via a known quantity.

Each of these six 250-odd-page collections features a bunch of short stories from the author on the cover, along with a bonus story from a contemporary writer with a collection in-print with Perennial. I have mixed feelings about the idea, but the execution of the cover designs is both simple and elegant.

Anything which gets the short fiction of Crane and Cather into wider hands is OK by me (the others too, but I suspect they need less of a push).

I'm not sure who to credit for these covers, but they're really nice. I think (and hope) that they're photos of little cardboard stand-ups, rather than being computer-generated, but either way they're nifty.

UPDATE: Helpful commenter BKLYNmle tells me that these covers are the work of Adam Johnson. And they are photographs of real paper cutouts. Huzzah! The spines also fit together to make a single image...

Sunday 22 March 2009


From the late 1940s to the 1970s, a lot of classic fiction was published by publishing houses like Signet, Pocket Books, Panther and the New English Library--publishing houses not always known for their restraint or commitment to literary values.

The classic books they tended to publish were usually chosen on the basis that they had an air of sensationalism about them: preferably sex and murder (or both together). For these purposes, French writers like Émile Zola and Honoré de Balzac were ideal. They were French (and everyone knew how saucy the French were), they were out of copyright, and they wrote books full of prostitutes and killers.

Zola in particular suffered the full force of this approach: the cover designs of many of his books from this era make them look like the work of a depraved Barbara Cartland.

Here are some of the covers for La Bête Humaine, about a man who suffers Jack-the-Ripper-style compulsions.

This first cover (above) makes it look like a bosomy Western, while this second (below) features cleavage and fails to let you know that the book was published (and set) in the late Nineteenth Century.

This third cover, below, (ineptly drawn yet used more than once) is obviously meant to be a scene of terrible depravity, but instead manages to capture the horror of getting chewing gum caught in your hair.

The Kill/La Curée gets a similarly lurid treatment.

That last cover is from the tie-in edition to a typically sensitive Roger 'And God Created Woman' Vadim film adaption.

Despite being a story about love, desire and murder, Thérèse Raquin gets away with some dignity intact...

..but it's with Nana, the story of a prostitute's rise to a position of power and influence, that these publishers really went to classy town.

That last cover, by the way, is described by some book dealers as one of the first examples of 'Good Girl Art' to feature unambiguous, visible nipples.

Avon Books, meanwhile, worked out how to move copies of L'Assommoir off the shelves:

Zola's many other books received similar facelifts: here are some of the more memorable.

I had never previously suspected that the three faces of desire would specifically be those of (1) a woman wearing no underpants, (2) a woman wearing a maternity dress made from her granny's curtains, and (3) a Pomeranian. Silly of me, really.