Sunday, 9 August 2009

Various Approaches to the Problem of Sherlock Holmes

Recent approaches to a much-covered subject...

Michael Kirkham for White's Books (see also here):

Coralie Bickford-Smith for Penguin (see also here):

Unknown for Vintage Classics UK:

Unknown for Atlantic Crime Classics (see also here):

And finally, Glen Orbik for Hard Case Crime (see also here):

UPDATE: Karen Horton, no mean designer herself, points me towards two more recent Holmesian covers.

The first is by Jen Wang, for Penguin US:

The second is by Rob Grom, for Thomas Dunne Books:

UPDATE 2: Regarding the Hard Case Crime cover, the ever-wise Tulkinghorn points out this extensive discussion of it with the publisher here, which also refers to this Orwell cover.


Matthew Adams said...

I like the glen Orbik cover, but I am one of those readers that keeps turning back to the front cover while I read, and I suspect that that cover would just screw with my head too much

JRSM said...

Yes, it's a bit more Erskine Caldwell than Conan Doyle.

Caroline said...

The first one (Michael Kirkham) is so appropriately fiddly for Holmes, I love it. All those intersecting and overlapping lines are like exercises in Celtic knot drawing.

Tulkinghorn said...

The cover is discussed at some length here:

Interesting quote from the publisher of Hard Case:

From the days when Max [Phillips] and I first launched Hard Case Crime, one of the things I wanted to do was to repackage a classic novel in full Hard Case "drag". This would be a tip of the hat to the shameless attempts publishers in the 1950s made to present works of literature as though they were lurid pulp novels. Signet was particularly good at it -- see what they did with FRANKENSTEIN and 1984. (Has there ever been a less sexy book than 1984? I don't think so. And yet Signet illustrated the cover with a sultry babe wearing an unzipped jumpsuit and an "Anti-Sex League" button while a leather-clad bullyboy looks on like a refugee from a Tom of Finland drawing. And how did FRANKENSTEIN become the story of a bosomy lipsticked redhead spilling out of an off-the-shoulder yellow dress?)

So: I thought it would be great fun to do a book like this. The question was what classic novel to do. The key, I thought, was to pick something that superficially seemed miles apart from a Hard Case Crime book -- as many miles apart as FRANKENSTEIN was from bosomy redheads -- but that deep down, at its core, was legitimate Hard Case Crime material, so that if our readers actually sat down and read the thing, they'd feel it all made sense -- that the book did, in fact, belong in our line.

And that led me inevitably to THE VALLEY OF FEAR. Clearly it's a classic, and you don't get more superficially un-Hard Case than Arthur Conan Doyle -- in some ways, he seems to represent everything that the sort of writers we normally publish were rebelling against. But when you get past the opening sequence with its charming Victoriana and ciphers and manor houses and such, THE VALLEY OF FEAR actually turns out to be an honest-to-god hardboiled crime novel, and quite a dark and violent one at that. (In fact, Leslie Klinger, author of THE NEW ANNOTATED SHERLOCK HOLMES, has called THE VALLEY OF FEAR "the first real 'hard-boiled' detective story.")

JRSM said...

Wow! Thank you for that link--I'll add it to the post (with credit to your sharp eyes).

That Hank said...

Max Cairnduff said...

Fascinating link regarding the Hard Case cover there. I just wrote about that, albeit only briefly, on my own blog oddly enough. I was rather pleased to see it covered here just now. I love it, there's something so marvellous about Holmes getting treated with such an utter lack of reverence.

Reverence isn't good for a book, at least the Hard Case guys make it look fun. Which they should, because it is.

Can't say I like the Bickford-Smith ones so much, not so much the covers as a kind of faux-antiquity to that whole range. A fake retro feel, which seems to me somehow vaguely dishonest.

Actually, on reflection, it's not the covers, it's the production. They're often made to look distressed, as if they're a discovery from a rare book dealer, but they're not at all. I think that's what I dislike in them.