In The Spotlight: Bill Pronzini’s The Snatch

>In The Spotlight: P.D. Martin's Body CountHello, All,

Welcome to another edition of In The Spotlight. Bill Pronzini has been one of the most prolific and influential crime writers of the last four decades. It’s past time this feature included some of his work, so let’s do that today. Let’s turn the spotlight on The Snatch, the first of his Nameless series.

The story begins when San Francisco PI Nameless (I’m going to follow the convention here) goes to the home of wealthy Louis Martinetti, who lives in an upmarket area called Hillsborough. Martinetti tells Nameless that his son Gary has been abducted, and that the kidnappers are demanding three hundred thousand dollars in ransom. At first, Nameless thinks he’s beinig hired to find the boy. But Martinetti has a different purpose in mind. He’s been warned that one and only one person is to drop the money off at the specified location. Then, so Gary’s abductors say, Martinetti will be informed where his son can be found.

At first, Nameless suggests strongly that Martinetti tell the police. They are in a much better position to find the boy and safely return him than a civilian, even a PI, is. But Martinetti is adamantly opposed to involving any police. He says that if he does contact the police, Gary will be killed. All he wants Nameless to do is to take the ransom money to the drop-off point and leave it there. And for that, he’s willing to pay fifteen hundred dollars (this is the end of the 1960’s, when fifteen hundred dollars meant quite a lot more than it does today). Nameless finally agrees, and prepares to play his part in the exchange of money for the boy.

The next day, Nameless picks up the money from Martinetti and drives to the appointed place. He’s just finished doing his share of the work when everything goes wrong. The expression ‘All hell breaks loose’ has perhaps become cliché over time, but it’s actually an effective choice for what happens at this point.

With the direction of the investigation completely changed now, Nameless has to decide what to do next. Martinetti wants him to take one course of action. However, Martinetti’s partner Allan Channing and his secretary Dean Proxmire have other ideas. And Nameless’ lover Erika Coates has her own opinion about what ought to be done.

Through all of this, Nameless makes his own mind up about what to do. As we follow along, we learn what happened to Gary, and how the kidnapping affects everyone involved with it. And in the end, we find out what’s behind it all.

And that’s one important element in the story: the impact of abduction. Louis Martinetti and his wife Karyn are both devastated by the fact that Gary is missing. They don’t handle it in exactly the same way, but it’s clear that this is a truly horrible experience for both of them. And Nameless picks up on that awful sense of loss. Pronzini takes the experience of kidnapping to a very human, individual level.

Another important factor in the novel is the fact that Louis Martinetti is a wealthy and powerful man. Through his life and that of his family and associates, we get a look at the lives of San Francisco’s richest people. And the view isn’t always a pleasant one. Martinetti is in some ways hard-edged, and Channing is even more so. On the one hand, he is instrumental in gathering the ransom money. On the other, he is obsessed with that investment (that’s how he sees it). He’s only willing to help if he thinks that the boy has a good chance of being returned. And later in the novel, here’s what Nameless has to say to him:

“It must be hell to be a man like you, Channing,’ I said. ‘It must be pure hell to value a sum of money more than the life of a nine-year-old boy.”

There are other unpleasant things too that we learn about these wealthy people. In this, Pronzini’s work arguably reflects similar themes in work by Raymond Chandler. Both authors comment on the decadance of the ‘beautiful people.’

And then there’s the character of Nameless himself. He’s a loner, although readers who dislike drunken, demon-haunted sleuths will be pleased to note that he’s not that sort of detective. As the series goes on, Nameless evolves, but at this point, he is more interested in what you might call the fight for justice than he is in the personal work and intimacy required for a long-term relationship. He’s a former police officer who

‘..stuck it out for fifteen years, because I believed then – and I still believe now – that the prevention of crime and the interests of justice and the law are of vital and immediate concern.’

Still, fifteen years was enough. And after one particularly horrific murder, Nameless went into the PI business. He is in some ways naïve. But at the same time, readers who are tired of jaded detectives who are almost as reprehensible as the people they go after will be pleased to see that Nameless has a solid core of integrity. Oh, and he’s an avid fan of pulp fiction such as Dime Detective and Black Mask.

The pace of the story is fairly quick, and there are a few twists in the plot. However, readers who prefer spare, ‘lean’ writing will notice that there is also a great deal of description in the story too:

‘She [Erika] had the gas logs burning in the small false fireplace at one end of the room, and it was warm and comfortable in there. The apartment itself was neat and feminine, furnished in Danish Modern, with a lot of frilly throw pillows and some quite white-and-black fluff rugs and a big panda bear setting in one corner like a naughty child. The walls were filled with wood and glass figurines on dainty shelves, and impressionistic and experimental prints…Over the door leading to the kitchen was a funny little scroll plaque that said: Evil Is a Very Bad Thing.’

There are also detailed descriptions of the characters and the San Francisco setting for the story.

The story itself isn’t exactly one of those ‘It all works out in the end,’ sort of stories. But there is some wit in it. And although some very unpleasant things happen, Nameless continues to be determined to do his best to set the world right.

The Snatch is the story of what happens when an abduction touches the lives of the rich and powerful. It takes place in a distinctive San Francisco-area setting, and introduces an iconic fictional sleuth. But what’s your view? Have you read The Snatch? If so, what elements do you see in it?

Coming Up On In The Spotlight

Monday 22 December /Tuesday 23 December – Malicious Intent – Kathryn Fox

Monday 29 December/Tuesday 30 December – Mercy – Jussi Adler-Olsen

Monday 5 January/Tuesday 6 January – Confessions – Kanae Minato


Filed under Bill Pronzini, The Snatch

But Don’t Fall in Love*

Chance Meetings and Blind DatesA lot of parties and other holiday activities are meant for couples. So life can get a bit awkward for those who are single. That’s one reason why a lot of people consent, however reluctantly, to being ‘fixed up’ for dates. Others meet new people casually, for instance, at pubs/bars or clubs. At least it’s a little easier to go to parties and so on as a couple, even if you don’t know the other person well.

Sometimes, even in crime fiction, being ‘fixed up’ or taking a chance on a complete stranger can work quite well. Fans of Agatha Christie, for instance, will know that more than one happy match is made with encouragement from Hercule Poirot (and actually, Miss Marple too). I’m thinking, for instance, of The Moving Finger and Mrs. McGinty’s Dead, among others. But sometimes, such chances turn out to be very unlucky – even disastrous.

For instance, in Mickey Spillane’s My Gun is Quick, PI Mike Hammer is at a coffee shop. A young woman – who, as it turns out, is a prostitute named Nancy Sanford – approaches him. They start a conversation which ends with her telling Hammer the story of how she got into the business. Hammer feels for the woman and gives her some money to help her start over. Not long after their chance meeting, he learns that she’s been killed in what looks like a drive-by car accident. He is determined to find out who killed her and why, and begins to investigate. That investigation puts Hammer up against a prostitution ring run by some highly-placed people who aren’t afraid to do whatever it takes to silence anyone who gets in their way. Not a safe situation for Hammer…

In Giorgio Scerbanenco’s A Private Venus, wealthy engineer Pietro Auserti hires Dr. Duca Lamberti to help his son Davide. Davide Auserti suffers from a serious drinking problem that hasn’t abated even after a stint at a treatment facility. Lamberti accepts the job and begins to interact with Davide. It takes some time, but little by little he gets to the root of the young man’s troubles. A year earlier, Davide had a chance meeting with Alberta Radelli during which she begged him to help her leave Milan. She claimed she couldn’t stay there any more, but he didn’t believe her. Shortly afterwards she died in what police claimed was a suicide, and he’s blamed himself since that time. Lamberti knows that if he doesn’t find out the truth about what really happened to the victim, Davide Auserti will never be free of his guilt. So he begins to investigate. He and Davide end up being drawn into a dark case of multiple murder and sleazy underworld business. And all because of a spontaneous invitation to give a pretty young woman a ride…

Margaret Yorke’s Speak For the Dead is in part the story of Carrie Foster. For various reasons, she’s gotten into the business of upmarket prostitution. One day she’s sitting in a café waiting for one of her clients when by chance, she meets Gordon Matthews. The two hit it off, and Carrie is impressed with his good looks and apparent wealth. In fact, they end up marrying. But each is keeping an important secret from the other. Carrie’s never told her husband that she was a prostitute, nor that she returned to the business after a few years of marriage to him. And for his part, Gordon doesn’t tell his wife that he served time in prison for the murder of his first wife Anne. As time goes on, we see just how disastrous this chance meeting turns out to be.

As Sarah Caudwell’s Thus Was Adonis Murdered begins, London lawyer Julia Larwood decides to take an Art Lovers tour of Venice. She’s glad for the chance to escape her own tax woes, and hoping to enjoy herself. And at first, she does. In fact, she becomes besotted with a young man Nick Watson whom she meets on the tour, and they end up spending a memorable afternoon together. But when Julia wakes up afterwards, she finds that Watson is dead. She leaves the room as quickly as she can and slips away. But she’s left behind her copy of the Finance Act, so right away, there is evidence to connect her with the murder. It’s going to take help from her lawyer friends and their unofficial mentor Hilary Tamar to sort matters out and clear her name.

Jane Casey’s The Burning is in part an investigation into a series of deaths committed by a killer that the London Press has dubbed the Burning Man, because he tries to incinerate the bodies of his victims. DC Maeve Kerrigan of the Met is on the investigating team, and as the story goes on, she and her teammates slowly find out how the killer operates. Somehow (no spoilers), the murderer wins over his victims by gaining their trust. By the time he attacks, they’re no longer really able to defend themselves. Then comes the slightly different murder of PR professional Rebecca Haworth. Many of Kerrigan’s colleagues think that the Burning Man has simply changed his tactics. But Kerrigan wonders if it may be a ‘copycat’ murder, thus implying two killers. This novel is a good reminder that casual encounters can be as dangerous as blind dates can be.

We also see that in Malcolm Mackay’s The Necessary Death of Lewis Winter. Stewart Macintosh is at a Glasgow night club called Heavenly one night when he happens to meet Zara Cope. She’s beautiful, she’s had a few as the saying goes, and she seems willing. So the two agree to go back to her house. That turns out to be a big mistake on Macintosh’s part. He’s soon drawn into a case of murder, concealing drugs, and other crimes. And all because of a pickup at a club.

And for film buffs, there’s Joseph Losey’s 1959 film Blind Date. That’s the story of Jan Van Rooyer, a Dutch painter living in London who happens to meet Jacqueline Cousteau at the art gallery where he works. Although she doesn’t seem much interested in art, she ends up asking him for painting lessons, and before long, the two begin an affair. One day Van Rooyer goes to an apartment to meet his lover. He waits for her for a time, but she doesn’t appear. Van Rooyer thinks he was probably stood up, but before he can do anything about it, a group of police arrive. It turns out that Jacqueline Cousteau has been murdered; her body was in the apartment the whole time, but hidden from view. Inspector Morgan of Scotland Yard investigates, and is convinced that Van Rooyer has killed his mistress. Someone has clearly framed Van Rooyer, but it’s awfully tempting for the police to assume his guilt and close out the case. You can read more about this film at Tipping My Fedora, which is the place to go for terrific reviews of crime novels and great crime films.

When you look at what can happen when you go on a blind date or chat up a stranger, it’s probably easier (and certainly safer!) to just go to those holiday parties by yourself or with a friend (I know, I know, those who’ve read Tammy Cohen’s Dying For Christmas. I haven’t read it…).

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from The Tubes’ She’s a Beauty.


Filed under Agatha Christie, Giorgio Scerbanenco, Jane Casey, Malcolm Mackay, Margaret Yorke, Mickey Spillane, Sarah Caudwell, Tammy Cohen

Why Try to Hide It?

DisguisingMurderorNotMost murderers, real or fictional, don’t want to be caught. So, they take various means to ensure that doesn’t happen. Sometimes for instance, a murderer will construct a well-crafted alibi. Other times, a murderer will frame someone else for the crime. There are many, many crime novels where that happens. I’ll bet you can think of at least as many as I ever could.

But there are cases where the murderer ‘disguises’ a death so that it looks like a natural or accidental death, or like a suicide. Just to give one example, the murderer in Angela Savage’s The Dying Beach disguises the murder of a tour guide as an accidental drowning. And it’s very hard to prove, at least at first, that it wasn’t. And the killer in Alan Orloff’s Diamonds For the Dead covers up a murder to look like an accidental fall down a flight of stairs. And then there’s the murder of a wealthy patriarch in Agatha Christie’s Dead Man’s Mirror that’s made up to look like suicide.

How often does that really happen in crime fiction? You’d think quite a lot, since for most murderers, it’s important not to be caught. I decided to take a look at that question. I chose 213 fictional murders from among my own books. Then I divided them into two groups: murders that are not diguised (i.e. It’s clear immediately that this is a murder) and murders that are disguised (i.e. The murder looks very much like a suicide, an accident or death by natural causes until the sleuth looks more deeply). Here’s what I found.


Disguised v Undisguised Murders

As you can see, the vast majority of the murders in my data set (81%) are not disguised. Admittedly, these are books I have personally read. They do not include the myriad books I’ve not read, so this is a limited data set. That said though, it seems pretty clear that a lot of fictional murderers don’t disguise their handiwork.

Still it is interesting to see just how a murder might be covered up. How do fictional killers do that? Here are the results I got when I looked more closely at those 41 ‘disguised’ murders.


Disguises Used For Murders

Most of them (63%) were made to look like accidents. And that’s logical when you think about it. It’s easier to fake an accident than to fake a suicide or a natural death (‘though of course, that does happen).

One question that occurred to me was: why not disguise a murder to look like something else? One reason for that may be that a lot of murders are not pre-planned; they are ‘heat of the moment’ killings, or at least deaths that the killer hadn’t intended to commit. In cases like that, the murderer might not think ahead to disguise the crime. I wondered whether that might be the case, so I examined those 172 undisguised fictional murders. Here’s what I found.


Planned vs Unplanned Murders

It’s clear that, at least among the fictional murders I looked at, most of them (a full 82%) were pre-planned, at least in the sense that the murderer starts out with the intention to kill the victim. I understand that there are a lot of legal shadings in any discussion of what counts as an intentional killing.

So, among these fictional murders, we can’t really argue that they’re ‘heat of the moment’ killings where the criminal didn’t think ahead to disguise the murder. So why are so many undisguised? In some cases, it’s because the killer wants the death to be obvious, as a warning to others. There are also some situations where the killer has psychological reasons for making the murder(s) obvious. And there are some as well in which the fact of an obvious murder doesn’t necessarily point to a particular person as the culprit. That’s what happens, for instance, in Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, where the victim is stabbed – a clear case of murder – but that fact doesn’t tell the police or Hercule Poirot (at least at first) who committed the crime.

So what can one conclude from all of this? One thing I’ve concluded is that, for a variety of reasons, fictional murderers very often don’t take pains to disguise what they’ve done. At least the ones I looked at here don’t. Another is that in many cases, one reason for that is that an obviously murdered victim doesn’t automatically incriminate one specific person. Another is that the killer has particular reasons for not trying to cover up a murder as something else.

What’s your view on all of this? Do you see a similar pattern in the crime fiction you read? If you’re a crime writer, does your killer disguise the murder(s)? If not, how does your killer try to avoid getting caught?

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Fleetwood Mac’s My Little Demon.


Filed under Agatha Christie, Alan Orloff, Angela Savage

Be of Good Cheer

BeofGoodCheerMadison hadn’t wanted to throw a party at first. There were always hassles when you hosted: the guest list; getting the carpets and furniture cleaned; the menu; the drinks. And that wasn’t even to mention the tree and decorations. Still, Carl had insisted on it. He’d said it was a good idea and besides, they owed invitations to people. Well, that was true. So she’d gone along with Carl’s suggestion. It suited her own plans, anyway.

Now she looked around the couple’s living room. She was completely exhausted from getting ready, but she had to admit that it all looked festive. The tree was beautifully trimmed; the lights from it glowed softly in a rainbow of reds, blues, yellows and greens. The ornaments glistened and the star at the top was the perfect touch. Carl wouldn’t let her open the presents under the tree – not until Christmas morning. But they did look lovely, all wrapped up in holiday paper with big gold and silver bows.

With one more satisfied glance at everything, Madison went down the hall to the kitchen. She wanted to make the eggnog now, so that it’d be ready when she needed it. Carl hadn’t gotten back with the wood for the fireplace yet, and that was just as well. She washed her hands and then got out the eggs, sugar, milk and bourbon she’d be using. She would dust on the nutmeg a bit later. She’d just finished mixing everything up when she felt him standing at the door of the kitchen watching her. Damnit! He’d come back sooner than she wanted.

She looked up, tossed her long, ash-blonde braid back over her shoulder and asked, ‘Is the fire ready?’
‘Just about to light it. How’s it going in here?’
‘Fine. Everything’s almost done.’
‘Good. Why don’t you go on up and change out of that outfit while I start putting things out?’
‘What’s wrong with what I’m wearing?’
He gave her an indulgent, but long-suffering look. ‘It’s a party, Maddie, not Movie-and-Popcorn Night.’

Madison glared at Carl’s retreating back. She hadn’t at all appreciated his remark about her outfit. It wasn’t her fault he was used to more formal parties. Her style had always been casual and he know it. Well, that would all change soon enough. With that thought to comfort her, she went upstairs.

Carl put the bowls of mints, nuts and chocolates out on the small tables in the living room. Maddie could be such a pain sometimes, he thought. She still hadn’t learned about things like the right vineyards, dressing properly for different things, or, well, just getting involved with the right kind of people. His kind of people. Well, that was all about to change. He smiled a little to himself as he put the last bowl carefully on an end table near the fireplace. Then he lit the fire. He straightened up when he saw that the flame had caught. It burnished his straight, almost-black hair and cast a warm glow on the whole room. The effect cheered him even more.

Half an hour later, Madison came down the stairs just in time to answer the doorbell. Carl watched her as she opened the door and let the first guests in. She had on that emerald silk blouse he’d gotten her for her birthday and a pair of black satin pants. She’d let her hair fall loose, too, which he thought suited her. He’d wondered when she was upstairs whether he was doing the right thing. But no. No time for doubts any more.

Madison was proud of herself as she greeted the guests and exchanged the requisite hugs with Carl’s mother Josephine, his brother Adrian and Adrian’s wife Dina. She was calm and collected and even remembered to smile naturally. Then came a few of Carl’s cousins (she could never remember all of their names) and some of his colleagues. Only a few of her own friends were there, but that was fine. This wasn’t their sort of gathering anyway.

Soon the party was fully underway. Toasts were made, appetizers were passed round (Madison was especially proud of how her homemade cheese puffs had turned out), and everyone seemed to be having a good time. As the evening wore on, the eggnog loosened the guests up a little and by the end of the party, a few people were saying it was the best they’d been to yet. Even Josephine, who could always be counted on to find fault with something, said she was enjoying herself.
‘Honestly, Madison,’ she said in her condescending voice, ‘You’ve done a great job. You even look really nice tonight.’
‘Thank you,’ Madison responded. Dina shot her a sympathetic glance. She came in for her share of Josephine’s criticism too.

After gently closing the door behind the last guest, Carl joined Madison in the kitchen, where she was rinsing out glasses and putting them in the dishwasher. He came up behind her, put his arms around her and rested his chin on her shoulder. ‘You did great,’ he said. She could feel his smile even though she wasn’t looking at him.
She turned around and put her arms round his neck. ‘You think?’
‘I know. Everything under control here?’
‘I think so. If you’ll just start bringing in the plates and the rest of the glasses, I’ll load them, and then we can start on the trash.’
‘Your wish is my command.’ He kissed her lightly and went out of the kitchen. She watched him move with that self-assurance that can only come from rich parents and an expensive education.

Soon he came back in, his arms filled with dishes. For the next twenty minutes, he and Madison said little to each other as they began to clean. Then, at about one o’clock, his telephone sounded. He raised his eyebrows, pulled it out of his pocket and looked at the screen. ‘It’s Adrian,’ he said. He answered the call, spoke for a few minutes and then pushed the ‘End Call’ button. Slipping the telephone back into his pocket, he smiled broadly at his wife.
‘Everything according to plan!’
‘Really? You mean it?’
‘I sure do. Mom died about fifteen minutes ago.’
Madison smiled back. ‘Then it did work. I knew nobody would notice anything.’
‘And you were right.’ He kissed her again and went back to get more dirty dishes from the living room.

Madison smiled even more happily as she looked around the kitchen. It had been a great idea. With all of those guests, most of whom disliked Josephine as much as she and Carl did, there’d be no way to figure out who’d put the weed killer in Josephine’s glass of eggnog. If the police even figured out what killed her. And now Carl and Adrian were set to inherit serious money. She was going to enjoy learning how to be one of the ‘beautiful people.’ I guess even rich people need some help from the rest of us sometimes, she thought.


Filed under Uncategorized

What’s in a Name, Anyway?*

Cover and Title ChangesA great deal of what we do is influenced by culture. And a recent comment exchange with Crimeworm (whose blog you really ought to check out!) and Cleo of Cleopatra Loves Books (another blog treasure) has got me thinking about how culture influences things like book titles and book covers.

Culture and language have to be taken into account when a book moves into international markets. Publishers know this too, so sometimes, titles aren’t directly translated from one language into another. For instance, the original title of Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was Män som hatar kvinnor – Men Who Hate Women. Those who are familiar with the book will know that that title gets right to one of the main points of the plot. But when the book was translated and prepared for English-speaking audiences, the publisher opted to change the title. That choice had two important effects. One was that the new title was more closely related to the other two titles in the trilogy, The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest. That’s one effective strategy for ‘branding’ books.

Another effect of that title change was arguably to give the series a broader appeal. Among other things, Larsson used these novels to comment on Swedish politics, on social issues and on the role of women in Swedish society. While some of his commentary transcends borders, it’s possible that readers from other countries wouldn’t have been as tempted to try those stories if they had seen them as appealing mostly to Swedish readers. The title change also places extra emphasis on the character of Lisbeth Salander. And that switch of emphasis had commercial value as well. Quite possibly international readers found her story and personality more intriguing than the finance and Swedish social class issues that are also prominent in the series.

Culture is of course inextricably linked with language. So when publishers settle on final titles for novels, they also take words and language into account. Obviously that means translating from one language into another. But it also can mean more subtle differences, such as differences among dialects. To take just one example, Ian Rankin’s fifteenth novel featuring Inspector John Rebus was initially published as Fleshmarket Close. But when the US publication option was picked up, the title was changed to Fleshmarket Alley. That’s because in Scotland, a ‘close’ is an alley, but the word ‘close’ isn’t used that way in the US. It was thought that US readers would find it easier to understand the title if the word ‘alley’ was used. Interestingly, some other Rankin titles that would have extra levels of meaning in Scottish parlance were not changed for US audiences. For example, on one level, the title of the first Rebus novel Knots and Crosses is a play on words, referring to the game ‘naughts and crosses’ – the UK name for what’s called ‘tic tac toe’ in the US.

Another important thing to keep in mind about culture is that it is dynamic. Title changes of books therefore sometimes reflect changes in society and its values over time. For instance, one of Agatha Christie’s best-regarded novels is And Then There Were None. Fans will know that this title reflects the story of ten people who are invited to spend some time on Indian Island. One by one, the people on the island are killed, and the survivors have to find out which one of them is the killer if they’re to stay alive. Fans will also know that this book had two other names as well. The original titles were not considered to be offensive at the time that the book was published; and in fact, those original titles were in keeping with an old poem that plays a role in the novel. But by today’s standards, those two titles are considered offensive. This one’s Christie’s best-selling novel, but I wonder what sales might be like if the original titles had been kept.

Sometimes, title changes don’t have as obvious a cultural motivation. For example, Louise Penny’s Dead Cold was published in the US as A Fatal Grace. Agatha Christie’s The Hollow was published as Murder After Hours, and her Five Little Pigs was also published as Murder in Retrospect. There are lots of other examples like this as well. I’m sure that you could think of many more than I could. Sometimes those changes are made because there’s another novel with the same or a very similar title being published in the ‘target’ country. Sometimes it’s because the publisher thinks the new title will ‘stand out’ more. Other times it’s to link a group of novels by the same author (e.g. the ‘nursery rhyme’ theme in some of Agatha Christie’s titles).

The central point of all of this is really that when a publisher is preparing a book for a new market, the main concern is making that book appealing to readeres in that market. In order to do that, publishers choose titles that are likely to stand out in the minds of readers. They also choose titles that ‘brand’ a book or series for readers, and that take into account the culture of the target market. All of those factors play roles in the titles that are eventually selected. They can also mean that the same book has several titles, even in the same language. That can sometimes result in confusion and even frustration, but it probably also means that more books are sold.

The other topic that was brought up in this interesting comment exchange had to do with covers. Why, for instance, are covers for the same novel (same title, even) different between, say, the US and the UK? Why does the same book have two different covers in different editions? Part of the reason may have a bit to do with culture. Each culture, for instance, has different standards for what is appealing/appropriate. But as Cleo pointed out, there’s also the matter of graphic artist or company. Different publishers use different companies or individuals to do the cover art. Those companies or people have different interpretations of the story, and different ideas of what is likely to appeal to readers. And, of course, there’s the important reality of film and television tie-ins. Many cover changes are influenced by those adaptations.

These are just my initial thoughts on the topics of title/cover changes. What do you think? Thanks to Crimeworm and Cleo for the delicious ‘food for thought.’ You’ll want to visit their blogs and see how terrific they are.

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from K.L. Dunham and Johnny Mandel’s Don’t Look Back.


Filed under Agatha Christie, Ian Rankin, Louise Penny, Stieg Larsson