|Motif the First|
|Motif the Second|
A favorite subject of discussion among mystery book authors is book covers. I could just as easily have typed "subject of complaint." Bestsellers can complain about the way their books are translated onto film. The rest of us have to be content with complaining about how our characters are depicted on book jackets. That's not to say that every author dislikes his or her covers, but it's a lucky writer who's never been let down once by a cover designer.
When my Owen Keane series started, St. Martin's commissioned covers that were dark, moody, and, I thought at the time, rather artsy. Keane is a failed seminarian whose investigations often involve metaphysics, so I couldn't exactly blame them. I liked the covers, but I still felt a nameless void. I didn't diagnose it until Worldwide began bringing the books out as paperbacks. Then I realized what I'd been longing for: Hardy Boys book covers. With the Worldwide editions, I got them.
Compare the two covers for Live To Regret. They're very similar in subject and composition, but the cover on the right is recognizably from the Hardy Boys school. The second figure, the follower, is represented only by a shadow. The implication is that the first figure (a very small one at the top of the boardwalk) has someone sneaking up behind him, as in Hardy Boys Motif #2 described above.
The sinister shadow would appear often on my subsequent Worldwide covers. It's an authentic variation on Hardy Boys Motif #2, as the cover on the right demonstrates.
Hardy Boys Motif #1 (see example on the left) was also represented in my Worldwide editions, by the cover for The Ordained. That's Keane concealed behind the tree. It could easily be the cover for The Twisted Claw or The Hooded Hawk.
I had one more brush (no pun intended) with a Hardy Boys cover, and that was when Hayakawa brought out a Japanese edition of The Lost Keats. Its cover shows Keane leaning against his faithful Karmann-Ghia, which looks showroom new despite being described in the book as being equal parts rusted steel and body putty. Keane doesn't look like his description, either, but when I saw him, I smiled. He looks like a close relation of Joe Hardy after Joe had gotten his late '60s makeover. Come to think of it, Keane is a relation. Maybe a first cousin, once removed.
Owen Keane returns to a book jacket this fall. It will be wrapped round his first book-length adventure to be published in fourteen years. I'll have more to say about that adventure, Eastward In Eden (and its cover), in a later post. For now, thanks again, Dale, for the Memory Lane trip. And, Frank and Joe, look out behind you!