I can’t help being fascinated by the range of different covers that have adorned Linwood Barclay’s No Time for Goodbye (reviewed below). I mentioned in my review that the copy I read featured blue-tinted trees and sky: a very generic ‘thriller’ cover that says little about the story but gives you an idea – somehow – of the genre and style.
The font isn’t grungy, but the use of rules gives the cover a kind of unfinished feel. The bright white light coming from the middle of the image could be anything. Approaching death? Is this a ghost story? In a way, you could say it is (the past comes back to haunt someone).
But there are other designs, some of them offering some hint of the plot, but most of them similarly generic. Book cover design isn’t exactly money for old rope, but it is about getting people’s attention rather than hinting at the contents. The same is true of science fiction of course. There have been some truly magnificent science fiction cover paintings, rendered by artists who never so much as glanced at the book concerned. Here’s another NTFG:
I’m not even sure that these is supposed to be. Leaves? Bloody fabric? Paper? The main thing is the colour, of course, and the tag-line. There’s also a hint of something having been ripped or torn apart (just like the family in the novel). Here’s another that looks like any number of thrillers upon my shelves:
In this case, we have a window, a bit of sunlight. It’s a complete rip-off of a Hopper painting (Sunlight in an Empty Room). There are shadows, a longer, less prominent tag line, and a bit of horrible wallpaper, which hints at period detail. Of course, sunlight in an empty room speaks of absence, so in an abstract way this is doing the trick. Next:
Okay, this is lot less abstract. It has a person in it: a sleeping woman in a bed. The title is grunged up by having leaves/branches (?) pasted in as an image fill. There is negative space around the girl in the bed, and the colours red and black are prominent. This actually gives you something that could be one of the main characters in one of the scenes of the story, near the beginning. She even has the right colour hair… very literal. The colour red is very attention-grabbing, but the more red there is, the more downmarket the book feels. And we’re not done yet:
A much busier design, this one. What is that style of lettering? Not kidnap note, though it hints at that. More like cut-up licence place lettering? Is it? Anyway, grungy type again, which is what you expect in the thriller genre. There’s a house, trees, and a source of light, and a lot of reds and oranges. This could be anything: thriller, science fiction (alien abduction?), horror (Amityville…). There is no tagline, just blurbs and quotes. And the next:
Now this is more interesting. Like the copy I read, the colour scheme here is cooler blues rather than the fiery reds/oranges of the others. The red hints at violence, whereas the blue hints at a cold, uncaring universe. The distressed lettering looks spooky and ethereal. Another ghost story, perhaps? Here we have what looks like the end of a jetty and a lake (lakes! publishing gold!). Spoiler alert: there are no jetties in the novel. So this has a hint of a setting, but is way off in terms of literal accuracy. Just cool blue water for you to plunge into. And speaking of cool, here is the final entry for today:
This cover doesn’t even tell you it’s a thriller. In fact, it tries to position the novel way upmarket from where it really is. The isolated little house: where are we? A family alone? a haunted house? Very good… or maybe the concept of being in a kind of an information void or limbo, unable to get on with your life? The much smaller classic serif font hints at class. The sole colour in the grey void is the blue italic type for the author’s name. Not sure I’d want to pick this up, though. Looks to be too serious and heavy.