Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Puzzle of a Lost Art

Today, a sequel of sorts.

I had originally planned on posting more pictures from the Doubleday Crime Club Compendium for my post last Friday, but my scanner is incredibly ancient (over 10 years old) and operates so slowly for  graphic intensive pages that I lost patience with the process and stopped at only three scans. This morning I was prepared for the long waits and I stuck it out.  Enjoy this book collector's version of eye candy!

Why, I often wonder, are the DJs of today's books so bland and uninspiring?  Mostly, the illustrations look like picture postcard landscapes or are the product of digital monkeying by some "graphic artist" who used someone else's photographs and melded them together to create a "new" photo for the book's dust jacket. This has nothing to do with art as far as I'm concerned.  I would think that photo manipulations would be more expensive and time consuming what with tracking down all the licensing and permissions to use the photographs.  I am hopelessly old-fashioned where this is concerned.

It's mostly the paperback publishers who employ real artists for the cover art these days.  What happened to the hardcover book and DJ art?  I long for a return to the days when books, from the outside to the inside, were cleverly and handsomely designed.  Typography alone just doesn't do it for me, gang.

There are several blogs devoted to vintage paperback cover illustrations, but few that celebrate hardcover DJ illustration.  Here's my single day's work to make up for that lack of attention to a truly lost art.


  1. Christopher Fowler's PCU series had a few really nice illustrations for their first hardcover editions, like On the Loose and Off the Rail.

    Which leads me to wonder if the lack of such stunning covers is due to greedy publishers' unwillingness to shell out an artists fee, or if they realize themselves that most of stuff they barf out on the market is codswallop, that will be forgotten, for the most part, before the end of the decade – so why waste money on production costs? Lipstick on pigs, and all that. ;)

    Oh, and Rob Pudim, illustrator for the Rue Morgue Press, did some great covers for Kelley Roos, Clyde Clason and Stuart Palmer.

  2. Check out a scan of the original dj for FINGERS OF FEAR:

  3. TomKat -

    Codswallop! If only I could use that word as easily as you have. Love it.

    Tim -

    Nifty artwork. I have the reprint of Fingers of Fear from Midnight House. I've seen a b/w version of that 1st edition DJ on the rear of the Midnight House DJ. First time I've seen it in color. Reminds me of "Green Ghost" - a glow in the dark game I had as a kid.

  4. I love all this stuff, John. When you consider how boring and badly designed many of today's covers are, it's wonderful to see the kind of thing that was being done once upon a time. As I usually say and continue to say: there's really no excuse for bad design.


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