Thursday, January 9, 2020

A Bit of This, a Bit of That

• Before we venture too deep into 2020, let’s look back for a moment at 2019’s “best” book covers, as judged by the sites Literary Hub, Spine, and The Casual Optimist. What do you think?

• Hah! Just as we thought all along:Why Do So Many Book Covers Look the Same? Blame Getty Images.”

• “When it comes to book covers,” grouses James Davis Nicoll of the science-fiction site, “sales departments have often had more clout than the poor beleaguered author. Covers are designed to catch the eye and spur sales; any resemblance to what is actually in the book may be coincidental. … It would be easy (like shooting fish in a barrel) to offer examples of hilariously inappropriate cover art from the days of my youth. I could eke a compelling essay out of the covers that forced me to explain (yet again) to my teachers that no, I had not brought pornography to school. I’ve decided to take the high road: Here are five covers that delivered exactly what they promised (even if that might seem unlikely …).”

• The fine James Bond-oriented blog Artistic License Renewed conducts an interview Michael Gillette, the San Francisco-based artist “who created a beautiful set of officially licensed James Bond book covers for the Ian Fleming Centenary in 2008.”

• That same page recalls the typography on early editions of Ian Fleming’s Bond tales, published in the UK by Jonathan Cape.

• Since its inception back in December 2018, The Stiletto Gumshoe blog has become a favorite of mine. Partly because its anonymous author seems to share my fascination with book-cover illustrations. Recently, he (or she) introduced me to Bertil Hegland (1925-2002), “a Swedish illustrator known in the Scandinavian market for popular children and teen book series covers—including the Nancy Drew series (apparently called ‘Kitty’)—as well as hard-boiled mystery and crime fiction covers.” The blog has so far posted two compilations of Hegland’s arresting work, which you’ll find here and here.

• By the way, if you’d like to enjoy more Hegland fronts, check out this small gallery in Pulp International and these pages showing his efforts on behalf of John D. MacDonald.

• Finally, let me say a slightly tardy good-bye to Minnesota-born industrial designer and visionary artist Syd Mead, who passed away on December 30. As The Architect’s Newspaper explains, “Mead began his career in the late 1950s and early ’60s at Ford Motor Company before going on to create designs and illustrations for brands like U.S. Steel, Phillips, Sony, and others, including architecture firms. He is perhaps best known, however, for his enduring, iconic designs on sci-fi films like Tron, Star Trek, Alien, and most famously, Blade Runner. His elaborate cars, spaceships, robotic suits, and cities—all hand-drawn and colored—presented futures that were utopian and dystopian at the same time, sleek and gritty, fantastical and real. As he told Curbed in a 2015 interview: ‘I painted architecture as a visual romance.’” Mead died at 86 years of age, reportedly from complications from lymphoma cancer.

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