Sometimes the elements of putting together a book go awry. Here are some examples.
PETER LORRE/SIDNEY GREENSTREET DVD BOX SET
Back in 2007, Kim Newman and I were both interviewed on camera in London for a proposed Warner Bros. Box Set
of the 1940s noir films co-starring Peter Lorre and Sidney Greenstreet. Unfortunately, it was ultimately decided
that such a project would not be financially viable, and the release was permanently shelved.
In 2006, Del Rey contacted me and asked me at short notice to write the Introduction to this new compilation of H.P. Lovecraft
stories (including 'At the Mountains of Madness', 'The Cats of Ulthar' and 'The Quest of Iranon'). Despite pressing
deadlines on other projects, I was delighted to be asked and submitted a short piece. In January this year they informed
me that the book had been cancelled because of low orders from bookstores (probably due to the god-awful cover). The
editor (who no longer works there) then asked me to revise my Introduction (for free) for another Lovecraft book
they were publishing, The Horror in the Museum (which has a much better cover by the brilliant John
Jude Palencar). I went ahead, and actually had more fun with the second version.
THE COMPLETE CHRONICLES OF CONAN
Following the incredible success of the leather-bound Gollancz omnibus of Robert E. Howard's "Conan" stories in
2006, fledgling New York publisher Pegasus (who, incidentally, screwed up my anthology H.P. Lovecraft's
Book of the Supernatural that same year) wanted to buy the volume rights and came up with this fabulous
preliminary design featuring Frank Frazetta's artwork from the 1960s Lancer editions. Unfortunately, despite
Howard's work going out of international copyright at the beginning of 2006, the company that claims to own the
copyrights to Conan threatened to sue. Pegasus decided to back down rather than fight a costly court case.
Cover by Frank Frazetta
Carroll & Graf asked me for some ideas for a cover to this, one of my favourite
anthology projects in recent years. However, after they showed me their limp-wristed computer-generated
concept (a), I insisted that Smith & Jones take over the design, even though they claimed that they couldn't
afford to pay us anything—having spent their budget on the photo-shopped version. I did convince them to
cough up enough money for Les Edwards to do a wonderful painting to the same brief, and we came up with
this funky and fun cover (b) that we thought broke genre boundaries (and, incidentally, leapt off the
shelf). Predictably, my publisher (who is no longer in the same job) hated the "sunny" lettering and
claimed that buyers would be confused into thinking it was a "Young Adult" book. They changed it to the
dull, genre-clichéd lettering on the final cover (c), but at least Les' artwork and most of our concept
survived. If the book ever gets a British edition, I'd love to use our original cover design.
(a) Carroll & Graf pb
(b) Cover by Les Edwards (alternate)
(c) Cover by Les Edwards
THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF BEST NEW HORROR VOLUME 17
This was one of the most perfect covers (a) Smith & Jones has ever designed. If you look closely, Les Edwards'
superbly subtle painting tells a mini-horror story all of its own. Even though our art director liked the concept,
editorial came back with the comment that it was "too disturbing". It's a horror cover, for god's sake! It's meant
to be disturbing. In the end we changed it to another painting by Les—of a crazy old woman grasping a bloody
hatchet (b). That was apparently an improvement. I still someday want to use the original image on one of my covers.
(a) Cover by Les Edwards (alternate)
(b) Cover by Les Edwards
HORROR: ANOTHER 100 BEST BOOKS
When Kim Newman and I decided to do a follow-up volume to our award-winning 1988 compilation, we went to great
lengths to stress to the publisher that this was a literary book. We had both been very impressed with the
stylish—and subtle—covers that Carroll & Graf had used on various editions of the original study, and we
wanted that look to continue with this new volume. The first version they sent us (a) looked more suited to a
crime book with its feet-first corpse (not to mention its obvious spelling errors and the total absence
of Kim's name!). So we sent them back to the drawing board. Once again, we stressed that this was a serious
study of literary works and that we had an erudite Foreword by Peter Straub. "No problem", they said. "We get
it". That's when they sent us the next two examples (b) and (c) which were more akin to The Pan Book of Horror
Stories, and more likely to put off any prospective readers than get them to buy the book! I still shudder to
think what Peter would have thought of having his name framed in a bloodied hand holding a human heart! Enough
was enough. They obviously didn't "get it", so I suggested that Smith & Jones produce a cover for them. I
recalled an old 'Hand of Glory' painting of Les Edwards' that had never been used, which I thought would
be perfect. We placed it against a black background and added some classy-looking typography, and the result
was (d). Of course, the publisher couldn't resist messing around with it—I still prefer our spine design (e)
over the final version (f)—but at least it is now a cover I am not ashamed to have on the shelf.
(d) Cover by Les Edwards
(e) Art by Les Edwards
(f) Spine for Horror: Another 100 Best Books (2005)