For the most part, mid-list mystery writers (and I flatter myself) have very little choice in the covers I’ve always found that frustrating. I’ve spent most of my life as an editor of publications where I had much more control over the visuals that accompanied the words.
The world of book publishing is different. Of the eleven Shanahan novels, the mystery series for which I am best known, I hadn’t even a warning of what the covers would look like before they were selected. The manuscript went into the system and eventually out popped a book with my name on it. However, the legendary editor Ruth Cavin at St. Martin’s accepted my request to look at artist Janet Woolley for my out-of series book, Eclipse of the Heart. Woolley and jacket designer Michael Accordino created my favorite cover of any of my books. It’s quite clear that Woolley read the manuscript before doing the illustration. The whole book is in the illustration, enhanced by the elegant typeface chosen by Accordino. I regret only that I had not contacted her to tell her how much I appreciated her work. I was pretty new to the process. Unfortunately, the book is out of print.
|German Cover Got It Wrong|
|Bless The Italians|
When Severn House, publisher of the last seven Shanahan books, picked up my new series featuring unlikely P.I. partners Noah Lang and Carly Paladino, they allowed me to suggest a cover photograph that inspired the first book, Death In Pacific Heights. They worked it out with photographer, Adam Moore. With the second series book, Death In North Beach, I submitted a night photograph I had taken that illustrated that historic neighborhood . Both covers met the criteria of matching the stories told between the covers. Now, whether it met the marketing criteria is something else. Neither zoomed to the top of The New York Times Bestseller list. Even so, the author is happy.
I was also involved in the reissue of the first four Shanahan novels in e-book and paperback formats, working directly with San Francisco-based as well as talented and experienced Visual Strategies. For me, participating in the bookmaking process adds considerably to the joy of writing. The result, in this case, was a strong and clearly inter-related series of books.
I have a new book, a novella, coming out in March. I look forward to The Black Tortoise, the cover of which will mirror its predecessor, The Blue Dragon. I’m hoping for a third. Even in this late date in my career, there is a temptation to take a new book from manuscript to published novel, with a near complete hands-on approach. I say “near” because only a fool would proceed without some sort of skilled copyediting and design help.