When J. Kingston Pierce of The Rap Sheet brought back the crime cover contest this year, we were delighted—so here's more from him, including a chance to share with you!
I come from a very visually oriented family—my father was an architect, my mother had worked in the field of technical drawing. And I remember well the first time I realized that book-cover design meant something special to me. It was in the early 1970s, when I was still a boy. I had purchased (for the then princely sum of 75 cents) a 1969 Ballantine paperback edition of Arthur C. Clarke’s 1953 alien invasion novel, Childhood’s End. Subsequently, the same publisher released a revamped edition of that book (this time priced at $1.25!), which featured what I decided was a more captivating cover illustration. I promptly started saving coins enough to buy that new version, in addition, despite my mother’s protestations that it was not worth the price, that—save for the cover—they were the exact same book. I was less than eloquent in explaining why I needed both versions, but I did finally add them to my bookshelves.
My interest in book jackets has only grown since. It wasn’t long after I launched my crime fiction-oriented blog, in 2006, that I began writing about the state of the genre’s cover designs, which I often found wanting—especially as they demonstrated a tendency to use the same photos over and over, as if nobody would notice. In 2009, I introduced a second blog, Killer Covers, which focuses primarily on crime novel fronts, vintage as well as contemporary. And in between those start-ups, I debuted a competition to judge some of the best covers produced every year.
The Rap Sheet's cover contest for crime titles published during 2013 kicked off near the end of last month. It offered readers the choice of 15 jackets from crime, mystery, and thriller works. “All of them …,” I wrote by way of introduction, “are special in their own ways, whether it’s because of their typographical excellence, their bold imagery, or the manner in which they suggest the intensity of drama to be enjoyed between their covers.” And here are those finalists: