Monday, January 19, 2009

Judging a Book by Its Cover

I'm currently reading The Big Knives by Bruce Lancaster, and over the weekend, I was adding it to my "I'm Reading" list on Facebook. During the process, I found something I thought was amusing, and I thought I'd share it.

The copy of the book I'm reading is a hardcover that my son picked up at a "purging" sale at his school library. The cover looks like this:



However, the only image I could find while I was uploading this book to my Facebook page was this one:



I ask you, does that even look like the same book????! After laughing for a while, I asked myself what would lead to a pair of covers that are so different. My conclusion (which may or may not be complete hooey) is that somewhere along the line, someone decided to market the book to a different audience - women instead of men.

The first cover is, as I said, for the hardcover edition that was published in 1964. The second is from a paperback reissue (by a different publisher) in 1978. The first cover, I think, has masculine appeal - we have a group of men in buckskins, obviously engaged in some kind of frontier military action or hunting, since their guns are prominent in the picture. The second cover looks a lot like a romance novel cover (a tame one, since both the man and woman are fully clothed, ha ha, albeit in clothes that are NOT accurate for the historical period). I doubt a man browsing in a bookstore would pick up that book with a woman in a hot pink dress. I asked my husband if he would read it, and he gave me one of those looks, which I took as a "no." (LOL)

I'm guessing that somewhere along the way between 1964 and 1978, someone decided women would be a more lucrative market for this book than men. Although I'm not finished with the book yet, I don't see how on earth that decision was made. I think this is very much a book with a "male" orientation (not that I am saying there are books for men and different books for women - not at all!). Actually, the main character, Markham Cape, reminds me strongly of Alex Rider from the juvenile spy series my son liked so much a couple of years ago, or maybe even James Bond transplanted to the American frontier. There's something cool and detached about him, which I see as traits in a literary character that appeal more to men than to women. I know as a reader I like characters much better when I can identify with them (something that may or may not be influenced by the fact that I'm a woman).

Anyway, I'm really mystified by this woman on the cover. I'm nearly halfway through the book, and there hasn't yet been a woman in the story who has been anything more than a temporary flirtation for Mr. Cape. I bet if you put every line about a woman together, they wouldn't fill two pages. So now I expect a major plot turn of some kind...or is this a case of a cover that would "hook" the female reader and then deceive her???

1 comment:

Augustina Peach said...

I've finished the book now, and I can confirm that the cover with the woman is completely misleading. There ARE some brief appearances by Madame de Liliac as something of a love interest, but she's a married woman. The only time she figures into the plot at all is when Markham is going down river to New Orleans on a keelboat that the lovely Madame happens to be on as well. But she avoids him on the trip in order to keep from falling into temptation with our handsome protagonist. That's all there is to it. Really!