My Life in Straightjackets (Updated 8/25)


In the previous post I talked about some book covers I like. That’s not uncommon for me, as I’m one of the few reviewers who actually pay tribute to the artists who design books. I started doing this during my first professional writing gig: a weekly book review column called “Between the Lines”  which appeared in The Westport (CT) News. A punk kid, I not only pointed out great covers when I found them, but would attack publishers who failed to provide a credit. (This happened more often then not back then. Rarely happens now, thank Ra.) I recall writing one  column where I chose the best jackets of the year. Yep, you can judge books by their covers. Pass the envelope, please.

Perhaps I continue to give credit when credit is due because I’ve been designing books  for many years. Although I’ve never pursued a career as a book designer (it usually happens by accident or invitation), it’s one of my favorite activities. If anybody out there needs cover art, I’m available.

My most recent design was for Harold Jaffe’s forthcoming Anti-Twitter. Jaffe is one of a handful of great American experimental writers. He doesn’t simply “push the envelope,”  he propels it into space.

I also had the opportunity to create a cover for his novel, Jesus Coyote (Raw Dog Screaming Press) which I highly recommend. Grab it on Amazon here.


COVER NOTE: I shot the photo of the manikin at a friend’s house in Charlottesville, VA,  and added the neck wound in Photoshop.

Most of my cover art appears under the pseudonym Norman Conquest, and I’m not inclined to explain why—it would take more words than a blog deserves. (Hell, I’m pushing my luck as it is.) But I will reveal this: I did not design the cover for the original edition of  A Beginner’s Guide to Art Deconstruction by Norman Conquest (Permeable Press San Francisco)  It gets my vote for worst cover, 1995.

About half the covers I’ve done were straight up photographs, the others illustrated, collage, or text-based. No rules to the approach, whatever seems right for the book is all that guides me.

Since most of my own books were published as “paperback originals,”  I haven’t worn a lot of formal dust jackets, and I can’t afford to rent a tux.  Jackets may soon become optional or obsolete, read this.

Many years ago I published a book called Cloud On the Title Page, made up entirely of title pages. Great book for the beach, 30 minutes max.

I continue to entertain the idea of producing a collection of imaginary covers.  Think Lem, Borges, Nations, Allais.

Well, I guess that about covers it.

Well, not quite…

Here’s the design for Shoot To Thrill, which heads to the printer August 25th. Two text edits have yet to be made, e.g., “DSLR” should be D-SLR).


Here are some covers done for Paul Rosheim’s press, Obscure Publications.


One for Norman…



One of my faves that, sadly, never made it into print…


My revised cover for The Little Red Book….



And my favorite cover from the Doktor Bey series…
I no longer have a personal copy of this book (which also appeared in a limited hardcover edition). so had to snatch this shot off the web, poor as it is.


Here’s a cover I wish I’d designed, but didn’t. Credit Headcase Design
for Field Guide to the American Bird.


And those are fitting last words for this post..