My Scrapbook: Bob Dylan, Private Eye?

My Scrapbook

Bob Dylan, Private Eye?

Back in September 2018, Ayun Halliday (no relation to Brett) and Todd Alcott of Open Culture (the self-proclaimed “best free cultural and educational media on the web”) had a little (okay, a lot of) fun at Bob Dylan’s expense, presenting “Classic Songs by Bob Dylan Re-Imagined as Pulp Fiction Book Covers,” featuring text by Halliday and a half-dozen mock-ups by Alcott  that recall the cheesy covers (and sub-genres) of the fifties and sixties paperback boom. They’re all pretty good, but my favourite (of course) was this tone-perfect Robert McGinnis rip-off, that re-imagines Robert Zimmerman as a successful private eye writer; perhaps successful enough to warrant a cover by the legendary McGinnis.

“While many pulp authors toiled in obscurity, let us pretend that Nobel Prize winner and (faux) pulp-novelist Dylan wouldn’t have. Especially if he had a series like the pseudonymous Brett Halliday’s popular Mike Shayne mysteries. At that level, the cover wouldn’t really need quotes.”

Perhaps, but Halliday then goes on to reprint the complete lyrics of Dylan’s “Visions of Johanna” (arguably one of his greatest songs), and challenge visitors to pick a suitable quote for the cover. What’s astounding is that almost any couplet would do, although personally I think  the opening lines, “Ain’t it just like the night to play tricks/When you’re tryin’ to be so quiet?” is just about as good as it gets.

But there’s definitely something happening about Bob Dylan and detective and crime fiction, even if you don’t know what it is…


Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith. Artwork by Todd Alcott. You can see more of his Mid-Century Pulp Fiction Cover project, and pick up archival quality prints from his Etsy shop.

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