My Scrapbook: That Double Vision Got the Best of Me

My Scrapbook

“I’ll Have a Double”


A long while back, Jeff Pierce, that rompin’ stompin’ international Man of Mystery and the head honcho over at The Rap Sheet, peeled the lid back on one of many nasty little truths of the publishing industry that nobody likes to admit: their covers often suck.

Startling news, I know, but he’s since continued in that vein, regularly lambasting the perpetrators, “especially those that use the same imagery, duplicate the arrangement of elements, or bang repeatedly on a theme.”

And oh, what glorious yucks there are to be had, gazing at the evidence. “Copycat Covers” has become  a recurring thread on that venerable blog, as Jeff delights in exposing double-dipping covers. It tells all you need to know about the state of cover design (or lack of it) in these Shutterstock days.

As I said, I had quite the chuckle, checking out stock covers that have been recycled not once, but twice or even three times. All in recent years, and on books by some of the most respected writers around. This isn’t just banging on a theme — it’s gangbanging on a theme.

Yes, I laughed. Laughed. LAUGHED!!!

And then it happened to me.

The first short story I ever sold, “Two Fingers,” appeared way back in 2001 in Iced, edited by Kerry Schooley and Peter Sellers, which billed itself as “The New Noir Anthology of Cold, Hard Fiction.”

Proud? I could plotz!

It sported a jaunty photo of a smoking gun barrel, the warmth of the gold earthy hues of the photo contrasting nicely, I thought, with the often cold, grim stories inside–and the implications of the photo itself.

I was proud to be included in that book, and pleased that the cover wasn’t an embarrassment. I thought the designer, Mike O’Connor, did a heckuva job.

And then sometime in 2007 Marc Strange’s Sucker Punch arrived at my door. As an editor and reviewer my mailbox is often jammed with treasures, and nothing delights this errant Canadien more than a package from home. I slashed open the envelope and slid out the book. Started reading the back cover…

Joe Grundy, ex-fighter.


Tough guy hotel dick, now working some swank joint in downtown Vancouver. Check. Dipshit, suddenly rich kid gets a premature trip to the pearly gates, while on Joe’s watch, and Joe has to do what a Joe’s gotta do.


Sounded good. I’m always in the market for a good Canadian P.I. and this one looked promising. Very promising, actually, after scanning the first few pages. This was going right to the top of my TBR pile.

Then I flipped the book back to the front cover. Talk about a sucker punch.

Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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