Monday, October 9, 2017

African Series Cover Art, Deconstructed

Annamaria on Monday

I have been very fortunate with the cover designs of my books.  They have all been attractive and, especially as of late, inviting to perspective readers.  With one exception, they have been true to the story I was trying to tell--some more than others, but by and large, they all evoked the time and place.

One emblem appears on all of the African series' covers, and it is actually the correct standard for British East Africa:


The hardcover jacket design shows a scene of a Maasai cattle herder.  Though there is no such person in the story, the image is apt for two reasons.  It shows the intense beauty of the African wilderness, which (I hope) reads like a character in the story.  Even better, the tribesman is carrying an accurately pictured Maasai spear, the shape of which is a critical clue in the story.  Bravo designer David Baldeosingh Rotstein!

The paperback of the same story gives a different impression.  The wilderness is there, but the central female character is brought to the fore.  Lucky me, my current publisher--Felony and Mayhem--is run by Maggie Topkis, who spent a couple of decades as a mystery bookstore owner.  She knows what kinds of covers attract a browser's attention.  

The ensuing books in the series are treated with similar images.


The Idol of Mombasa opens with Vera and Tolliver aboard a ship, approaching Mombasa harbor.  Only one person saw the mistakes on this cover's arresting image.  The coastline in the background is not historic Mombasa, but historic Zanzibar.  And the sticker on Vera's suitcase is Queen Elizabeth II--who was not Queen until 1952.  But the story takes place forty years before that.  The person who saw these errors was Shel Arensen--the editor and publisher of Old Africa Magazine.  He--who knows the history of Kenya better than perhaps anyone--said, "As I was reading the story, I kept waiting for the characters to go to Zanzibar."   They didn't!  He gave the book lovely review despite that.


If you ask me, with the next cover, the designer--Anthony Wing Kosner--more than made up for those small departures from perfection.

That's a kudu on the luminous cover of The Blasphemers, and yes, Vera does go hunting and kudus show up a couple of times in the story. 

Annamaria's Events

11-15 October
Toronto Ontario
Sheraton CentreToronto, Ontario
My Panel: Read the World
Thursday the 12th

AND Tah-dah...

Dagger Awards Gala Dinner
Thursday 26th October
Grange City Hotel

Where our own Leye Adenle and our fellow HOT Writer Ovidia Yu are short listed for the short story Dagger Award.  Hooray for Sunshine Noir!

A Mysterious Affair in PrincetonSat, November 4, 2017
1:00 PM – 5:00
Solley TheaterArts Council of Princeton
102 Witherspoon Street
Princeton, NJ 08540


  1. Really looking forward to The Blasphemers. Do you know if the Kindle ebook will be available in January at the same time as the paper book?

    1. That you, EvKa. I would imagine it will be, but I will ask my publisher and let you know here.

  2. Speaking of kudus, big kudos to you and your cover designers! B and I can’t wait to see you in Toronto...which still isn’t Zanzibar.

    1. Bro, I have a funny story about the time I went to Zanzibar. We took one of those little safari camp planes from Dar es Salam to Arusha, Tanzania on our way to the Ngorongoro Crater. Instead of flying west, the pilot first took us east to Zanzibar, to pick up a passenger. Once we landed there, I got out because I wanted to be able to say that I once had feet on the ground in Zanzibar. While I took a casual stroll around the aircraft, such as it was, the new guy arrived. On our way west, he told us that Bill Gates was visiting Zanzibar with a party of friends. While Gates was there, he had reserved all the hotel rooms on the island so that he and his friends could move about Zanzibar without having other tourists around. Wow.

    2. Sounds in keeping with the traditional Microsoft approach to business. :)

  3. Lovely cover art, Annamaria. Very evocative and gives the books a real series look to them, but without being repetitive. Congratulations on THE BLASPHEMERS!

  4. Of course, I spotted those two errors at once but didn't want to embarrass you by mentioning them. By the way, where IS the sticker on her suitcase?

  5. Michael, I would have been mortified if I had approved the cover, but I have had that privilege with only one book--Blood Tango. The others, including IOM, were fait accompli by the time saw them. I was not embarrassed when I found out. Let's say bemused.

  6. Is bemusement actually legal in New York? Most forms of abuse are illegal in Oregon...