All Shot Up & The Big Gold Dream
Author: Chester Himes
Designer: Michael Fusco
Publisher: Pegasus Books
Typefaces: Clarendon & Interstate
Special Treatments: Printed with a grit/rough matte finish.
I think everyone knows that I'm a huge fan of crime fiction and these covers are two of my all time favorites. I love these. I think they speak to the time period but still have a fresh feel for the genre. They are smart and beg you to pick these books up and read them. Thanks Micheal for taking time to share your process with us.
What are the books about?
From the editors description which I think sort of nails the whole series in one sentence: "A pioneering pair of dangerously charming African American sleuths, Gravedigger Jones and Coffin Ed Johnson, who attempt to maintain some kind of order on the streets of Harlem."
Who is the audience?
Were there any constraints placed on you?
Nope. I just had to create a series look that evoked the feel of the books.
What are the typefaces being used?
Clarendon & Interstate. Once I got the type treatment down, I printed it and copied and crumpled like six or seven times.
The cover photos are very striking. How did you approach your image research?
Since all of the books in the series take place in Harlem, I wanted to find photographs that depicted 60's Harlem and looked real, not posed.
Were there any steps taken before you started designing?
First, the publisher didn't have original copies of the books (only a 90's reissue with a completely different feel), so I bought old mass market copies (attached) on Amazon. Originally, I tried to convince the publisher to get the rights to the original art on these covers. I just loved how pulpy the art was and how much it felt like the time period these books were originally published in. The publisher didn't go for using the original art, so I started doing research on real crime shots in Harlem from the 60's/70's. I found a bunch from Magnum that really worked well. They also really reminded me of Weegee which was perfect. In the end, I ended up scanning the original spines of these old paperbacks and using them as the spines of the new editions. I basically just scanned the spines from the original, beat up, mass market paperbacks I bought used on Amazon. I wanted the book to look used so it felt like this was a perfect way to make it feel that way and carry something over from the original mass markets that I loved so much. I had to rework it a little (for size) and add a Pegasus logo, but as you can see, it remains mostly the same. I hope if we do more from the series, I can find the original paperbacks to scan the spines from. I also really wanted to put the publishers logo on the front cover like the old pulp books of the past. It took a little convincing, but I had them agree to do this whenever they reissued an only pulp/noir/crime novel. So far, there have only been two.
Was there a clear working process that lead up to the final?
Once I figured out the type of imagery I wanted, it was just a matter of working through a few type treatments to see what worked best.
Were there any known influences that led to your solution?
I was mostly influenced by the original massmarket paperbacks. I just loved the pulpy quality of them. I wanted to create a cover that felt like that, but still looked new and relevant.
Were there any solutions outside the final that you would like shown?
Sure. My favorite (second to the final) is the shot from the upper stairs looking down. I thought it was such a crazy angle that it would certainly get attention on a book shelf. The other attached I felt really just felt like the attitude in the book. I knew it would never fly, but I always liked the look of it.
What is the message behind the design?
I wanted to evoke a warm, grungy, pulpy feel while still communicating that Himes was a literary and important writer of his generation.