Today I am highlighting pictures of men. Now, here’s a thing: did you know that if you search for historical fiction on Amazon you get, shall we say, a surprisingly broad spectrum of subject matter. There are, for example, a lot of books with pictures of men’s naked chests and I’m not even getting into women’s underwear… No, I’m really not. It was a shock – and not in a good way!
Well, it’s not those sort of men that I’m looking at today. It’s warriors – covers where almost the whole page is one man and his head is optional… Now there are quite a lot of covers with warriors on but not so many that really stand out.
What am I looking for? A warrior should be in your face so I’d like bold colours or colour contrasts. I also want an indication of the time period in which the story is set and a hint at least of the sort of soldier we’re going to find in the book. Let me add a rider to that [note the subtle play on words there]: I don’t want to see an image of an actor in a forthcoming TV series. You only have to compare the most recent version of Bernard Cornwell’s The Last Kingdom to see what I mean. They have replaced the wonderful original cover – the one with the ship on – with an advert. No disrespect to the chap on the new cover but I think it’s a great pity.
Anyway, to this week’s covers with a soldier on. There are four this week, all quite different and two of them are headless…
Highly commended and first up is Michael Arnold’s Hunter’s Rage.
It’s a little dark but then we are talking about the Civil War and that was pretty dark.
It has a good sense of period and the soldier is imbued with an excellent brooding presence. This is partly created by having the face obscured and looking down. The pose is also threatening and there is a hint of military mayhem in the background.
The scorpion symbol of the Praetorian Guard is a nice touch too.
Whilst I’ve said before that I’m not keen on back views, nevertheless it does avoid giving the reader a particular facial image to dwell on and allows him to use his imagination.
The final highly commended is Anthony Riches’ Thunder of the Gods. Again there is a clear indication of period and a similar sort of authenticity.
What I particularly like is the sheen of light on the soldier’s breastplate – thank God he’s not bare-chested!
Somehow the use of colours here works exceptionally well, giving the warrior a certain splendour which seems wholly appropriate. This image really stands out amongst others.
However, pride of place this week goes to a cover which made a fair impact when it launched Jack Lark into the world of historical fiction.
Paul Fraser Collard’s The Scarlet Thief is certainly striking.
The bright red tunic hits us between the eyes and the uniform tells us we are firmly in the nineteenth century.
The sword held behind the back gives us a hint about the sort of man we are going to be dealing with: a rogue with an eye for the main chance.
It is a strong central image, but it is the contrasting background colours at top and bottom that give the cover much of its visual impact.
Combine all that with intelligent placement of the title text and, ladies and gentlemen, you have a winner.