Sunday, November 23, 2014


(Note: Covers can make or break a book. The fact is, we do judge books by their covers. This is the third in a series of posts examining the strategies, concepts and creative process behind the repackaging of the Hector Lassiter series into bestselling, uniform editions for Betimes Books).

The final version of the Betimes Books'
This edition is all "pretend" in terms of exploring more about how Betimes Books and I went about our strategic relaunch of the Hector Lassiter series, for the first time presenting the entire series in a mix of old and new titles, uniformly branded and sequenced in chronological order.

Having established the look of the new series with our reissues of ONE TRUE SENTENCE and TOROS & TORSOS, we were next faced with giving first-time packaging to two, never-before-seen Hector Lassiter novels.

The first, the only direct sequel in the Hector Lassiter canon, was FOREVER'S JUST PRETEND. Set in 1925 Key West, the novel comes literally off the end of its predecessor, the 1924, Paris-set ONE TRUE SENTENCE.

FOREVER reunites Hector with his OTS true love, Brinke Devlin. The novel finds Brinke, the muse, completing her essential "creation" of the Hector Lassiter we come to know across the series. Hector is launching himself as a novelist and Brinke is reinventing her writing career with a new, male byline down there on Bone Key.

Louise Brooks, down South.
For this novel's cover, we knew we had to depict the Louise Brooks-inspired Brinke (Miss Devlin's bio reflects many aspects of Miss Brook's turbulent life, including a shocking act of violence suffered as a child).

We settled on a very simple and stark arrangement of images telegraphing Hector, Brinke at her writing table and Key West itself, as suggested by some prominent, evocative palm fronds in the background.

First pass on FOREVER, continuing
the sepia treatment used for
J.T. Lindroos also introduced a burst of color after SENTENCE'S monochrome, sepia treatment, a visual addition that has continued on through most of the other new Lassiter covers.

Lassiter #4, THE GREAT PRETENDER, is a natural follow up to TOROS & TORSOS, which featured a stretch of the novel centering on Orson Welles during the nightmarish production of his first film noir, THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI.

In PRETENDER, Hector and Orson are partnered across the expanse of the entire novel, and a large portion of the roller coaster arc of their decades-long association is revealed.

The Prater Wheel, Vienna.
The basic images of Hector and Orson (a very rare take of Orson standing in a light falling snow in a graveyard in Vienna) were settled upon fairly early. The question became what to drop in as a third element suggesting the supernatural theme of this particular novel—the only significant instance in which the Lassiter series flirts with a near genre-crossing into the realm of the occult.

Because the novel visits the Vienna filming site of the Graham Greene-penned THE THIRD MAN, we toyed with incorporating some image of the Prater Wheel which features so famously in THE THIRD MAN'S iconic confrontation between Joseph Cotten and Welles' Harry Lime.

The fear was that not enough readers would identify the amusement attraction as anything more than a simple Ferris Wheel (also, just such a wheel and a spread of tarot cards already adorns the cover of my Chris Lyon novel, CARNIVAL NOIR).

We next flirted with incorporating an image to suggest Hector's female foil in the novel, a mysterious voodoo priestess with her own shadowy agenda.

One iteration actually didn't incorporate Hector at all, which seemed a serious misstep, to me.

To tie the series together, visually, it seemed essential to keep Mr. Lassiter, front and center, so to speak.

We then tried to pull three faces into the bigger picture.
Again, the concept just didn't seem quite right—it didn't give any real flavor of the book waiting beneath the cover. In the end, we hit on the final design seen below, with the iconic image of Baron Samedi—the loa of the dead in the Haitian Vodou pantheon—lurking over Hector and Orson's shoulders.



ONE TRUE SENTENCE: Paperback/eBook


TOROS & TORSOS: Paperback/eBook


ROLL THE CREDITS: Paperback/eBook

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