When my first novel came out in a paperback edition, the sales rep from Transworld took me out for lunch during the course of a memorable and hugely enjoyable day, travelling round the bookshops and signing copies of the book. He was a pleasant chap and very experienced in the bookselling business, so I asked what he thought really mattered in making a novel saleable. "It's the cover, Martin," he said. "Always the cover."
This was not the answer I was expecting, or indeed hoping for. I pressed him, but he was insistent. Booksellers he visited would flick through his catalogue for a minute of so, picking out which covers they liked and would buy. The books themselves didn't really matter. Well, this may or may not have been a slightly jaundiced view, but the fact is that covers do matter. I can, for instance, vividly recall the cover of the first adult novel I ever read. It was the Fontana paperback of The Murder at the Vicarage.
That same cover features in a new book, Tom Adams Uncovered, which is sub-titled "The Art of Agatha Christie and Beyond." Tom Adams was the gifted artist responsible for many of the Christie paperback covers that I devoured at the age of nine and ten - other examples in the book include The Moving Finger, One Two, Buckle My Shoe and The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side. John Curran, the leading expert on Christie, provides useful commentaries which supplement the artist's own thoughts about the covers.
Those Christie covers really are very striking, and it's no wonder that they are now regarded as iconic. There is, of course, much more to Tom Adams as an artist than Christie. I was interested to learn that he was responsible for the cover of Manwatching, a book hugely successful in its day, as well as covers for authors as varied as John Fowles, Peter Straub and Raymond Chandler. Cover artwork is a fascinating subject, and I hope to return to it in the future. In the meantime, I found Tom Adams Uncovered appealing and very attractive..