Wednesday, September 09, 2015

I Have Matt Beynon Rees Covered!

It's odd how I can be doing one thing and get an idea for something else. I imagine it's happened to you, too.

My latest idea relates to book covers, or I wouldn't be mentioning it here. It just so happens that the last two or three authors I've interviewed for my Scene of the Crime feature have had the same favorite childhood books as I. Another author's favorite childhood book was illustrated by one of my favorite artists. You're probably beginning to see where I'm going with this.

I'd like to do another book cover feature, but this time I want to center it on favorite childhood books. And not just my favorites. I'd like you to share some of your favorites, too. Either leave a comment here on this post with some of your favorite childhood book covers, or send me an email-- kittlingbooks(at)gmail(dot)com. I'm really looking forward to hearing from you all!

Now that that digression is over, let's get to comparing this week's US and UK book covers. I've chosen the book that I reviewed yesterday, Matt Beynon Rees's The Collaborator of Bethlehem

The US cover...

I can't tell whether the sun is rising or setting on the US cover, but it casts a pale yellow glow on the Middle Eastern street scene we see. The spire of a Christian church. The minaret of a mosque. In large letters that stand out well against the background, we see the title, the author's name, and the fact that it is an Omar Yussef mystery. There are two blurbs. The New York Times Book Review says, "An astonishing first novel." David Baldacci says, "Rees takes a complex world of culture clash and suspicion and places upon it humanity." 

Of the blurbs, I prefer Baldacci's. It actually says something. The NYTBR's is one of those ambiguous ones that make me roll my eyes back in my head. Astonishing doesn't necessarily mean good.

The US cover is clear and to the point. It gets the facts out there. The US title is more political. Combined with the choice of graphics, I would expect the US edition to have a more...hmm... investigative journalist approach, if that makes sense.

The UK cover...

The first thing you notice about the UK cover is that the book has a different title. The cover also has a completely different look to go with that title. 

Matt Rees seems to have lost one of his names in the UK. I didn't check into it, but he probably goes by his full name in the US to avoid confusion with someone else. There's a seal denoting the book is an award-winner, and Colin Dexter (Inspector Morse's creator) has a blurb that states, "Beautifully written, full of humanity. Omar Yussef is a splendid creation." The best of the blurbs in my opinion. I also find it interesting that in the UK, this is an Omar Yussef novel, not mystery.

From the title to the choice of colors, graphics, and font, the UK cover downplays the political. From the aged plaster? parchment? to the faded spires running across the bottom, to the antique dagger, to the Aladdin-like font of the title, I would think this is an historical mystery.

The Verdict...

it's not easy this week. I'm torn. Torn between honesty and good looks. To me, the US cover is the honest one... but the UK cover is the pretty one. Decisions, decisions!

Imagine the "Final Jeopardy" music playing as I ponder a bit....

If I knew absolutely nothing about this book, chances are that I would choose the UK cover. But I've read the book. I know what it's about. And due to my knowledge, I'm going to choose the US cover. It may not be pretty, but it gives you the better idea of what's inside-- and what's inside happens to be pretty darned marvelous.

What say you?

Which cover do you prefer? US? UK? Neither one? Tell us true because there's no such thing as right or wrong answers here. For covers in general, do you prefer pretty over honest? Inquiring minds would really love to know!


  1. Kittling Books should design this cover.

    I actually like the British cover because of the colors, brightness and background at the bottom. But the U.S. title is more interesting. So, I'd choose the British cover, but want the U.S. title.

    Anyway, it's what you said that interested me in the book ... that what's inside is "marvelous." What always wins me over are other people's reviews or comments.

    1. Rees is pretty even-handed about the entire situation. He calls out stupidity where he sees it, regardless of which side. And whichever side a person may be on, I think it's safe to say that the entire situation is a mess.

  2. What can I say, Cathy? I go for honesty. In this case, I like the US cover better. As to top childhood reads? I always liked the Laura Ingalls Wilder novels with those lovely Garth Williams covers.

    1. Oh, yes! Garth Williams is one of my favorites!


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