Have you ever been browsing in a bookstore when you spot the spine of the book you’ve been searching for, only to take it off shelf and realize its cover is so unattractive that it makes you change your mind? Even though the price is right, the cover is so wrong you decide to wait for a nicer edition to come along?
This happened to me last night. I was browsing in Strand Bookstore when I caught sight of Howard Browne’s Halo for Satan. I really liked his Halo in Blood, and have been wanting to read more. But when I looked at the cover of the No Exit Press edition, my heart sunk. It was some garish picture of the back of a bald man’s head. And not even a good picture – just looked kind of sloppy. It was six bucks, but I’d rather invest that six into a nicer edition that I would enjoy displaying on my shelf. After I’ve read a book, I enjoy going back often and looking at the cover, flipping through the pages, remembering my favorite parts. This just seemed like something I wouldn’t want to look at ever again.
Has this ever happened to you? I know we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but should that excuse cover art from criticism? Particularly with pulp fiction, cover art seems to be such a part of the legacy that it can’t be ignored. What are your thoughts?