Adventures in Bookland: The Imperial Banner by Nick Brown
As authors, we have a tendency to stand in thrall to those mysterious creatures known as book designers, trotting out in the acknowledgements or emails to the publisher our thanks for the sterling work done by the design team. We do this, (a) because we have no choice, and if we don’t butter up the design department then they really might do something frightful next time round and (b) because if we were any good at coming up with front covers we’d be designers ourselves (and making much better money to boot). Of course, sometimes we are well served by our designers – as, I hasten to add, I have been with my Northumbrian Thrones covers – but sometimes designers do a book or a series no favours at all. In Nick Brown’s case, I think this is true. Look at the above, the cover for book number 2 in his Agent of Rome series. Tell me, seeing it, what it tells you? And then, let me show you the covers of books 1, 3 and 4 in the series:
These covers tell a story to me of some muscle bound centurion whose first recourse to any problem is to whip out his sword and cut people up – the most hackneyed hack and slash version of historical fiction and the male equivalent of the worst sort of chick lit, wish fulfilment in a toga. But the books aren’t like this at all. Cassius Corbulo, the hero, is notably incompetent with a sword, relying on his wits rather than his muscles: Nick Brown also mixes up the genres, stirring in elements of detective fiction, thrillers and chase stories into the mix. None of this you can tell from the above covers. He must have been so relieved when his publisher showed him the cover of book 5 in the series, and then did even better work on the new design with book 6.