21 August 2006

Today's rant

Jack Higgins is a good author. I have read three of his books in a row now: Cold Harbour, Day of Judgment, and Midnight Runner. All good reads. The only problem is that, with exception to Cold Harbour, the titles have nothing to do with the books. Absolutely nothing. It's almost like the books were written without a title, and some random title generator created and assigned a title. Furthermore, the covers are poorly designed.

Usually a title helps to describe the plot for the book. Or, it summarizes a key phrase for the book. For example, Tom Clancy's book Clear and Present Danger: the phrase "clear and present danger" is used by the President to describe the danger of drugs and its impact on national security. So it's both a key phrase from the book and helps to describe the plot as dealing with the war on drugs. Similarly, the cover of the book captures a scene from the novel, or shows something to do with the book. Or, is supposed to show something from the book.

Cold Harbour worked because the title is named after the location of the base of operations for the actions that occurred in that novel. However, the cover shows a nice picture of a German submarine when the plot is about a German E-boat (small, fast torpedo boat, not a sub), not U-boat. The editors obviously missed this point too, as each chapter's first page shows a nice little submarine icon.

Day of Judgment was a good book, but what was the "day of judgment"? There isn't any particular day in the novel that is so more momentous than another. There is no "day" that defines the book. Sure, as with most books, the climactic ending occurs but if that is this "day" its a sad way to describe it. Furthermore, the day of the historic event that the novel is based upon is so little a part of the plot. The cover shows Kennedy's limousine driving by the Berlin wall. I guess that's at least worthy of being on the cover.

Midnight Runner is just as bad a title. What, or who, is the midnight runner? The book gives no clue. Finally, after reading the book, I noticed a quote on the back cover: "Death is the midnight runner." -- Arab proverb. Really? I'll give you this: one of the main characters is half-Arab, and part of the novel takes place on the Arabian peninsula. Does that information alone allow you to select a title based on some obscure Arab proverb? The cover of the book shows a shadowy character running up the steps of the Capitol building. When did this take place? The Capitol is never even featured in any scene of this book.

The author of a book owes it to his or her readers to choose a title that means something. Furthermore, the editors and those who design the covers need to understand what the book is about, so they can accurately portray the novel its its pages and on its cover.
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