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Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Cover Argh!

Horror book covers used to be a ghoulish delight, now I find them rather abstract and minimalist. In the 1980s, I loved the WH Smiths in Finchley Road and Brent Cross, London UK because they stocked an extensive range of horror books. Back then, I was too young to read the titles but I loved looking at the book covers because they scared the sh*t out of me. Scary films do not give me nightmares but these covers in their glossy lurid glory (or gory) were highly effective at making me not read the contents of the books until well into adulthood.

1) 'The Spear' James Herbert (1981)
Those glaring red eyes! That disturbingly phallic spear held by a skeletal hand! All set against an impenetrable black background! I suppose the cover artist showed the publisher a rough rendition got the rest of the week off for this work as a bonus.

2) 'Slugs' Shaun Hutson (1982)
Hokey as this novel seems now and since made into a very cheesy B-movie in 1988, perhaps the only genuine shudders are provoked by this first-edition cover art. A slug slowly nibbling the corner of some unfortunate woman's eyeball - although now I believe perhaps a pinch of salt would kill the pesky thing?

3) 'Books of Blood Volume 4' aka 'The Inhuman Condition' Clive Barker (1985)
The man's brain is exposed while his body is dissolving into ribbons, and yet his eyes are full of manic glee - he really shouldn't be enjoying his ordeal. This cover seriously scared me when I was seven but when I later discovered that the cover art was also painted by the author, I *had* to read the book just to find out whether the contents measure up to the cover. They do. (This book contains the short story 'The Forbidden' which was adapted into the film 'Candyman' in 1992)

4) 'Communion' Whitley Strieber (1988)
There's a good reason why I do not believe that the little green men will be cute, cuddly and benevolent if they visit this planet. This book cover is that reason - do those eyes say 'We come in peace'?! No, they say ,'We come to send rectal probes to Uranus!'

5) 'It' Stephen King (1988)
"Where's the clown?" you may ask. The clown owes much to Tim Curry's terrifying portrayal in the miniseries adaptation and subsequent editions later put the clown on the cover. However, this simple and very understated cover art hints at a monstrous menace hiding just under the ordinary streets where children play. 

6) Spooky Stories 1 edited by Barbara Ireson (1982)
The first volume in a great anthology series (for children!) with a cover so unnerving that my mother hated it. Grubby fingernails, decayed teeth and wild staring eyes- urghhh!

7) 'Koko' Peter Straub (1988)
Not really disturbing for me when I was 10 but more grungy, grainy and very enigmatic; What or who is 'Koko'? I remember reading the back cover; its about Vietnam War veterans trying to catch a serial killer (hence the camouflage paint on the face) Thankfully reprinted in 2009, so I can finally read it to find out.


meg said...

I think how scared I was of clowns after IT.

cool post.

Samantha Bennett said...

Eek! That slug cover made me shudder. Which makes it pretty effective! Thanks for stopping by my blog!

Palindrome said...

OMG, I love the old horror book covers!! I have a little half-priced paperback book store across the street from me and they have all sorts of good books and they trade you for your books. It's sweet. I bought this book there:

Captain Quad!

Miriam S. Forster said...

Things that make you go AAAAHHH!

Oddly enough, I'm not fond of horror movies and books, but I love to read cover copy for them. Especially the creepy ones. :)

MBW aka Olleymae said...

yes, some of those covers seriously gave me the creeps. I can't watch or read horror because I won't sleep well for days *shivers*

lol, it is fun to look at the covers though. I can't imagine all the pressure a cover artist goes through to advertise and convey a story all in one picture!

Good Show Sir said...

Wow those covers are amazing! Good Show!

I remember being really scared of a book about alien horror someone bought me in my early teens. It had a frightening picture of a freaky alien not unlikely the one above. I used to hide it under my bed so I wouldn't have to look at it.

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