There’s a Bimbo on the Cover Verse 5: The Castles of Seattle

Bimbo, Verse Five:

There’s a castle on the cover of the book.
There’s a castle on the cover of the book.
Every knight is fit for battle, but the action’s in Seattle.
There’s a castle on the cover of the book.

Today’s discussion is about iffy places. In the song, the fictional writer turned up with a castle and knights on the cover of a book set in present day Seattle. Let me be clear: the only castle that appears on one of my novels is there legitimately. It’s a bit too glitzy, but it belongs there. As do the warrior dudes who are, indeed, fit for battle.

In fact, I freely admit I that do not know of any such book, but “battle” and “Seattle” rhyme. So there. A songwriter’s gotta do what a songwriter’s gotta do. I do, however, know of books in which the cultural trappings on the cover were not what the writer had in mind when the book was written.

A bibliophile friend submitted this CJ Cherryh cover (The Paladin) with the brief comment that the book was supposed to have a Chinese setting, was told from the protagonist’s teacher’s point of view. The protagonist is Taizu, a country girl from Hua. The teacher is described as a Lord of the Empire . . . oh, and a cripple. Said my friend: “You figure it out.”

I couldn’t. Neither character looks Chinese, or is dressed in a Chinese fashion. And the swordmaster looks a bit like Conan the Barbarian.

And while we’re discussing Conan the Barbarian and things Chinese in flavor, I submit this cover for Tain—a novel by Book View Café’s Greg Frost. Greg describes his book as a: “Novel about Bronze Age Celts in chariots…find the Celtic elements hidden in among the Apache warrior and the birchbark lettering.”

Despite the Celtic knots around the saddle blanket, I think the ”Apache Warrior” looks like our friend Conan in a new guise. But I know that horse. He’s wearing a grooming style and trappings not found in either Celtic or Apache circles. I last saw that horse standing in front of the PF Chang’s restaurant in Oakridge Mall.

Yes, friends, that horse is a refugee from CJ’s novel about Chinese warriors. Once again we have a transposition of cultures and characters.

Now there is one thing more I wish to draw your attention to as regards this poor beast. No horseman who had half a clue would sit so far back on the animal’s back. Not only would it make for a bumpier ride, but it would be hard on the horse’s kidneys.

This last entry is not about a setting that was not in the book, but an object that was not in the book. This just in from BVC’s own Phyllis Irene Radford.

“In Guardian of the Trust, Merlin’s Descendants #2, the artist painted the cover before the editor had a chance to read the manuscript.  I love Gordon Crabb’s work, but he put a staff with a Celtic cross topper in the hands of the heroine.  That staff appeared nowhere in the book.  He got the rest right, even the color of the heroine’s tattered gown.

“When it came time for final revisions, Mme Editor called in a panic—could I insert that staff in the book somewhere?  Please, pretty please, even if I didn’t have time to finish the rest of the revisions. I gave the heroine the staff then had King John break it and throw it in the midden a few chapters later.”

Ah. All’s well that ends well . . . or in a midden, at any rate. I applaud Phyl for her ingenuity in getting rid of the unwanted artifact in a timely and plot-appropriate manner.

Next time: Blurbage—or what happens when what’s on the outside of the book doesn’t match what’s on the inside.

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About Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff

Writer of speculative fiction as the result of a horrible childhood incident involving Klaatu and a robot named Gort. Author of The Mer Cycle trilogy.
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8 Responses to There’s a Bimbo on the Cover Verse 5: The Castles of Seattle

  1. Gabriele says:

    Is the dog in the book? Because I’m totally going to check that out. Someone wanting to save King John, of all kings, sounds like an interesting premisse.

  2. There is a famous story about one of the Thomas Covenant volumes — the one where the title character is on the cover in a white choir robe. Now, Thomas Covenant’s big thing is that he always wears mundane clothing — I think it’s a black tee shirt. He never wears anything else; it’s his Superman outfit or his deerstalker cap, part of his image. However, the artist went to town with the white choir robe and it did look great. So the editors went into the ms, which Donaldson had already turned in, and added a choir-robe scene. I am tell it was a surprise, and he was livid.

  3. Phyllis Irene Radford says:

    Gabriele,

    Yes the dog is totally in the book. I had trouble keeping the dogs from stealing the show in all 5 of the series. If you have a chance to see the CD of music for the series from Heather Alexander, we did a photo shoot with Irish Wolfhounds as well. <-:

    As for King John, my research revealed that he was actually a pretty good governor, just not a great king. He's responsible for setting up a central exchequer (treasury) so the king didn't have to carry it around with him. He also established a Chancery or archives of legal precedents. He loved sitting as judge in disputes and was among the first to actually consult previous cases and laws to determine a fair verdict.

    I wrote this book during the Clinton trials and found a comparison, John's biggest crime was being caught with the 13th C equivalent of his pants down. He had difficulty trusting his barons who didn't want a strong central government and hired mercenaries instead. He rewarded his troops with land, making them barons and then they became the enemy as well. YMMV

  4. Allison says:

    I’m not a writer, but have thoroughly enjoyed this series of blogs! I’ve always been blown away by the some of the covers on Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan series that show who I assume is meant to be Miles Vorkosigan (one of my all time favorite characters), Bujold’s entire character development was based on a hero who had a birth defect that caused him to be born stunted with a crooked back. But on several of the covers he’s shown as a 6 foot tall, muscle bound soldier! One would think that the artist would at least get some idea of what they who they were supposed to be drawing…

  5. Actually, the first time I encountered Miles Vorkosigan was in Lois’ Nebula-winning “Mountains of Mourning” when it was printed in Analog.

    One of the things we talked about at the first Nebula awards I attended was the fact that Miles on the book covers is small, but elfin and trim with not a sign of a crooked anything. Lois told me then that the artist who did the Analog cover for “Mountains” got the character right.

    BTW, I think the big brawny guys are supposed to be generic Barryaran soldiers. They may be upstaging Miles—who seems to appear as a small, lithe fellow in dark clothing .. against a dark background … sort of blends in.

  6. And the Baen covers are nowhere -near- the most eyewatering Miles covers that exist. Finish swallowing your beverage and put the cup down before clicking on this link: http://www.dendarii.co.uk/Covers/German/twa_de.jpg
    Note that it is thematically absolutely correct.

  7. Allison says:

    The Baen covers are the only one’s I’ve seen, the most notable are “Miles in Love” and “A Civil Campaign”. I might be missing something, but I don’t notice anyone in the background, I think most people would assume the guy on the cover is Miles 🙂 And are you ever right about the eyewatering covers!

  8. And then there’s the small press version of my cozy mystery “Lacing up for Murder” by Irene Radford (currently OP but going elsewhere soon). The original cover depicted a sultry brunette wearing only a corset and holding a smoking gun. There are cattails in the background suggesting the water hazard on a golf course. The water hazard was the only thing right about the cover. It was gorgeous but belonged on an urban fantasy, not a cozy mystery. I refused to acknowledge the book or turn in the second in the series until the publisher changed it.