Friday, June 26, 2009

Ebooks and Self-Publishing, some thoughts

There has been a lot of conversation on the net regarding self-pubbing, ebooks and associated attitudes from various writer’s organizations. I ‘spect some independent publishers are also conversing with their counterparts on the subject.

I think it’s fair to consider self-publishing print materials such as novels, short stories and non-fiction as one kind of business model. There are success stories and failures, just as is the case with the publishing of print materials. I also believe that epublishing is simply another kind of business model. None of these models are inherently good or bad, in terms of product quality.

An author who makes a rational decision to self-publish should be neither derided nor congratulated and wouldn’t be if folks on the sidelines were less emotional and more prone to pragmatism. The same should be true of decisions to publish via electronic means instead or in addition to traditional paper. Self-publishing puts a work into the realm of individual investment of time, talent and money. Publishing with a press that requires an investment of funds by the author should likewise be neither condemned nor applauded. It is the product that should count.

I don’t understand why it’s okay for a musician or a band to produce and distribute its own music via CDs or a website, but it’s not okay for an author to do the same.

If an author takes on the production of his or her work using the same or higher standards of quality in the editing and production of a given work, as the standards set by a business called “publisher,” why cannot the result be judged using the same standards? Instead, the work is largely ignored and the focus of most negative criticism falls on the decision regarding how to publish. Moreover, most of the critical comments are couched in broad terms. We read constantly, often from sources that insist they don’t read ebooks or self-pubbed work, that such work is inferior, not worth time and effort. How do these people know that? If you press them they’ll suggest that a long time ago they read an ebook, or a self-pubbed novel and it was really bad.

That kind of discrimination—which is exactly what it is—is injurious to our society.

Right now there is a kind of upheaval in several national organizations relative to policies regarding membership and association linked to the decisions regarding how a book is published. Interestingly much of the negative rhetoric is similar in nature and tone, if not identical. One could almost believe there is a small group of individuals who are dedicated to stamping out publishing business models which do not conform to “the way it has always been done.”

I don’t believe in conspiracies. Restraint of trade is a nasty way to interact with the Federal Government and can be very costly. Conspiracies to defraud are almost always found out, sooner or later.

What I really wish is that more time and energy would be spent helping authors to understand the business models that exist, their advantages and disadvantages, so that those who are unlearned in these areas could be guided away from the scam artists, the thieves and robbers who would take your money and deliver nothing. Or maybe there are and I just haven’t run across them yet. Maybe distribution is at fault. Which reminds me of an incident to illustrate my points.

As a reviewer of mystery fiction, a self-pubbed author once verbally attacked me when I read and reviewed her work but refused to submit it to the newspapers for which I was freelancing at the time. Before I read the book, I had determined that the paper would not print my review of the book because it was not available in local bookstores. That was their policy. Not set by me, but I was quickly perceived by the author to be the barrier. I was standing in the way of her success. She assumed it was my fault that the book would not receive local coverage. This author should have done some research into marketing and promotion before she elected to self-pub the novel. What newspaper is going to devote space to any author whose books are not available in local bookstores?

Authors need to learn in detail about the business model they wish to use and professional author organizations like RWA, MWA, Sisters In Crime and EPIC could provide great service to authors by concentrating efforts to help their members learn what they need to know for success, instead of squabbling over whether e-books are legitimate and whether publically admitting to having self-pubbed is a death knell for a writing career.

Woe betide the author who believes e-publishing and self-publishing are simply neat ways to get around the costs of fact-checking, copy and line editing, content editing and professional cover and book design.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


Ransom Stephens wrote about the death(?) of the book. at www.opendemocracy.The bold statments below are quotes from his article.

I sent the reference to several people and here’s a thoughtful response from
A friend who knows whereof he writes. Michael Kac is a linguist and musician, as well as a fine writer.

In 1977, Ken Olson, President of Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) which, at the time, built the best computing hardware, said, "There is no need for any individual to have a computer in their home."

Interesting because it points to a widespread but false presumption, namely that the concept of need is absolute and clear-cut. I doubt very seriously that the personal computer arose because people were saying ‘You know what I need? I need to be able to have my own computer sitting on my desk at home.’ I bought my first desktop computer, an Apple II, not because I needed it but because I wanted to learn to program and felt it would be more convenient to be able to do so at home on my own schedule than through the University of Minnesota’s facilities. At the store where I bought it they made a big deal about the word-processing program, which was of no interest to me whatsoever (I felt that my trusty old Royal standard would do me just fine, thank you very much) and the Internet lay several years in the future. I didn’t even buy a printer — I didn’t think I’d ever need one. Well, times change. Today I couldn’t live without Microsoft Word, e-mail and the Web. But I didn’t start needing those things until they became available.

Publishers' role as the gatekeepers of quality has always been dubious. Do book buyers have brand loyalty? Do you check the publisher before buying a book?

Very interesting point. I never thought about that before. There is brand loyalty, but it’s to authors, not publishers.

Once we jump the low hurdle of spelling, grammar and minimal storytelling skill, literary merit is nearly as subjective as your favorite color.

Hmmmm … If my own experience is any guide, spelling and grammar are huge hurdles. (Indeed, the very article to which I’m responding has a number of mistakes — like whither for wither and wakeup for wake up.) But don’t get me started …

The publishing company that turns the corner, leaving the Six Sisters in the dust, will leave quality control to authors - even grammar and spelling.

The Six Sisters, along with everybody else, have already left grammar and spelling to authors. Copy editing is a thing of the past.

The obvious candidates include Yahoo and Amazon, but I think they are already too big and stodgy to make the move; Google has everything necessary on its place, but might be too fragmented to make the move; the big self-publishing companies Lulu and iUniverse are well positioned but might be too burdened by the "vanity press" label to emerge. Right now, I think the smart money is on

Why? Leave aside the fact that I never heard of them until just now (I freely admit to being out of so many loops that I don’t even know which ones I’m out of) — my perusal of the site revealed nothing that made me think ‘Oh, yeah, this guy’s obviously right.’ So where does his confidence come from? (Seriously, I’m genuinely curious! Someone please enlighten me.)

It turns out that the 80/20 rule is wrong. It's more of a 40/20 game.

What am I missing here? What happened to the other 40%?

Those who haven’t already heard me expound on the topic might be interested in comparing book publishing with recording. There are some interesting similarities and also some interesting — I would say fascinating — differences.

Perhaps the most striking difference is that there is, as far as I can discern, absolutely no stigma whatsoever associated with self-produced, self-released musical recordings. I’ve lived in both words, recording with a label back in the 1960’s, when there was really no alternative, and, more recently, going the do-it-yourself route (which I much prefer). Today nobody cares if you’re signed to a label or not; as someone with a big-selling self-produced CD once said ‘Nobody knows it’s not a real record.’ Will book publishing go this way as well? There are some signs that it’s already doing so, at least within niches whose occupants have a high degree of cohesion and talk to each other all the time. Sci-fi and fantasy writers are particularly favored in this regard, and my bet is that mystery writers are soon going to be (if they aren’t already).

Here’s a hypothesis about why, in the end, writers will — at least in the early going — become more like independent musicians. I’m convinced that in the statistical main most people who write books or play music do so not for the money but for the attention. Why is practically every male human on the planet in a band? Answer: so he can get laid! How much slaving at a day job is it worth for the chance to get up on a stage at night and hear applause? Answer: a lot. (Take it from one who knows.)

Few musicians are deterred by the low likelihood of ever really making a living, let alone getting rich, from what they do. And there’s always that chance, however small, of the Big Break that will change everything. I doubt that writers are much different. And as for having to continue to hold down a day job, well, Mussorgsky composed Boris Godunov and Pictures at an Exhibition while working as a petty government bureaucrat and Charles Ives made his living (and got rich) in the insurance business. Anthony Trollope and P.D. James are analogues on the literary side.

Perhaps the best part of the deal is that even small amounts of attention translate into great huge gobs of gratification. Half a dozen people in a coffeehouse can feel like an enormous crowd if they’re attentive and enthusiastic. And even a few buyers of an on-demand book can make you think that the effort of writing it was worthwhile.

There is, however, one major difference. Musicians are performers; writers are not. I reach many more people with the live shows I play every couple of weeks or so than I do via my Web site or Myspace page. (I know, I know, the Internet gives me access to a much greater audience, but that potential gets realized only at the point at which enough people acquire a reason to log on.) When I get on stage at a coffeehouse, everybody who’s there knows about me — whether or not I’m the reason they came in the first place. Writers don’t have that kind of a platform.

The main value that the Internet has for me right now is as a gig-generating machine. If I’m interested in playing somewhere I e-mail the establishment with a link to the audio samples on my Web site. The recipient can, with a click of the mouse, immediately hear what I sound like. Sometimes deafening silence is all I get in return, but often enough I get an answer within a few days saying ‘When can you come?’ I don’t know of anything comparable in the writing world, though who knows? Maybe some clever soul will figure something out. God knows, there are enough clever souls out there, and the really clever ones tend to make things happen. And when they do it’s often because they look outside the world they know into a different one and suddenly see possibilities never before considered.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


We recently sat down for a conversation with an author who is one of the quickest men with a quip that I know. I asked, he answered--mostly. Yes of course! We are actually a thousand miles apart. Never mind, here's what he had to say.

When someone asks you what kind of book do you write? What’s your answer?
(The famous elevator speech)

True crime, mysteries, thrillers -- pop culture -- movie tie-ins, the stuff you see on your supermarket shelves.

Have I ever read anything you've written?

Yes, and you loved it.

When did you know you were going to be a mystery writer?

When I was in Junior High School, now termed Middle School, I wrote my first mystery. By the time I was 16, I “knew” that someday I would write about Maverick and The Saint. I was right.

Tell us a little bit about your family background.

I was born and raised in Walla Walla, the youngest of three kids. My sister, Jan Curran, is an author and retired journalist; all four of her kids are authors (Lee & Tod Goldberg; Linda Woods & Karen Dinino). My brother Stan is a retired attorney and Regent at the University of Washington. His daughter has a PR firm, and his son, a relentless entrepreneur, just invested his efforts in a forthcoming child with his lovely wife.

My mom was a former newspaper woman, and my father ran a scrap metal business. Both parents are gone now.

What is your educational background?

I graduated from Walla Walla High School, then attended the University of Washington.
Talk a bit about your present family situation.
Presently I am single, have two adult offspring―a daughter, Anea, who is a data rock star in Austin for AMD, and a son, Jordan, who works for Fred Meyer. Happily, my previous spouse, Britt Barer, and I get along fine.

What did you read as a child?

As a child? Dick, Jane, Spot...then Hardy Boys, followed by The Saint books by Leslie Charteris, and one of the great all time social satire books, Harry Vernon at Prep by Franc D. Smith. Naturally I read all the hot parts of whatever naughty books were in circulation at the time.

What surprised you most about the writing community once you became a part of it?
What pleasantly surprised me the most was the incredible kindness and generosity of other authors. I recall when my first book came out -- the one for which I received the Edgar -- I was seated at Left Coast Crime next to Larry Block. Well, he had a line of fans from here to Modesto; I sat there playing with my pen. Heck, even if they wanted my book, it was bargain priced at about $55.00. Not exactly a price point inducement for purchase. He was kind and supportive of my situation. I had fun with Larry in a literary way by inventing books by him that don't actually exist. These books are featured in my fiction book, HEADLOCK. For example, he is credited with having the first mass market paperback to extra money via title product placement: “The Burglar who had Butterfingers.”

A few years later we were featured together on the Smart Ass Authors panel at B-Con, and that was great fun. There are so many wonderful writers who have been good to me—from GM Ford and Tony Fennelly to Meg Chittenden and Sparkle Hayter and so many more!

What’s the hardest thing about being an author?
Making money.

Let’s talk about promotion and marketing.
Sure, let's talk about that! I have been called the King of BSP -- Blatant Self Promotion, often to the aggravation of other, more shy authors. When at conventions, I hawk my books with all the subtlety of a Vegematic salesman at the State Fair. I make Mr. Sham-Wow seem taciturn.

Do you blog? How frequently? Is your blog a group or single effort?
Yes, I have more blogs and sites than I keep track of. Primarily I use and These automatically hype the new posts on Facebook.

How frequently do you organize or participate in book tours?
I have never organized a book tour. I can't even organize my desk. I will gladly tour. I'm easy. I'll go around the world on my first date. I have not done an extensive tour since 2000. I have been bouncing back and forth between Los Angeles, Seattle, and Austin, Texas...but I don't know if that would qualify as touring.

What’s your daily routine when you aren’t touring?
I am on tour 24/7―I tour from here to the 7/11 and back. Then I tour on the bus to see friends. On Saturdays I take my tour to to do TRUE CRIMES with co-host Don Woldman.
Basically, I sit in front of the computer and avoid writing. I send email, surf the net..and when all else fails, I write. Oh, I do take breaks to watch movies.

What kind of events or signings do you do?
I'll do any event, and I'll sign anything. Sometimes I sign Sidney Sheldon's books. Sid is too busy to do them all himself. I have done some signings with my nephews, Lee and Tod Goldberg, but it has been a while.

In a typical year, how many times did you appear for your book?
Well, if you count Metro Transit, several times a week. actually, I appear every week on the TRUE CRIMES radio show, and on Matt Alan's Outlaw Radio. I will also be on SNAPPED on the Oxygen Network in October for the Season Finale discussing my book, MOM SAID KILL. I will also be on Investigation Discovery's DEADLY WOMEN in December discussing the strange case of Rhonda Glover and Jimmy Joste, the subjects of my forthcoming book.
How many fan conferences such as Bouchercon will you typically attend in a year?
I used to attend Bouchercon and Left Coast Crime every year, as I had a new book to promote every year. There was a gap between BROKEN DOLL and MOM SAID KILL, and a financial gap as well, so I have not attended recently. I loved particpating in the Palm Springs event a year or so ago. I was scheduled for two panels in Las Vegas. The second day, the taxi driver got lost. I had him stop at a pay phone so I could call and get him directions, and he drove off and left me standing in a service station parking lot! I'm sure that cost me several reputation points. I reported him to the taxi company, and I think his career suffered more than mine.

Now, however, with BROKEN DOLL and MOM SAID KILL selling briskly, the radio show gaining popularity, my monthly presence on In Cold Blog, and another book coming out next year, I will be attending events again.

Any specific recommendations?
Courtesy is always in style.

Do you have a web site and/or other Internet places you routinely participate in, such as Good Books or Face Book or Twitter? List them.
and several other Ning social networks related to crime and crime blogging.

Do you like to travel?
I LOVE to travel!

What surprised you the most when you became a published author?
I was surprised that authors don't have groupies such as the ones who pursue rock stars and famous actors, or even disc jockeys. Never be an author to pick up chicks.

Do you think you’ll change direction or spread out a bit? Write a different kind of crime novel? If so, what kind.?
It has been my literary dream to do new things in different genres. I believe I accomplished that with THE SAINT: A Complete History, MAVERICK, MAN OVERBOARD, and HEADLOCK (crime fiction). The true crime books I do for Pinnacle are research intensive, follow a rigid template, and do not offer much opportunity for literary experimentation.
I hope to have some fun with new SAINT novels and short stories once there is a market for them. If the forthcoming SAINT TV show goes well, the market will be there. Also, I intend sequels to HEADLOCK, my Jeff Reynolds, PI mystery series.

Especially since 9/11, how do you respond to the accusation that you are trying to make money on a phenomenon in society we call murder? Or heinous crime?
I don't think 9/11 made much difference in the never ending accusation that true crime writers are bottom feeders. This is, of course, nonsense. True crime is a much maligned genre written by underpaid authors. Every true crime book is an emotionally and socially dangerous enterprise. The families of victims either love you or hate you, as do the families of the killers. I get hate mail from both, and sometimes the same person who sends me hate mail will, years later, send me a thank you letter and an apology.

I wrote a fiction story, GIVING SHELTER, written from the perspective of a psychopath. I am not a psychopath, honest. I am not a serial killer. But I have had people regard me as such because I write about serial killers. The map is not the territory. The actor is not the character. As an author, I want to create characters that resonate as real to the reader. Jack Olsen said I wrote so realistically that the characters leap off the page. That sounds rather scary, considering some of the characters' social habits.

If you could be anything else in the world, have any other career, what would it be?

When I was a youngster there were people on TV who, it seemed to me, were famous for being famous. That sounded fantastic to me. I would like to earn a living by being famous simply for being famous.

What career would you least like to do, if writing was to become impossible?

Work in a fabric store or a crafts store. For some reason, I almost panic in those places. I have sold fine jewelry, however, and enjoyed it tremendously.

Have you ever collaborated on a novel? Would you consider it?
Yes, I collaborated on a novel (unpublished) with someone who wasn't a writer. I would love to collaborate with someone who is a writer. I did contribute to one of Lee Goldberg's pulp fiction novels that he wrote under an assumed name. I helped him with one of the sex scenes. He was, at that time, not as experienced with that topic as he has since, no doubt, become. When his Nana complained that the book was nothing but sex and violence, Lee wisely shifted the blame to my brother and me. My brother deflected criticism by insisting that he only helped Lee with the legal/courtroom scenes. When Mom called me, she asked How could you pervert your little nephew that way?
I told her Mom, I only helped him write one sex scene, honest!
She replied, It was the one with the ice-cream wasn't it? She was right. It was.

Who are the authors who you feel have had the most influence on your writing career.
Leslie Charteris, Jack Olsen, and Franc Smth.

Tell us one or two authors or books you absolutely universally recommend.
Last Man Standing by Jack Olsen. (Incredible!)
Saint's Getaway by Leslie Charteris
anything by my family members and friends!
Who is your favorite mystery author?
Leslie Charteris

Where do you want your career to go?
To the bank.

To what organizations related to your writing career do you belong?
Mystery Writers of America
Authors Guild

Who is your publisher? What’s your current book?

Kensington Publishing's PINNACLE TRUE CRIME imprint.
Most recent book: MOM SAID KILL
I'm working now on another true crime book, but it doesn't have a title.

Are you agented?

I was. I am looking now for new representation to handle both literary and film/tv

If you could change one thing about the world what would that be?
Replace disunity with unity.

Do you have any pithy (or other) words of advice for aspiring authors?


Tell us about your next or upcoming book or other project.
I am currently working with Dr. Ata Egrari on a little book about life, science and the future entitled How Big is the Moon? (and other questions)
Recently finished working with Thomas Hodgins on The World According to Fraser, a memoir about how he responded when his best friend was suddenly afflicted with schizophrenia. It is, I must admit, a delightful book filled with humor, insight, and valuable information for anyone with a friend or family member afflicted with any form of mental illness.
I am also in the middle of a project of high international sensitivity. It is an historical document, of sorts, which I am not at liberty to discuss, but something about which I am very proud, and will be of significant value to future generations in understanding one of the most volatile social upheavals in modern history.

On a more commercial front, I am at the half-way mark of a new true crime book. I have also been asked to consult on the new SAINT TV project. My knowledge and understanding of the character, while not at the level of Templar's creator, is firmly established. Hence, my suggestions are every bit as influential in the development of this project as were his in the development of previous projects.

Private Eye Fred Wolfson and I have some projects in the works -- one in France, and one in USA -- but nothing is real until the check clears the bank.
New Saint novels, and new Jeff Reynolds mysteries are on the back burner until my current true crime book is completed in August.

Thanks, Burl, I hope to see you in line at the bank.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


Some Like It Red Hot
by Robin Merrill
Acacia Publishing, Inc
ISBN: 978-0-9774-306-4-2
2008, Trade Paper, 276 pages

Lotsimina Hannon (Lotsi to her intimates) is forced by an evil corporate empire to retire before her time. Lotsi, for want of something else to do, decides to start a whole new life. What better way to do so than buy an old RV and a new motorcycle and hit the road? The fact that she’s never in her life driven either a large recreational vehicle or a high-powered motorcycle is no deterrent.

Since she’s looking for a little excitement in her new life, she heads to Las Vegas, home of opulent RV parks, saunas and hot tubs. And men. Oh yes. Older and retired, but far from sedentary, Lotsi has the heart and the attitudes of a much younger woman. You might say the fires are low but still burning. All it takes is a delectable hunk with the wit and the knowledge of the desires of the more mature woman, and a certain level of experience, to bring those embers to a raging inferno. It also may be said that starting a relationship in a hot tub can get things off to a quick start.

Then of course, murder and associated chicanery intrudes and Lotsi is forced into a game of clues, a game that soon turns deadly. What’s worse, Lotsi becomes a target of the killers even while desperately learning to ride the motorcycle and speed out of trouble.

Smartly written, with tongue firmly planted in cheek, author Merrill presents a romp through the RV culture with pokes at aging baby boomers that is just askew enough to keep you reading and chuckling all the way along. While the story is realistically presented with enough straight and freaky characters to keep readers guessing, this frank romantic mystery is not aimed at fans of the realistic or the noir. A fun read. I hope the author is able to bring us further adventures of the mature.

Monday, June 08, 2009

UNCAGE ME: The Monsters among us

Uncage Me
ISBN: 078-1-60648-015-1
Editor, Jen Jordan
Bleak House Press.
Hard Cover, $24.95,
295 pages, 2009

This is a collection of short fiction about the monsters around us. Make no mistake, they are all around us. Monsters. It’s just that they act and even look like ordinary people. Like you and me. Mostly. But inside they aren’t the same as we. Are you?

Twenty-two stories, dark, bleak, unsettling, yet many are affirming in odd ways. You find yourself unaccountably rooting for whoever the central character is, even while you know that the end result may be—is likely to be—mayhem, murder along with painful destruction. Definitely not for the faint of heart.

Twenty-two stories in five sections: The section headings are a useful indicator: Love Me, Lie to Me (Or Yourself), Get Back at Me, Fetishize Me, Destroy Me. Like any anthology, there are stories by some popular writers in the mystery community and by relative unknowns. Like most anthologies, the power and the quality of the stories is uneven. But all are moving, probing and persist in poking at raw basic emotions and attitudes; at emotions that are among the fundamentals of human existence. Attitudes are here in considerable variety, in all the colors of the visible spectrum. We all know that individuals vary widely in their world views. Authors are not immune from such variety. Whether the stories in this anthology are successful in changing some readers remains to be seen, of course, but there is definitely power here. and these stories have the potential to illuminate variances in our perceptions of the world around us as well. This is the mark of good literature, to not shy away from the bitter, from the blackness that often besets us. One can, I suppose, go to lengths to avoid that which challenges us, that which makes us exceedingly uncomfortable. One should, in my view, at least occasionally step outside our individual comfort zones. Put a toe in the icy water.

Some of these stories are deeply disturbing, “Fire Girl,” by Victor Gishler, “Ten Gallons of Infected Saliva,” by Scott Phillips. Others, not so, but the attraction of the collection is that each story is likely to affect the reader in wildly different ways. Whatever that may result, Uncage Me is a thoughtful collection worthy of careful attention. The collection is for the most part well-written and well-edited. I’m not prepared to offer an opinion as to whether the stories are well-chosen. Readers will decide. But you need to be ready to park your middle class attitudes about life and human relationships at the curb if you are going to truly appreciate these stories. When you park, be careful you don’t step in the blood running in the gutter.

On the other hand, you’re free to shut the door on stories like these. In my view readers who avoid this anthology will miss some powerfully visceral literary experiences. This is a challenging collection. An anthology with attitude. However, choice is what we’re all about, right? Just watch out for the ghoul hanging off your right shoulder there.

Friday, June 05, 2009


Author: Bill Pronzini
Publisher: Walker & Company.
ISBN: 0-8027-7560-8
Price: $8.95 (hard cover)
pub. date: 1999
257 pages

This is another of Bill Pronzini’s intensive, commanding, explorations of current social ideas and concerns which move a national colloquy in many forums. But this is not a social treatis full of statistics. This is a moving, intense, crime novel, that will captivate and enthrall the reader. Take one large, dangerous looking, individual, John Faith, by name. He’s a traveler, a seeker, a man on the move. Insert this stranger into a small resort community during the off season. This community happens to be in northern California, but such are the author’s skills, it could be anywhere. It could be your hometown.

John Faith is the immediate object of suspicion, because he’s a stranger and he doesn’t look like he belongs. His presence gradually reveals and widens long-standing cracks in the comfortable, biased attitudes and ideas of almost everyone in town. Why has this man come to town? What are his motives? His answers are enigmatic, and even at the end we are left with questions. John Faith’s encounters with the police chief, the bigoted lake-side resort owner, some local Native Americans, and a bartender or two, are like pebbles dropped in a placid pool. The ripples expand and expand until they reach the edge of the pool and die. Except in this case, the ripples grow larger, intersect and become irresistible waves that begin to tear at the base fabric of the town.

This psychological thriller is tightly plotted, and intricately presented. It’s pace is irresistible. “A Wasteland of Strangers” is a thoughtful, satisfying crime novel. Artist Doug Henry has presented a handsome, evocative cover illustration. Highly recommended.