Tuesday, May 17, 2016
Damsels in Distress: Mystery Bookcovers of A Certain Sort
Back in the day, many mystery covers were decorated with views of attractive women in various forms of acute (and occasionally not so acute) distress (okay, some of them looked as if all they were suffering from was a bad headache, but still...). Supposedly, women in peril artwork (still popular today, let's face it) serves to entice the book-buying public. Though I've often found this selling point a bit confusing since it's well known that women read and buy more mysteries and perils of pauline stories than men do. (At least I remember reading this somewhere.) And why would women be attracted to covers which showcase their fair sex in anguished scenarios? (Whether the cover has anything to do with the actual story within is a question for another day.)
One would think that a cowering dame on the cover would turn off the female purchaser. But apparently not.
Maybe back then men were, in general, the major book-buying target. Though that doesn't explain the many MANY gothic romance covers showing women running from houses in the dead of night SO popular in the 50's and 60's.
It's all a muddle to me and that is why I am not a publishing kingpin.
P.S. I've only read two of the books in this post, Agatha Christie's DESTINATION UNKNOWN (aka SO MANY STEPS TO DEATH) and Christianna Brand's DEATH OF JEZEBEL and yes, both were women in peril stories - though one more than the other. Both by the way, are highly recommended by me.