Tag Archives: Mystery

Business As Usual

The “Nick and Nora Charles” of academia.

Two amateur detectives are pulled into a web of deceit and violence involving corrupt politicians and the illegal cross-border dumping of toxic waste. There’s some Mafia talk too.

The author suggested using barrels somehow, and instead of going photographic, I turned to a simple graphic.

I always find it interesting how titles come to be. Here is the passage that explains the phrase and how it applies to the plot: When you see something you don’t want to see, just pretend you didn’t see it. It was part of some kind of law. David called it the Law of Ontological Inertia. Lives in motion along certain paths tend to stay in motion along precisely those paths. Unless some terrific force intervenes. Also known, he said, as business as usual.

 See more

Queen’s Park

Ebooks need covers too.

I just gave Garry Ryan‘s first two Detective Lane Mysteries fresh faces in time for their Kobo debuts. I hope the books will be reprinted one day too, if only for the deep designerly satisfaction that will come from lining up the matching spines on my shelf.

The aesthetic for the series is being pieced together book by book, keeping with the same greyscale photographic approach and hairline type as the latest instalments, SMOKED and MALABARISTA.

(See the original Queen’s Park cover that was published by NeWest Press in 2004.)

(See the 2006 cover here.)

 See more


Award-winning mystery writer, Garry Ryan follows up SMOKED with another Detective Lane adventure. Malabarista is the Spanish word for street performer or juggler, and an appropriate metaphor for Lane’s latest role handling the new obstacles thrown his way.

And so, another comical photo shoot involving myself as the only available/willing model, a tripod, a timer, a ring cut out of black cardboard, and the realization that juggling is rather difficult.

 See more

Murder in the Chilcotin

For the third book in Roy Innes’ mystery series, I etched the cover image and title into an inked board using various pointy objects:

The interior chapter numbers are also carved by hand, based on FF Quadraat by Fred Smeijers.

I designed the last installment in 2007 using the same illustration technique. The setting is important in both books, so I found a way to describe two contrasting environments in a similar visual rhetoric: Downtown Vancouver and the cattle ranching district of West Caribou, British Columbia.


 See more

From Ice to Ashes

I just came across one of my discarded cover mockups for this thriller novel. I never presented it to the publisher because of the questionable readability in the title. But I like the texture (created by scanning in crumpled saran wrap over top of the type)


 See more


No blood, weapons, or other cliche imagery allowed.

The cover mocks take different visual approaches to the same concept, using matches to tie in with the title and suggest a potentially precarious situation.

The cover of Smoked was recently acknowledged as one of Lambda Literary’s best book covers of 2010. (Residing humbly in the list among some really impressive work by Rodrigo Corral Design, Jason Booher, Eric Hanson, and Chip Kidd.)

We came up with a fun but potentially perilous marketing strategy: matchbooks.

More matchbooks here!

 See more

A Magpie’s Smile

I recently designed the jacket and interior for a chronological police thriller written by Eugene Meese that takes place in Calgary in the 1970s. I shot the cover photo using a magpie feather I found in my backyard, bending it to create the concave shape. The word “smile” in the title block was sculpted out of floss (a little facetious maybe) and is accompanied by the typeface Galliard, which was designed by Matthew Carter in 1978 and later licensed by ITC.

It’s always a challenge to make a mystery cover that evokes a sense of suspense without falling into that conventional clichéridden thriller category. (No blood, bullet holes or all caps necessary.)

 See more