Will iconic images recorded in the grooves of an ancient vase unite the Holy Land or rip it further apart?

THE VASE

A novel by Mark M. DeRobertis

Muhsin Muhabi is a Palestinian potter, descended from a long line of potters. His business is run from the same shop owned by his ancestors since the day his forebears moved to Nazareth. The region's conflict saw the death of his oldest son, and rogue terrorists are in the process of recruiting his youngest in their plot to assassinate the Pope and Israeli prime minister.

Professor Hiram Weiss is an art historian at Nazareth’s Bethel University. He is also a Shin Bet operative on special assignment. With the help of fellow agent, Captain Benny Mathias, he plans to destroy the gang responsible for the death of his wife and only child. He puts a bomb in the ancient vase he takes on loan from Muhsin’s Pottery Shop.

Mary Levin, the charming assistant to the director of Shin Bet, has lost a husband and most of her extended family to recurring wars and never-ending terrorism. She dedicates her life to the preservation of Israel, but to whom will she dedicate her heart - the brilliant professor from Bethel University - or the gallant captain who now leads Kidon?

Harvey Holmes, the Sherlock of Haunted Houses, is a Hollywood TV host whose reality show just flopped. When a Lebanese restaurant owner requests his ghost-hunting services, he believes the opportunity will resurrect his career. All he has to do is exorcise the ghosts that are haunting the restaurant. It happens to be located right across the street from Muhsin’s Pottery Shop.



Thursday, March 13, 2014

Book Covers--Do They Sell Books?

The quick answer to the question, Do book covers sell books? is yes. At least they used to for me. And for my brother. Well, admittedly, we were kids at the time. They don't anymore. At least not for me. But I remember once, at my school library, I was intrigued with the book covers for two books, and I borrowed them, and read one of them. The other was too advanced for an eight-year-old. The one I read was called Custer's Last Stand. It was not just about Custer's last stand, though. It was more about George Armstrong Custer, his youth, his life, and finally, his last stand.

But it was the cover that made me interested in reading it. Fortunately, I was able to, and I did. The other was a book on the French and Indian War, also known as the Seven Years War. I don't know if it was a novel, like say, The Last of the Mohicans, or what. Actually, it might just have been The Last of the Mohicans, but I was only eight, and I don't remember. I don't remember because I didn't end up reading it. I think I at least started to read it, but like I said, it was too advanced for me. But it was the cover that fascinated me.

To this day, I can remember that cover. It was a painting of a battle scene, and it featured two warriors, one being a Frenchman? not sure, because he wasn't dressed in a military uniform. It was more like he was dressed like a frontiersman, and the other was an Indian, maybe one of those Mohawk kind of Indians, and they were attacking each other, each one holding some kind of a weapon--the Frenchman holding a knife, and the Indian wielding a tomahawk.

But it was a great painting, I thought at the time, and it was sure something that drew the interest of an eight-year-old boy.

These days, you don't see covers like that. I still have the book that my brother bought because of the cover. And why wouldn't I? It was a Frank Frazetta painted cover, and the book was called Conan the Adventurer. To this day, I consider that cover one of the best covers ever made. And, interestingly, it wasn't an action scene. It was simply a painting of Conan standing atop a hill, apparently in the aftermath of a battle, and he seems to be the only survivor of that battle. There's a naked girl at his feet, but other than her, there is no one else around. Other than dead bodies strewn about, I mean.

But the essence of the character of Conan in that painting was nailed! More so than any actor ever could do in the movies made of Conan, or the TV shows. And no other artist has been able to depict the essential character of Conan, even though several have tried, including yours truly. No. Frank Frazetta was the king. And only Frazetta could paint the real Conan. Period.

But my question is do covers sell? These days, most covers seem to be a computerized pasting of photos or images that don't really look real at all. What makes me shake my head is how almost every single romance novel has a naked man on the cover. Or a shirtless, bare-chested man. Okay, so these books are for women, but is that what sells? Are women convinced a book is worth buying or reading because it has a shirtless or bare-chested man on the cover? Apparently so. I mean, by comparison, you rarely see a shirtless woman on any book cover. If you did, maybe that would convince men to buy the book, but somehow I don't think so. At least, it wouldn't for me.

For example, it wasn't the naked woman at Conan's feet that prompted my brother to buy that Conan book. And it wasn't the naked woman that intrigued me, even though I was only eight. And not now, either, as an adult man. It was that magnificent depiction of the barbarian warrior, who wasn't even fighting. He's just standing there. That's what a great cover can do. It intrigues you. And then, yeah, it will prompt sales. (Ironically, Conan is shirtless on that cover, but before anyone points fingers, Conan was almost always shirtless, because he was a barbarian from Cimmeria, and barbarians from Cimmeria, didn't usually wear shirts, okay?)
Frazetta's Conan the Adventurer
I'm talking about the greatest cover ever painted, and the point that I"m making is this: an intriguing cover--something that captures your imagination--can convince potential readers that, yeah, with a cover like that, this book is something they just have to read.
Frazetta's painting retouched
As for all these naked, or shirtless men book covers, (i.e. men who are NOT barbarians,) they dominate every single publisher's Romance line book list, and when I see them, I just shake my head. I haven't and won't ever read one of them. But, then again, I'm not a woman. Maybe if I was, I'd feel differently. But somehow, I just don't think so. For the reasons I just made clear.

What about the cover to my book, Killer of Killers? It could have had a shirtless Trent Smith on the cover. And that would possibly have drawn a lot of interest in the female readership, based on what I've been seeing out there in book covers, as I've explained. After all, Killer of Killers does have romance in it. It does have love and angst. But that's not the essence of the story. It's a story of vengeance. It's an action story, an adventure, a characterization of modern society and the ills of corruption, and what one man can do to overcome all of that. It has philosophy, too, and what happens when the principles that have been the basis for your art are not adhered to. It's all of that ... and more.
Cover to Killer of Killers
So does the Killer of Killeres cover capture that? I think it does. The skull in the background and the city skyline in the foreground, and the web to the side all have a symbolic meaning, as does the overall red and dark colorization that dominates the composition. And the font of the title. It all combines to give the impression of the deadly and dangerous path the main character Trent Smith chooses to walk. Consequences are the result of paths such as that. And when you do choose that path, you'd better be ready for those consequences. Trent Smith wasn't quite ready. But he deals with it. Buy your copy today. You'll see for  yourself.

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