Thursday, January 19, 2006

Covers again

Again! I'm probably starting to resemble that querulous and worrying type, the old fashioned British "enthusiast". Ahem. But don't worry, this is the last bit on falconry book covers. And I promise not to continue by enumerating 1930s train timetables, or explaining at length the wing formulae of tricky western palearctic warblers.

But I like these covers. They are funny. Because falconers are an intransigent and self-willed bunch, and so are publishers. These covers are often the debris left behind after a pitched antler-locking, sword-swinging battle between the two. Sometimes one wins, sometimes the other. Sometimes, one suspects, they both gave up, stormed out, and left the design to the 16 year old work-experience kid.

They didn't with this one. It's beautiful:

That's because no falconers were involved. Richard Blome has been dead for a very long time. It's also unusual in that this is a falconry book with a green cover that DOESN'T have the title in bright red. Bright Red Letters on Green Background = Hurt Eyes/Unreadable Title. Both not so good for the impulse buyer. Should I buy this book? What's it about? Ow!

The second one is funny, too: look at that Very Cross Falcon. Someone removed the astroturf cover from the top of her perch, and she's sitting in the hole.

Right, on to another rare example of a green falconry book without a red title. And this one's just great. Pretty much the model of a good falconry book cover. The no nonsense title: Falconry Basics. And your basic model falconry bird, too: red-tail. Admittedly, looking a little less than happy; but I guess that's the state most beginners see red-tails in, most of the time. Helpful.

No idea what the book is like. I've never read it. My loss, I suspect. OK, here's the British version.

I think William's made a mistake, here, putting a common buzzard on the cover. It's British, yes. But seeing as us British falconers only fly captive-bred hawks, why not a bird that actually CATCHES things?

I've spent a lot of time tetchily putting up with digs from American falconers about our 'puny buzzards'. True. True. American has red-tails. Redtails will haul down hares the size of dogs, chase squirrels around treetrunks and slam through six foot deep briars to catch rabbits. Here, in Britain, we have common buzzards. Like this one. I flew one when I was a very young falconer. It caught nothing. In desperation, I once cast it off into a leafy oak overlooking a field full of young rabbits, and hid. HID! It looked confused for a while, craning its neck trying to see me, and then started mewing piteously. Where are you? What am I doing here? And then it actually came looking for me. Pee-yow...pee-yow...the mournful cry of an insecure partially-imprinted common buzzard. So I'm never going to read this book, Lee William Harris, because I wanted a redtail when I was a kid, and I never got one.


OK, so I should do more work now. But here's a delightful case of a book cover that, alas, is entirely laughable, even though it's absolutely beautiful and has been designed and produced with obvious care. Answers why it's so laughable, anyone?


Matt Mullenix said...

Um, is it the grouse hawking? :-)

You may not know that red grouse were actually IMPORTED to the British Isles by early AMERICAN falconers. You see? It all makes sense!

(I'm very much enjoying your blog.)

pluvialis said...

Fantastic bit of ecological revisionism. We took them with good grace. And we exported back all of our smaller goshawks...hehe ;)
Nice to hear from you Mr Mullenix & look forward to much banter!

Heidi the Hick said...

uh, my guess would have been that the big bird is a pigeon. I have much to learn...! I assure you when I am a published novellist there won't be any green + red covers!

Benjamin said...


you've just made my day. I flicked over to your blog from Steve Bodio's and found a shiny picture of one of our recent publications at the top of your covers list!

I run Read Country Books ( -cough- plug -cough-) and we've just republished the Blome book. I'm delighted you liked it and I'll pass your comments on to my design genius). If you haven't got a copy, email me and I'll send you one. If you've already got a copy, still email me and I'll send you our next falconry book.
Love the blog. (and I must admit that I'm a huge Firefly geek too.)