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Front Cover Review: Absolute Power

Front Cover Review: Absolute Power

Cover Review by Lyndon Hood

Absolute Power: The Helen Clark Years
By Ian Wishart
Published by Howling At The Moon

Ian Wishart, writing under his pen-name "Ian Wishart #1 bestselling author", has produced a new book cover. Clearly of the same oevre as earlier books such at 'The Divinity Code' and 'Eve's Bite' it explores the same realms of arbitrary typographical layout while continuing the Wishart stable's evolution away from the the hot-chick-with-fruit visual impact of 'Eve's Bite' toward almost total design uninterestingness.

Hence, those who may have been lead by the title to expect something like the Absolut vodka ads will be disappointed.

Most of the text is arranged down the left axis, apart from Wishart's signature random exception - in this case the subtitle arbitrarily aligned to the right, matching Helen Clark's face. The effect of the arrangement is to cunningly lead the eye towards the empty space to the left of Ms Clark's head.

This experience starts with the top tagline, "The compelling unauthorised biography of a political machine…" - the frisson of the redundant ellipsis (…) being rendered all the more piquant by the lingering suspicion that it might be three full stops side by side (...).*

The credits page attributes the concept of the cover to three people (the realisation of this vision was presumably left to the credited book designer). This confuses me, because the cover does not seem to have a concept beyond, 'Hey, let's put the title on it and have a picture of Helen Clark!' It's as if a committee of three people has come up with less than one idea.

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As the wrapping for the chronicle of one politician's descent into darkness, it doesn't even leave any particular impression. For example, the image chosen is not especially terrifying. The title character's expression is perhaps pleasant or unpleasant depending on which side of her face you look at, but I assume Mr Wishart sees the faint smile of a woman about to crush you like a (figurative) worm for inadvertently standing in her way in the (literal or figurative) corridors of power.

The cover as a whole does not really convey that idea. In fact, the angle of the Prime Minister's head gives the impression that she is, perhaps, perkily popping up from behind the outsize type of the title to say, "Peekaboo!"

The credits also assert that the book is set in Adobe Garamond Pro. Readers who get as far as the title or contents page - before purchasing or, like myself, putting down the book and moving hastily away from the display - will notice the clear involvement of another font which presumably wishes to remain nameless.

The cover is well-printed on bright stock, which not only makes for strong colours but also makes the white writing - already enhanced by the radical addition of a drop shadow - very easy to see.

The cover has sufficient protective coating to withstand much determined thumbing and sticky-note-bookmarking of its contents.

If you enjoy shiny objects, this is a cover for you.


* …says mister straight-quotes and hyphens.

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