Book Covers & Badasses

Today Rob Thurman released the new Cal Leandros cover. She is rightfully excited about it.

Okay, yeah, this cover’s pretty cool.

And there’s a lot to be excited about: the flying glass, the hair sweep, the handcuffs, the blood, the composition and movement, the gun…. No, not the gun.

The gun’s what jarred me out of the cover’s mood when I first saw this. Not because I don’t like dark sexy guys with guns (who doesn’t?), but because I like my dark sexy guys to be good at what they do.

There are only 4 rules to handling a firearm safely and competently. On this cover, our hero is breaking at least 2 and maybe 3 of them. This is even more of a problem when Cal is specifically written to be a skilled gun enthusiast.

When a character doesn’t know how to handle a weapon he’s holding, he doesn’t look badass, he looks incompetent. And while I’m absolutely going to be scared of an incompetent person holding a firearm, that’s probably not the vibe the artist was going for.

Now, I certainly don’t mean to pick on Rob Thurman, who of course doesn’t do her cover art. I hope to meet her someday and be able to tell her in person how I’ve enjoyed her work. She happened to tweet her cover today, but it’s wholly unfair of me to call her out, because her covers certainly aren’t alone in this.

Honestly, most book covers and film posters with guns (and bows, and swords, and the like) depict protagonists doing things they wouldn’t do or had darned well better not be doing in real life. (I’m looking at you, every fantasy/historical cover with a longbow strung unnecessarily, and that cover featuring an over-sized sword resting on the hero’s shoulder — on the edge, to better display the blade — oh, for the love….) And don’t even get me started on most any book cover including a horse…!

And this is sad, because it wouldn’t have taken any more effort to have Cal’s finger indexed along the gun frame in this otherwise-snazzy picture, it would have resulted in a more universally-pleasing picture without sacrificing any action-coolness, and, just maybe, it would help prevent the cultural ingraining of really dangerous habits.

We know writers need to research their material if they want to write credible work. Pretty please, artists and photographers and creators of all sorts, if you’re going to do professional work, could you please research it beyond looking at a movie or picture done by someone else who didn’t actually check up on it, either?


Nightlife, by Rob Thurman, first in the Cal Leandros series. Urban fantasy full of supernatural monsters and angsty guys with titanium fraternal bonds — my kind of thing. :)

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