Monday, December 06, 2004

KING COVERS: Roadwork (1981)

It took me years before I finally read Roadwork. It's a shame, because it's a hell of a good book.

I think most of the reason it took so long is that when I first started reading King, it was because wrote horror, and horror was about monsters and vampires and things that go bump in the night, and those things were cool, because if you liked those things you seemed dark and edgy, and that was also cool.

Roadwork was about a guy going through a bit of a midlife crisis while the city tries to tear down his house. Which wasn't very dark and edgy and was, in fact, kind of boring and middle-aged.

I finally read it a couple years ago when going through the Bachman Books again (mostly as an excuse to reread Rage, which remains one of my all time favourite King novels) and I was incredibly affected by the story of Roadwork. As the story of a man who is desperate to hang on to the things he cares most about, and willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish that, there's something for all of us to relate to, even as we watch him drive headlong to a conclusion that we know will not be a good one.

The original US release -- a paperback, as 4 out of 5 of the Bachman Books were -- has a preety standard, "No name author on the shelf of an airport bookstore" kind of look to it. Guy with gun in the background, house in foreground, impression of standoff given by the imagery. Does its job well enough, but nothing that screams brilliance.

The later US release went for a slightly more understated look, with a creepy, deathly road sign -- an effective image. It loses something for me, though, by attempting to be *too* creepy with all that green fog kinda stuff. Green fog isn't creepy. It's lame.

These covers, both from Sweden, were where I suspect the notion for the creepy, deathly road sign were stolen from. And, in my opinion, this is where they're far more effective. Simple, very eye-catching with the roadsign yellow against the stark black. I pick the version on the left as the top Roadwork cover design -- it edges out the other design from Sweden by having a better font choice.

This UK design borrows mildly from the initial Signet layout -- guy with gun, signs of a showdown, etc. The guy looks like he's wearing a trenchcoat though, which makes the character seem a bit too private dectective like for my tastes.

I only wish I could see a larger version of this cover from Japan, as it's doing something very, very right. The basic design -- with the photo, at the top, taking up only about a third of the whole cover, then just blackness below it, is a definite winner. Unfortunately, I can't quite make out what's going on in the photo. It looks, to my eye, like a road construction crew which, while appropriate, doesn't quite cut it. Which is unfortunate because once again, the Japanese designers have shown a very, very good eye.

And so we go from good to bad, with this cover from Spain, which is apparently about a guy who wants to guard his favourite strip of highway from...something. And is he wearing a California Highway Patrol uniform in that picture? Spain followed this cover up with...

...this one, which appears to imply that the fellow in the California Highway Patrol outfit is now road pizza. It's a better cover than the last one, certainly, but still missing something.

And now we go from bad to worse. I don't even know what to say about this cover from Belgium. Is that a...zombie?

I just...ah, I can't take anymore. Let's get this over with.

On the left we have a cover from Bulgaria which, near as I can tell, has nothing to do with the novel in question and appears to have had its design inspired by the cover of The Stand. On the right a cover from Italy which prompts me to simply say: "Just because it has the word ROAD in the title does not mean you have to show cars on the cover."

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is all I've got to say about that.

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