Friday, September 22, 2006


Here's another mystery cover, done for a Berkley book of the same title by Bruce Alexander. It is the last of his Sir John Fielding Mysteries, sadly the author has died. I was asked to create an image that looked like a period painting, but gets across the mood and hints at the story. The series is set in Regency times, but involves a young investigator who works for and is the 'eyes' for the blind Sir John. There's a nice mix of views of the better side of London society and the really seamy underbelly of dark streets, danger and shady characters. The story begins with the discovery of a murdered child and that's the scene I was asked to do.
I started by doing a lot of research into early photos of London, but they don't really exist from this early on. Photography really started to be a real device for recording scenes in the 1840s, while this story is set around 1815. there were later pictures of the Thames area, but by then the character had changed quite a bit, so I extrapolated from photos taken a little north of london back in the 1870s which showed smaller buildings and a little more humble waterfront. To these I added a faint St. Paul's on the opposite shore, and populated it with figures and a cart. The figures were all made up, using reference of workers and fishmongers in old photos, with one especially important figure, the fishmonger on the right sadly carrying the bundle containing the dead child.
It's an incredibly gloomy scene! You can almost smell the coal smog. I was worried that the art dierctor would hate it, saying it was too dark and to lighten thisngs up, give it a blue sky,etc. Surprisingly, they went for it, maybe because it conveyed the mood of the story.
I used the horsecart, the most foreground object in the scene, to draw the eye in and then over the diagonal line of the road to the man and his bundle. So, rather than just see a gloomy old painting, the mind is curious. Just what is going on here?


Sally said...

It's gloomy and I get a feeling of dusk or early morning, a chilly feeling. Nicely done.

james Griffin said...

Thanks for your comment, Sally!

Kathy said...

It's a fabulously done painting but it's spooky too. I get the feeling Jack the Ripper is gonna junp out any minute.

james Griffin said...

Thanks, Kathy! I know what you mean about Jack the Ripper. There's something fun about reading a good mystery, even if it's kreepy. One that I read recently fits that description. It's called Devil In The White City. Really good, kreepy and, even worse, a True story !