Same Book, Different Worlds


The US and the UK now have fully matching covers for the Bryant & May series, but they couldn’t be more different in style. Arriving on my desk this week are roughs for ‘Bryant & May Off The Rails’. The US version is the latest in a line of jolly, upbeat sketched covers whereas the UK stresses connections with the past ‘classic’ style of murder mysteries from the 1930s (The spelling mistake on the UK version changes the meaning of the title somewhat) – it’s a style influenced by old railway posters like the ones below. I imagine that which you prefer depends largely on where you are from.

17 comments on “Same Book, Different Worlds”

  1. Alan says:

    Chris Fowler goes “Chick Lit”?

  2. The US version looks more like it would be a YA cover over here.

  3. I.A.M. says:

    Bryant & May: Of the Rails

    They’re tramps in this one, are they? Jumping on passing freight cars, solving crimes, all the time saving discarded tea packets and fag-ends?

  4. Helen Martin says:

    I can’t imagine why the American covers were accepted in the first place. Bryant and May have a humorous element but they’re not out and out silly. Chick Lit is certainly an apt description. Don’t you have any say at all, Chris?

  5. Helen Martin says:

    Oh, yes, and there’s an extra word in the series reference on the American cover, too.

  6. J. Folgard says:

    Recently introduced a Canadian friend to the series, and she prefers the UK designs too.
    Looking forward to this!

  7. I.A.M. says:

    There’s nothing wrong with the North American artwork on a technical level. It’s extremely well-done, and the artist is quite talented. The work of David Frankland for the covers of the edition sold to the English (or British, if you admit the Welsh to the market) is more in keeping with what those experienced in the tales accept as evocative of the tales.

    The real question to be asked here is not “what matches the novel once you’ve read a few of them?” but actually “what will draw the eye of the person lazily browsing the web-site or aisles of the book shop?” It’s all about the attention grabbing success of the cover. Have a look at the posters for Casablanca or Terry Gilliam’s Brazil and tell me that either of them have anything to do with the movie per se.

    I’m not necessarily saying that the above paragraph is correct, or even the only answer, merely one approach one can take.

  8. martin says:

    I have to say, as a bookseller and consumer I much prefer the British covers. I buy the books at Goldsboro when they come out in the UK, and I would regardless of cover because I need to read them asap. However, as a bookseller, it’s a bit harder to get mystery fans interested in the books with the American covers. We still do it. Christopher Fowler is our top selling mystery author since I think September. I just think the British covers would get a bit more interest in the mystery section.

  9. Steve says:

    I almost resent them being called “The American Covers”. Of course that’s what they are, but I think they’re just plain silly. I usually either buy the books when we’re in London, or buy the Kindle versions. That way I can avoid them.

  10. Meiko says:

    I’m from Florida and in my case, I.A.M. is correct. While browsing in the book store, it was the U.S. cover that grabbed my attention. Of course after reading the first book, I couldn’t wait to read the rest of them regardless of the cover. I don’t think I would have been as tempted to pick up that first book if it had the U.K. design.

  11. Mike Cane says:

    Once again I am the one to Ask The Question No One Else Will Dare Ask (You Cowards) — does it say “OF the Rails” *inside* the book too?!

  12. Anne Hill Fernie says:

    Are those flourescent tabards the old boys are wearing? UK cover every time. The other one is too reminiscent of those whimsical ‘Travels in Tuscany’ type books……

  13. Helen Martin says:

    Rail safety rules say yes, those are fluorescent safety vests (I just washed my husband’s). Do they call them ‘tabards’ in Britain? That is so wonderful – it’s as if they’re medieval messengers.

  14. Alan says:

    Helen – nah. We call them Hi-Vis – as in High Visibility vests. The ones on the cover look authentic enough – more waistcoat than tabard.

  15. Alan says:

    And – hang on. You washed your husbands hi-vi? Oh dear – there goes his street-cred. On the London Underground clean hi-vis were for new guys and Station Assistants – a filthy one was a sign of experience.

  16. Helen Martin says:

    And I did it at his request. He needs one for the loading dock at the trucking company where he works and says that after four years it needs washing no matter how the dock workers look at it. Or perhaps he comes under the Station Assistant rubric since he only comes onto the dock once a day. The Transit people I’ve seen walking near tracks and working near buses seem to go with the “dirt means experience” standard as well.

  17. Helen Martin says:

    And has anyone else read “The Somnambulist” by Jonathan Barnes, copyright 2007. It has so many Fowler influences that I can’t believe he’s not a fan. I’m not saying plagiarism or anything like that, but definitely influences.

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