Things were getting exciting. My first book was about to be published.
St. Martin's Press had sent me edited proofs of the text. Then came the cover, that all-important art that would make bookstore customers grab LOVERS CROSSING and run to the cash register.
The concept was terrific: a rifle sight superimposed over a desert landscape. Perfect. My protagonist, the Tucson P.I. Brinker, had been shot during a betrayal on the border. He's in danger there again.
One problem, though. The desert photo, while striking, looked nothing like Arizona's border with the Mexican state of Sonora. It was from northern Arizona or maybe even Utah, Monument Valley, up near Four Corners.
My Arizona friends had a good laugh. Those New York publishing people thought all of Arizona looked the same, we said. It was like that famous Steinberg cartoon that showed Manhattan looming large in the foreground, with everything west of the Hudson a tiny afterthought.
So I emailed my editor. She wrote back, "We're on deadline for the printer. Do you have anything better?"
Oh, great. My art sensibility is nil. And in 2003, dinosaurs roamed the earth and I had no digital files of photos for quick computerized retrieval. What to do?
My wife remembered taking snapshots from our back yard in the foothills north of Tucson. She dug out a shoebox honest of old Kodak prints. One picture looked just right: sunset on the authentic southern Arizona desert.
There was no time to mail it to New York. It was getting too late for FedEx or UPS overnight. I raced down to an office supply store and bought a scanner! Nothing too extravagant for my first book. Raced back home, figured out how to work the gizmo, and made a nice digital image to email St. Martin's.
Presto! In about ten minutes, they swapped out the background, dimmed the flash on the foreground mesquite, airbrushed the javelina poop, sliced a piece of the picture to fit the cover size, and came up with the image that soon shipped to bookstores everywhere. They emailed it back to me and asked, "How's this?" I said something profound like "Cool" and the presses rolled. If you bought a hardcover version of Lovers Crossing, or borrowed one from a public library, this is what your cover looks like.
My artistic triumph wasn't complete, though. The old cover image had already been printed on the advance reader copies. One reviewer noticed the geographic mismatch and even wrote about it. You can still find the picture in some online library catalogs. Life ain't like Vegas. What happens online stays on some server forever.
A couple of years later, we sold North American paperback rights to a Canadian company. They came up with their own version of a cover, shown below on the left. This publisher hoped to capture a little more of the book's "chase through the desert" action. The Jeep evokes the Border.
That's the Spain version on the right. Spanish readers apparently like stories set in the American southwest. There's an obvious historic and linguistic connection. The text is in Spanish, but the title is in English. As they say in Madrid, go figure.
Fast forward to 2012. To coincide with publication of OUR LADY OF THE NORTH, I regained the rights to my first two books but not to their cover art. That meant producing yet another "cover" for the ebook versions. They're available now. Here's how to recognize all three Brinker novels:
Enjoy the books. If you judge them a little bit by their covers, that's OK with me.