Judging a Book by Its Cover

Graham Greene paid close attention to all aspects of the production of his books. Often he was quite harshly judgmental, particularly concerning the cover designs. For example, he wrote to Max Reinhardt, the owner of Bodley Head, in March 1973, complaining at length about the proposed dust-jacket for The Honorary Consul, ‘This hideous array of pastoral scenery gives the impression of a Collins or Hutchinson jacket of a nice romantic novel by Elizabeth Goodge’.


Needless to say, he got his way. On another occasion, he took great exception to the covers for new Penguin editions, describing them variously as ‘absurd’ and ‘beyond belief’. By contrast, he declared the American Viking jacket for Brighton Rock to be the best he had ever had on one of his books.

Tim Hetherington, who designed the covers for the current Vintage Classics range of Greene’s novels will be interviewed by Mike Hill on the Saturday morning of the upcoming Festival. One wonders whether or not Greene would have approved of Tim’s work. One thing is for sure – he would have had an opinion.