Jason Anscomb on Reviving a Golden Age Crime Series

Jason Anscomb is a UK based freelance book cover designer who uses a variety of techniques within his work. Here he tells us how he created the wonderfully unique covers for Dorothy Bowers’ crime series.

Debra Riley at Moonstone Press approached me about designing the covers for a set of five Golden Age crime novels. Moonstone Press reprints detective fiction originally published between WWI and the early 1960s, and introduces them to a wider audience.

Debra and I decided to re-work some concepts she had previously commissioned. This decision was partly due to time and budget constraints, but also because the illustrations were a good starting point for the series development.

During this period I was also working on a book interior for the British Library about The Illustrated Police News. First published in 1864, The Illustrated Police News was one of the earliest British newspaper tabloids, featuring sensational reports and illustrations of murders and hangings. It also included some really early forms of hand-drawn typography. I collaged typographic end-papers from IPN for the British Library book and decided these would form the starting point for the typography style on the Moonstone Press Dorothy Bowers series. I then spent some time tracing this original typography with the pen tool and blowing the paths up to book title size.


I was pleased with the result but wanted something a bit more hard edged (the process had meant the type had a slight soft edge to it). So I chipped away at the type in Photoshop till it felt right. I then checked with Debra if she liked where it was heading (she did).

I thought the illustrations could be tailored to fit the style of the type. So I re-drew the original illustrations making them simple and graphic (less detail) and more crude looking.

The graphic shards were added last to the design to help frame the type and image together into a coherent design. This was the moment when the design suddenly hung together as a unit. I like how the shards can double as shattered glass or indeed the light coming from a lamp (depending on what the illustration dictates).

I designed the cover for A Deed Without a Name first and thankfully Debra was on board with the series look. Then it was just a case of rolling out the design style across the series in the series style.


Design Editor, Painter, Designer, Lifelong bibliophile.


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