Deconstructing the Deep Penitentiary 6 Cover Art


Deep Penitentiary 6

When I release a book the outside cover is just as important to me as the inside text, both forming a complete concept as an art object. I really want the reader to judge the book by the cover. An example is in my Paradise Earth series where I pay grim homage to the Watchtower’s religious propaganda.

In a typical publishing contract the author may have some input on the cover, but more often it is the publishing house that makes the decision. One of the advantages of releasing Deep Penitentiary 6 under my own label is having complete control of the cover art. It also means that the expense of paying skilled artists like Diego Galindo and Timothy Anderson comes directly out of pocket.  By pledging to my Kickstarter campaign and picking up a copy of the book, you’ll help me cover these costs.

The cover for Deep Penitentiary 6 couples with the story like a fine wine rough rye whiskey in a dirty rocks glass.  It is a homage not just to pulp fiction paperbacks, but also grindhouse cinema posters.  In this article I’ll deconstruct the cover and show the influences that I used for the art direction.

Theatrical Poster for the Big Doll House

As the story is a throwback to 1970’s women-in-prison film, first and foremost I wanted to reference a poster from the era. Of all the posters I looked at, the one for the The Big Doll House was the one that jumped out at me. I love how the movie elements are set against a start white backdrop.  The composition of the cover art by Diego Galindo follows closely, albeit with a sci-fi spin. Front and center are my two main characters, Theta Butterfly and Honey Bee, lofting weapons. To the right is the whip-holding warden. Hovering menacingly above is a prison.


The storyline of Deep Penitentiary 6 is a nod to Wanda the Wicked Warden. Both involve an innocent woman entering into a nefarious prison for the purpose of locating her sister. For my cover art I decided to borrow something from Wanda’s wardrobe and put my warden in a black leather catsuit with stiletto boots.  And what wicked warden would be complete without a whip? I gave mine a sci-fi varnish by making it an electro whip.

Black Mama White Mama

Another film that served as source fodder for Deep Penitentiary 6 is Black Mama, White Mama. The movie poster features beautiful blaxploitation star Pam Grier along with her reluctant white convict companion. In a similar way, the cover painting by Diego Galindo features my black and white leading ladies in action. Also like Ms. Grier, my Honey Bee is given gratuitous cleavage exposure on the cover art.


When I decided to do a pulp split-paperback with Shane Crash, the choice to use the old Ace double books as a template was obvious. In researching them I was pleasantly surprised to see that William S. Burroughs seminal novel Junkie was originally an Ace pulp released under the name William Lee.  Our graphic designer, Timothy Anderson captured the look of these old books perfectly, not just in style, but by grunging them to make it look like the book has kicked around in a backpack for a couple decades.

The Final Programme

I ran across this cover to The Final Programme while browsing Pinterest. (I use the site a lot for art concepts; it’s not just for housewives.) The cover art framed by a white border just screams old sci-fi to me. Tim Anderson employs the same device for the cover of Deep Penitentiary 6, placing the title above the framed space scene.

Morocco Jones Hand of the Mafia

Before Indiana Jones, the more exotic-sounding Morocco Jones was sleuthing on the printed page. Pulp fiction titles like this use the cover blurb to implore readers to follow the continuing exploits of hardboiled heroes like Morocco.  By similarly rendering the name Theta Butterfly in red print in a cover blurb, it highlights her as a star worth watching.

A lot of thought went into the cover of Deep Penitentiary 6 and I couldn’t be more pleased with the result. While eBooks are convenient, this is one paperback edition that is worth having on your shelf.  You can snag a copy by pledging to my Kickstarter at a $13 level or higher. Thanks for your generous support for me and my artists!

¶ Despatched on Saturday, May 18th, 2013 at 11:00 am and sorted in Writing. ¶ { ReTweet }

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