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August 21, 2015

On Covers: Madam, Will You Talk?


A cover is a book’s gatekeeper. They catch our eye on the bookstore shelf, on the computer screen, or even as we’re riding the train. They’re the first thing we see before we open a book to read the words inside.

On Covers” will examine the history of a book’s cover—from its first printing through various editions  to the most recent incarnation—or look at the evolution of a cover from the initial idea to the final cover. Kicking off our cover design feature is a look at Mary Stewart’s Madam, Will You Talk? (July 2015), the latest in our Rediscovered Classics series.


1954, Hodder & Stoughton

Originally released in 1954, Madam, Will You Talk? was Mary Stewart’s first published novel and was, to quote Katherine Hall Page’s foreword to our edition, “the earliest—and best—work to define the genre [of romantic suspense].”

As you can see, there have been at least ten different covers—there are no doubt more we couldn’t track down. Some take the reader on location to the book’s setting while others focused on the peril the heroine, Charity, finds herself embroiled in. And there are some wonderfully fabulous eras of clothing represented as well.

So how does the cover designer capture the mood of the story?

2015, Chicago Review Press

To find out the answer, we asked the cover designer, Sarah Olson. Sarah has designed covers for all nine of the Mary Stewart Rediscovered Classics, starting with Nine Coaches Waiting.

I think it was important, first, for this cover to fit in with the style of the other Mary Stewart books. The cities/settings in her books are described in such detail and so lovingly that they’re almost characters in themselves, so putting them on the cover really fits. I found this image on Flickr and it fit so well because the angle the photographer used is not typical and the moodiness of the sky (I added a bit of darkness on the edges) gives it a mysterious look. When you find a perfect photograph like this, it really makes it easy. You want the reader to be able to look back at the cover as they’re reading and imagine themselves there in this place, feeling the tension of the action in the story.



 Madam, Will You Talk? through the years


Mill–Morrow, 1956


Crest Book, 1967


Coronet, 1958




Coronet, 1975




Hodder & Stoughton, 2011


Harper Collins, 2003


Hodder, c. 1960


Fawcett, c. 1960


Hodder, 1966


Fawcett, 1981

Images found via GoodReads and Google Image search.


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