The cover on the third book in the Ruth Sutton trilogy ‘Fallout’ has caused a bit of a stir. Having read (and passed on to my mum!) the first book in the trilogy ‘A Good Liar’ I can highly recommend as good holiday reading and especially for those who know the Lakes or those who want to get to know the Lakes there is an authentic feel for places and people. The story keeps the attention and the pages turning. Ironically ‘Fallout’ was launched at the same time as the new propaganda vehicle for Sellafield, the Beacon, is getting ready for its official opening next Friday.
Ruth Sutton has written about her experience with the book cover on her blog:
“Now we’ve had to make a decision about the cover of book three, ‘Fallout’, which is set against the calamitous event of the world’s first nuclear reactor fire, in Cumberland in 1957. It’s a tough time for my heroine Jessie Whelan too – no more details! – and I wanted a sense of anxiety in the cover, nothing too soft or bland. A beach scene this time, I decided, to complement the view of fells (that’s a Norse word meaning ‘hills’ that’s commonly used in Cumbria): one of the wonderful west-facing beaches that we enjoy in this region. But it had to be a special beach scene, and we found one, with a red sky, beautiful but threatening too. Still I wanted more: among the photographs I’d found of the reactor fire was one of a group of workers in their anti-contamination suits and helmets, looking like spacemen. The clever cover designer imposed this image on the beach below the red sky and the cover of ‘Fallout’ stared out at me. I loved it: as intriguing as I had hoped for and authentic too.
I made a poster and took it round the local bookshops to alert them to the forthcoming publication. One buyer at a local attraction flinched and literally stepped away from the image. ‘We can’t sell that here,’ she said. ‘It’s too frightening. Not the kind of thing for this shop.’ It’s not a proper bookshop, granted, but other crime fiction books on the shelf have quite graphic images. I was surprised by her reaction and I should have asked her to explain it, but I didn’t. Later she confirmed to the books’ distributor that she wouldn’t be carrying copies, even though the first two books in the trilogy sell well there. Nothing I can do about it, I suppose. It was never my intention to upset anyone, but then the line between curiosity and aversion is notoriously thin. I wanted the ‘Fallout’ cover to convey the danger that threatened my heroine and her community, and clearly it does that effectively. But I think there’s more to it: most people’s impression of the Lake District and Cumbria is green hills, sparkling lakes and Beatrix Potter. For those of us who love the wild west coast, that image needs a challenge, and I think – I hope – that my three novels portray real life here, not some romanticised idyll. If people’s reaction to the ‘Fallout’ cover starts some conversation about this dichotomy, that’s a good thing. It may cost me some sales, but maybe not. I’ll have to wait and see.”
Well Ruth, the cover is brilliant and you made an extra sale BECAUSE of the front cover seen yesterday attractively displayed in the window of Michael Moon’s excellent bookshop in Whitehaven! Ruths experience is a result of the nuclear industry’s decades of grooming Cumbria into self censorship, a kind of controlling of popular culture into an unquestioning nuclear acquiesance.