On Stranger Tides is one of my favourite Powers novels - I mean come on! Voodoo magic? Zombie Pirates? The Fountain of Youth? Who doesn't want to read an adventure chock-full of all that stuff? I remember I first read that book back in the late 80s and as well as loving the novel, I was captivated by the cover art - I'm talking here of the UK edition published by Grafton, which featured an amazingly strong cover image painted by Richard Clifton-Dey.
The artist died in 1997, but left behind an incredible body of work, now highly sought after by collectors. This wasn't always the case - a few years ago now, I began to make enquiries about his pirate painting and these led me (after some considerable investigation work!) into contact with his agent, the hugely helpful Alison Eldred who told me that following his death, Clifton-Dey's widow had basically shut down his studio and put everything under wraps. Perhaps my interest in the pirate painting might convince her it was time to look at allowing some of the originals on to the market. On my behalf Alison kindly travelled down to visit Mrs Clifton-Dey and found a treasure trove of his work, all stored, preserved and untouched since his death. And there also she found, in perfect condition, the pirate painting and also his cover art for the Grafton edition of The Anubis Gates (this edition being the very first Powers book I ever read, and largely becuase of the cool cover!), along with the preparatory sketches for both commissions. I ended up with both the paintings and the sketches and no, they're not for sale!
In this recent blog entry, the wonderful American artist Jim Gurney wrote a piece about his experiences of producing the cover art for the original Ace edition of On Stranger Tides, a painting that has been reused a number of times, most recently on the recent Czech translation and on the Subterranean Press reissue of the novel
published earlier this year. You can read this fascinating article by following the link above. Most interesting to me was the inclusion of the image shown below of Gurney's preparatory watercolours for the eventual image - a wonderful accompaniment to Clifton-Dey's pencil sketches above. As to which of the two images make for the best cover... well, that is a debate that will run and run!