“I say, Pshit, napping on the job, what?”
from Wiffledown Way (A Sunny Novel Fraught with Dread)
“I say, Heeves, might you draw me a bath?”
“I might, sir. Which would your prefer, pen or ink?”
I winced. Heeves was my gentleman’s gentleman and a man whose keen intuition and intelligence I greatly admired and – truth be told – relied on. However, it was his sense of humor I could do without.
Still, for good or ill, we were virtually inseparable, as what gentleman worthy of the name does not have a gentleman’s gentleman to do his bidding. Besides, without Heeves, how on earth would I dress myself? Why, I’d wind up with my waistcoat on my head and be the laughingstock of London.
“I surmise you’ll be attending the Bafflemyte’s dinner party this evening, sir?”
“That indeed is my intention, Heeves, and I’ll require your skilled service behind the wheel at, say, sevenish?”
“Very good, sir.” He nodded sharply. “Sevenish on the nose. I’ll draw your bath now, sir, unless you prefer I remain here looking peevish.”
“The bath, Heeves, that will be all, thank you… just the bloody bath.”
He turned on his heels and oozed away. Did I mention how Heeves has this uncanny knack of exiting a room? It’s as if he vaporizes and leaves one wondering if he’d ever actually been there at all.
“And no newts in there this time!” I shouted.
I was looking forward to seeing Priscilla at the party, although I feared there might be a few speed bumps I’d first have to scale – namely, Sir Henry Bafflemyte, who – how shall I put it? – detested me. Why he detested me I will leave to your imagination. To make matters worse, it was no secret in Wiffledown that Sir Henry maintained a lascivious, albeit discreet, eye on Miss Pemburton. Much like the lecherous eye of the family pedophile. Quite understandable in light of the fact Lady Bafflemyte was a harridan of grotesque proportions. Indeed, she might easily have been mistaken for a monument in Hyde Park honoring Bigfoot.
So why, you may well wonder, was the Booster invited to this bally affair?
Good question, but to be perfectly candid, it wouldn’t be a tale worth your precious time were I simply to lounge in bed playing Tiddlywinks, now would it.
I glanced at the beastly cuckoo on the wall and calculated that I had precisely two hours to spiffy up. (Blast that dashed precision!)
Plenty of time for the drugs to kick in.
Alphonse Allais’s only novel has just been translated into English by Doug Skinner and will be published later this year by my press, Black Scat Books. It was originally issued in France in 1899, and it remains popular and in print. Indeed, it has been adapted to film four times.
The above lettering examples are how I imagined the original typography might look. I then deep-searched the web and found a reproduction of the book’s title page which (as you can see below) avoids the ornate.
Having published and designed half a dozen books by Allais, I first had to decide my approach to the cover, since that establishes how I proceed with the interior. Research online revealed approximately 40 editions, only a few of which captured my imagination. Most were dull type treatments. The ones with illustrations did not excite my eye, with a couple of exceptions.
Here are a few of the covers I found. I like the comic figure bottom right, used on a French eBook.
My own previous Allais covers feature illustrations, but I was inclined to emphasize typography this time. After all, The Blaireau Affair is a novel and not a collection of texts, so it could stand apart from the others. The story is, of course, humorous, but I decided to go with a more ‘serious’ look, I’d add one small graphic element like an ironic afterthought.
I wanted the look and feel of a novel that might have been published in the 1930s, early40s by Knopf. I was operating on a vague feeling—I had no specific cover in mind. I did not go searching for old Knopf covers, although it would be fun to do so now. Let’s see what’s there…
Hmm, well I like both of these—especially the design for The Thin Man (1934). Alas, can’t find a credit for the artist.
And here’s my cover unveiled.
For the title font I used Vigneta, an elegant, handmade script created by designer Ilham Henry. For subs, I employed two of my old standbys: Lionel Text Diesel and Bebas, These three specimens play very nicely together.
The le glaçage sur le gâteau is the little badger woodcut, which I also use at the start of each chapter.
As it turned out, the above was not the final cover, for I added some air around the author’s name. Final front and back:
The book was launched Aug. 31, 2015 and is available on Amazon.