How Dillon Samuelson Created the Cover Image for The Throes of Crime

the-throes-of-crime-finalArtist Dillon Samuelson (website, Tumblr, Behance) and I first collaborated on the comic book FORTUNE. (You can get a copy of FORTUNE — print, electronic, or free PDF — here.)

Next, Dillon produced an amazing cover for my short story ALL ALONE.

Now he’s created an incredible image for the cover of my first book, a short story collection titled THE THROES OF CRIME.

Dillon and I went through several cover ideas before arriving at the final version. I enjoyed the process; collaborating with Dillon is always a great experience. I recently talked to him about the techniques he used to develop the cover for THE THROES OF CRIME.

Let’s start with the final image. What kind of materials did you use to create it?

The final image ended up being a mixture of relief print and drawing done primarily with black and white ink and acrylic paint, with bits of pen for the colors in the bullet and tear.

ChalkBody1Originally, I thought I wanted a woodcut version of a chalk body outline. You did some work on that, but pretty quickly I decided that image was too simple. Did you agree?

I liked the idea of a body outline primarily because of its simplicity to make: when you pitched the idea I figured it would be relatively quick and an easy subject to draw. I don’t mind simple iconic images for covers, but I agree just the body outline started to feel boring next to some of the other possibilities.

Next, we tried to add some details to the chalk body outline — woodcut-style designs inside the outline, some blood, etc. What did you think of those ideas?

I was not a fan of the abstract patterns we considered, but I liked the idea of incorporating another image into the outline and think the layering of images had an interesting effect.


What materials did you use to create those early images?

The preliminary drawings were done with ink. Sometimes just a pen sketch, but often I would also go into black areas of ink with a whiteout pen to recreate the reductive process of carving a woodblock.

ChalkBody3One of the images was a skull behind the chalk body outline with blood coming out of the skull’s eye — which happened to be where the body’s chest was. That was too busy, I think, but it got us to focus on the skull instead of the chalk outline. Were you happy with the move from the chalk outline to the skull?

That particular idea was my favorite from the preliminary pieces, but I agree with it being too busy. It lost the graphic punch of a single icon and became confusing from a distance – and may have become even more so as a carving.

The skull — with great input from you and my wife — then evolved to “smile” a little more, get the gold bullet tooth, and have the blood take the form of a teardrop. Are you pleased with the final image?

I am pleased. This is the first relief print I’ve made in years, and while it ended up being more a mixed-media drawing, it was fun experimenting with the medium again. The addition of the bullet and tear give it a good pop of color and add some uniqueness to the classic skull.








THE THROES OF CRIME is now available in ebook and paperback.

Discussing FORTUNE on The Comics Panel

I recently appeared on The Comics Panel, a YouTube show produced locally that takes on all sorts of comic-related topics.

The gang was kind enough to let me talk about FORTUNE, the comic book I created with Dillon Samuelson. We also talked about the true-crime essays I’ve written for the back of THE BLACK HOOD comic book.

Many thanks to the entire Comics Panel team! I had a great time.

If you’d like to read FORTUNE, it’s available here:

May is Short Story Month

Art by Dillon SamuelsonMay is International Short Story Month.

And to help celebrate, the Short Mystery Fiction Society is highlighting stories written by its members. Today, they were kind enough to highlight my story “Not My Gun,” originally published by the Flash Fiction Offensive at Out of the Gutter Online.

(Here’s a bit more about “Not My Gun.”)

Follow the SMFS blog, or follow the SMFS on Twitter or Facebook, to read a great story (or more!) for free every day this month.

Free Comic Book Day 2016

Fortune - CoverToday is Free Comic Book Day! I’ll be visiting my local shop, Comics and Paperbacks Plus in Palmyra, PA, to grab a few of the free issues being made available by Marvel, DC, Archie, Image, Dark Horse, Dynamite, and many other great publishers.

If you can make it to a local comic book store today, it’s well worth a visit.

If not, here’s a free comic book you can download right now: FORTUNE. It introduces two hard-working entrepreneurs in the field of recycling used cooking oil. The only problem? They don’t have the permission of the restaurants where they’re getting the oil…

Chris Holm called it “a gritty, morbidly funny tale about the folks scraping the bottom of the barrel to survive,” while Merry Jones called it “a comic with a tight, timely story, complex characters, humor, and suspense.” Other great people have also said nice things.

I wrote FORTUNE and Dillon Samuelson provided the incredible art. It’s based on a short story of the same title that was published by Shotgun Honey and included in Otto Penzler’s Kwik Krimes anthology.

This special free edition of FORTUNE includes the complete 12-page full-color comic, four pages of Dillon’s black-and-white sketches, my script, and the original short story. All told, it’s 27 pages of greasy goodness. Enjoy!

FORTUNE on Comixology

Fortune - CoverSince the comic book FORTUNE went on sale on Comixology earlier this year, e-copies have been sold to people living in nine separate countries. Artist Dillon Samuelson and I appreciate everyone who bought a copy — but especially the person in Malaysia!

  • Australia
  • Brazil
  • Canada
  • Great Britain
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Malaysia
  • Spain
  • United States

Here’s how you can get your own copy of FORTUNE:

Reviews of the Comic Book FORTUNE

Fortune - CoverTom Joyce, author of THE FREAK FOUNDATION OPERATIVE’S REPORT and a former reporter for the York Daily Record, recently reviewed the comic book FORTUNE which Dillon Samuelson and I published:

“Fortune” is Noir Done Right

Tom describes FORTUNE as “a fast-paced, efficiently told, wryly funny snapshot of a decidedly unglamorous criminal enterprise.” Which is exactly how I hoped it would turn out.

Here’s how you can get FORTUNE:

FORTUNE was also reviewed recently at — on the same page as reviews of Star Wars #1, Hellbreak #1, Conan/Red Sonja #1, and Ultimate Spider-Man #9. Wow.

Reviewer Cat Taylor says “the concept is rather original” and “give[s] the art a few points for originality.” (One minor note of clarification: Comixology required me to list FORTUNE as being part of a series when I uploaded it. The comic is, however, a standalone.)

My thanks to Tom and Cat for taking the time to read and review FORTUNE!

All Alone – Free Short Story

All AloneIf you think politics is dirty today, you should read about 1951 Philadelphia.

And my short story ALL ALONE just happens to be set in… 1951 Philadelphia. Get your free copy of ALL ALONE right here. (I’ll talk a bit about that amazing cover art later.)

How bad were things in Philadelphia? On October 29, 1951 — not coincidentally, the day on which the entire story of ALL ALONE takes place — the Philadelphia Inquirer ran an editorial on its front page with this headline:

Ward Boss Rule A Blight on City:
Vote to Smash It!

The editorial described the “scandalous abuses in the city administration, waste of public funds and widespread graft and corruption” plaguing the city, including:

  • “embezzlement in the tax office”
  • “extortion and bribery in the Fire Marshal’s office”
  • “the theft of water with the connivance of Water Bureau employees”
  • “extortion … by employees of the plumbing division”
  • “a sinister alliance … between ward politicians, members of the police force and racketeers to promote illegal gambling and to give gamblers protection from raids and immunity to prosecution”

It was a dark chapter in the city’s political history. But it makes a great backdrop for a crime fiction story.

I hope you enjoy reading ALL ALONE.

Now, about that incredible cover…

It’s an original oil painting (with some digital text) by Dillon Samuelson, who illustrated the comic book FORTUNE. Click on the final cover (above) for a much larger version, and check out Dillon’s preliminary sketch below.

I asked Dillon for a cover in the style of the old BLACK MASK pulp magazine, which ceased publication in 1951, the same year in which ALL ALONE is set. My idea was a close-up of Oscar Cain’s face (he’s the big bad guy on the cover), but Dillon took it in a different direction which I think fits the tradition of BLACK MASK and other pulps even better. I couldn’t be more thrilled with the result.

All Alone Sketch

Noir at the Bar Philly – Oct. 29

Noir at the Bar returns to Philadelphia on October 29, 2014 — just in time for NoirCon 2014 (and Halloween)!

Come hear Thom Nickels, Jen Conley, Jonathan Woods, Duane Swierczynski, Joe Samuel Starnes, Matt Cook, Merry Jones, Sarah Weinman, Dennis Tafoya, Don Lafferty, Jon McGoran — and me! — read some crime fiction at Misconduct Tavern.

The fun starts at 9 p.m. I hope to see you on October 29 at Misconduct Tavern in Philly!

(And how about this amazing art by Dillon Samuelson? Just click on it for a larger version, and check out more of Dillon’s work in the comic book FORTUNE.)

Noir at the Bar Philly 2014

Fortune: Print Copies Available

Fortune - CoverIf you’d like a print copy of the comic book FORTUNE, written by me and illustrated by Dillon Samuelson, here’s some good news:

Indy Planet has print copies available for $3.99.

Indy Planet also has digital editions available for $0.99, and FORTUNE remains available as a free download from NoiseTrade.

Thanks to everyone who’s downloaded it so far! Dillon and I couldn’t be more thrilled with the response.