Black Lizard

About Black Lizard Books


Black Lizard represented the only time in American publishing when a single artist was used for an entire line. In five years time I did all but three titles, which came to 92 book covers.

What I created, in tandem with the publisher, was a visually distinctive signature for the work of 28 different authors, so that Black Lizard Books, would always be a graphic standout on any shelf, and at the same time would accurately reflect the cover-art in the content of each story.

Black Lizard consisted of only four people, the publisher, the editor, and the secretary – all in Berkeley – I remained in San Francisco, as their freelance artist/illustrator.

The stories, with visual assistance from these ‘classically American’ images, found a following in both the States and Europe. Thanks to the cover-art and Barry Gifford, the editor for the series, the line was reviewed regularly in Publisher’s Weekly. There were also reviews in The Village Voice, The Washington Post, Variety, to name a few.

Time-out in London devoted three pages to its top-ten crime/fiction imports, and seven of the ten were Black Lizards. API and UPI did stories and interviews with the three of us, and MTV awarded us “Best Book Covers of 1988.”

We were however, like most small presses, undercapitalized. In the fall of 1990, “The Grifters,” “After Dark My Sweet,” and “Wild at Heart” from Barry Gifford ‘s novel: were all being released as films: Black Lizard was sold to Random House for the rights to the five novels, which had been made into film.

All in all Black Lizard Books is one of those footnotes in one’s career that will not be forgotten.

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All images are © kirwan, all rights are reserved (unless otherwise noted).