The Troubleshooter - 5 a.m.

I’m going to say a few words about Stefan Prohaczka, the artist extraordinaire that designs the visually dazzling art for The Troubleshooter covers and promos.

I say ‘a few’ words, because so many more can be said about my friend from Paris, France. His work crosses many genres, but he has put a definite fingerprint on dieselpunk imagery. Do a Google image search of dieselpunk art, and you’ll find his work right off the back. So when he and I crossed paths on his deviantArt page, little did I know that his gorgeous work would grace the covers of my Troubleshooter novels.

Stefan’s work consists of many articulate layers of photomanipulation, light and shadow placement, and a keen eye for the visual knock-out. I can’t explain it properly because I’m not an artist. All I know is that the finished product is always a sight to see. You can study every image, getting a new surprise every time with what you missed the last time around. See the above image for what I mean. A definite nod to Edward Hopper’s classic ‘Nighthawks‘ painting, with The Troubleshooter’s main man Mick Trubble cooling his heels in a rare colorful display of the mean streets of New Haven. Stefan’s work transcends the source material, standing on its own as a magnetic piece of art.

The only ‘problem’ is that Stefan’s work is almost too good for cover work. The details and layers demand to be seen in a full blown, high definition display. Take the cover for The Troubleshooter: New Haven Blues as an example:

The TroubleshooterHere you get a shot of Mick Trubble in  all his shadowy glory, posed at the mouth of some hellish alley, pistol drawn, cigarette hanging from his lip. If you peer closely you can catch the flying car in the upper right hand corner, a nod to the sci-fi elements in the story. The Troubleshooter logo stands out, along with the bullet-riddled subtitle. Nothing is wrong at all with this cover. In fact, everything is right, especially when you see it full blown as it ‘s supposed to be seen. Unfortunately, readers of the novel may never get that chance. After all, 99% of the sales of New Haven Blues are in e-book format, which means readers won’t get to check out a physical novel cover. In fact, the thumbprint size they see when making a purchase is even smaller than it appears above. The result is a much darker, almost murky image that makes it difficult for Mick to stand out from his background. Not Stefan’s fault at all, simply what should have been considered at the very start of the creation process. Unfortunately, I never thought of how the image would look in a much smaller size. And again, even shrunk down the cover is not bad at all. Yet the cramped display setting doesn’t allow for the credit that Stefan deserves for his excellent work.

I thought about that for a while, not sure what could be done. I knew that better lighting would help, but didn’t want to lose the mood of the story. New Haven isn’t a a happy city. Shadows are everywhere, and Mick Trubble moves in those shadows, doing what he does best. In addition, every photo Stefan uses for Mick Trubble is modeled and photographed by Mark Krajnak of JerseyStyle Photography, whose dynamic noir images are a tribute to the play shadows and light that the genre evokes.

Fortunately, I’m big on collecting images on Pinterest. So when I ran across this poster art for the film Blade Runner (one of the influences on The Troubleshooter), I immediately had an epiphany.

I loved how the main character looms over the image, giving it an iconic feel. Elements of the film are expertly blended into the character’s profile, making it both mysterious and alluring. And it’s simple. No intricate details that require enlargement to view, yet it pulls the eye just the same. So even when it’s shrunk down to thumbnail size, you can still get a pretty clear look at the total image.

I approached Stefan with the idea of doing something similar with the Troubleshooter covers. Being the trooper that he is, he enthusiastically responded with this lovely piece:

The Troubleshooter - 2014Stefan calls this a ‘test image.’ As you can see, his test is another man’s masterpiece. In very little time, he captured exactly what I was hoping for. The cool color scheme allows Mick Trubble/Mark Krajnak to be clearly seen, while character and story elements are given a different blend of colors to make them stand out but not overshadow the title character. It’s simple, yet visually striking. In a thumbprint size it will still easily catch the eye, sans a small enlargement of the font size. I really couldn’t be more pleased with the results of this ‘test.’

I consider myself fortunate to be able to work with someone so highly professional and talented as Stefan. He never ceases to amaze, and it’s been an honor to have his and Mark’s work grace the promos and covers for my novels. As a writer, it’s hard to hand over the task of artistic creation to someone else, because it’s so hard to properly translate what’s in one’s head for the artist to try to duplicate. Fortunately in this case I have no worries, because Stefan always delivers the goods.

Be sure to check out his work on deviantArt, and take a look at Diesel City, his personal tome of dazzling Dieselpunk imagery.