the story of a book cover

Every book cover has a story of course, and I thought I’d share the story behind the jacket of sprinting on quicksand. It was designed by Leonie Lane, who used to work at Tin Sheds and Redback Graphics, and is now based in northern NSW. Many years ago, Leonie visited us in Mexico and one fine day we decided to burn off some dry leaf matter. Well! we nearly set fire to the electricity cables in the alley. After the drama of putting out the fire with near zero water pressure from the well with the failing pump, Leonie did a little painting that I still have, it hangs on my study wall. It’s a portrait of me, with the flames and the hose and the cables above, calling for assistance, Rápido!

While Leonie was working on the cover I made a small thank you note in the style of the Mexican retablos.  A retablo is an expression of folkloric religious art, usually a small painting where someone gives thanks to a saint or divinity for a miracle. For instance, I have a retablo in my kitchen where Evaristo and Antonia give thanks to San Pascual Bailón, St Pascual the dancer, for saving Antonia from burning when her skirt caught fire when she was cooking.

In my retablo, we give thanks to the Virgencita de Guadalupe for the miracle granted when the fire nearly reached the electricity wires. The date is 1987, the book cover was designed in 2020. That’s how long the back story is for sprinting on quicksand, 33 years!

Leonie of course went one better with the cover, the figure is no longer paralysed with fear or calling for help, but sprinting or even dancing. She reminds me a little of the Tarot card The Fool, and I love it.

You can find Leonie’s design company at