Childers's lone masterpiece, The Riddle of the Sands, considered the first modern spy
thriller, is recognisable as the brilliant forerunner of the realism of Graham Greene and
John le Carré. Its unique flavour comes from its fine characterisation, richly authentic
background of inshore sailing and vivid evocation of the late 1890s - an atmosphere of
mutual suspicion and intrigue that was soon to lead to war.
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Penguin Press Designer Corali Bickford-Smith on Penguin Reds' Boys Own Books which include The Thirty-Nine Steps, The Man Who Was Thursday, The Riddle of the Sands, The Lost World, She and The Prisoner of Zenda.
I wanted the covers to have action-packed illustrations, and to hark back to the golden age of adventure books. I did a lot of research, particularly in the London Library, getting a feel of books from the period. One book I found brilliant for lettering inspiration was Nineteenth century ornamented Typefaces by Nicolete Gray. I made the decision to control the use of colour to give the series a strong identity, while each cover individually contains elements - particularly the typography - appropriate to the time it was first published.
There is an unashamed nostalgia about them, though they aren't facsimilies of old books - they are designed to have a freshness and appeal for younger readers encountering these stories for the first time, as well as for their parents' and grandparents' generations. I spent a lot of time reading each book and picked out the action scenes I thought would make strong illustrations. Then I drew roughs and passed these over to different illustrators and got a lettering artist on board to recreate the type I had found. I really enjoyed working on this project and I think that comes through in the finished product.