Helping A Book Convey The General Message English Literature Essay

Jesse Hanacek

Paul Bissa


April 18th, 2013


When you think of organized crime, you might think of the Italian, Al Capone who operated out of cities such as New York City, Chicago, Las Vegas, or Miami. Paddy Whacked: The Untold Story of the Irish American Gangster, by T.J. English doesn’t include the history of Italian crime mobs but their reoccurring enemy, the Irish. The Irish mafia has been in existence since their arrival in the mid 1800’s to present day. This mafia has thrived in areas such as New York, New Orleans, Chicago, Cleveland, and in the Boston area. When looking at the cover of this book, the reader will only see the gruesome picture of some person who has been murdered and is lying on a sidewalk. Until the reader combines this picture with the subtitle "The Untold Story of the Irish American Gangster", they won’t understand what the topic is going to be. Because the reader might know a few Irish mobsters before, there is a list of all mobsters that are presented in the book. Ultimately, the cover plays a vital role in grabbing the attention of the reader through its use of colors, font, imagery and the overall title.

Coloring can play a major role in helping a book convey the general message behind its cover. For TJ English and his book Paddy Whacked, the usage of color, or lack thereof, really sets the book up for a specific time period. The black and white brings the reader back to the days when TV was not in color and now that seems almost vintage to use and predates many readers. It brings the reader to a time period where mobs ran the streets and it became a way of life. Although being primarily black and white, the pop of color used in the shamrocks really brings out the Irish side of the book and emphasizes the importance of the heritage in the book. Most unnoticeable is the pop of red blood at the bottom of the page which will draw the reader into the picture of the dead man surrounded by a pool of his own blood. This element forces the reader to contemplate the cause of the man’s death and brings out the realistic truth behind the turmoil and destruction often found in the mafia. The coloring in Paddy Whacked prepares the reader for something potentially just as dark and mysterious as the cover itself.

When a reader looks at a potential book, the title is one of many things they look for. One way to indicate what a book might be about may simply be found in the title and the usage of font may also give greater meaning to what lies within the book’s pages. Paddy Whacked does this very well as the title is represented with the appropriate font which makes the book appear dark, vintage, and Gaelic font which would not be uncommon on a cover of a book that illustrates organized crime of the Irish mafia. By using this font, it helps to draw the reader into the theme of the book. In addition to the font, the title is placed in one of the most common spots, toward the very top of the book, centered, and in the largest print so our eyes naturally gravitate towards it. Along with the placement, the font is white on a black background which also aids the reader towards focusing on the title. From the title, the reader’s eyes will continue down the cover until the image at the bottom is apparent with enough space for the potential reader to see the entire image. This allows the reader to build a certain perception of what the contents of the book will contain as well as hopefully sparking curiosity. Paddy whacked is actually a phrase that means that someone has been killed by order of an organized crime group or sometimes referred to as a mafia. If the potential reader has the knowledge of this phrase, they will be able to know the subject of the book before reading anything other than the title.

Besides the title and font, imagery also plays a very effective role towards bringing the reader. For cover imagery, it is very important to have clear, blatantly presented, thematic images to give the reader the ability to create their own visuals as they read the book. Without effective images, the reader would have to rely on their imagination to create visuals they will have as they read the book. Because this book is based on the history of the Irish mafia, it is helpful to keep the reader focused on the subject the book is expressing. The image on the bottom of the cover of is clearly a man who is formally dressed but is lying in a pool of his own blood. What makes this book disturbing, yet equally interesting is that the image makes you feel like you just walked into the middle of a crime scene, searching for answer and seeking the culprit. Even on TJ English, the author of Paddy Whacked, appears to have come straight out of the book with his classy appearance with a mobster flair in a photo of him placed on the back of the book. The imagery on the covers works to grab the visual attention of the reader and hopefully ignite some interest not only in the book but in the Irish mafia as a whole.

Another important element of the cover is the excerpt on the back of the book cover. After the title, this is the first text from the book a reader will look at. It is important that this excerpt illustrates the subject of the book as well as the nature of the book. The excerpt chosen from Paddy Whacked accomplishes these goals very well. It is about a paragraph long but gives you a brief description of locations, people, and types of crime that are further discussed within the book. Besides looking at a brief summary on the back cover of Paddy Whacked, there are quotes from different publishers and journalists who have positive comments about what they read and the book. One person noted, "Goes down like a series of ales and whiskey chasers, consumed to a soundtrack of violent ballad song by someone who knows how to bring a laugh and a tear this time it's a tenor, not the Sopranos." This quote shows a past experience from someone who has read the book and thoroughly enjoyed it. This could be a huge contributor to gear the way a potential reader perceives from the book and push them towards wanting to investigate the contents of the book even more than before. The excerpt on the back of the cover is an important part of teamwork with the cover to make readers want to read the book.

The beauty in literature is that it can often be left open to interpretation. For that reason a reader may glance up the cover and after a thorough examination of the entire book cover, they may deem it not interesting and the cover ineffective towards grabbing their attention. One reader may think that this book may be incomprehensible to a certain group or themselves because it focusing on a certain cultural of people that they are not familiar with. The name Paddy Whacked alone is a term that many people may not understand upon first glance and think that there could be many more slang terms like this used in which only the mafia could make the connection. In addition to, the graphic imagery on the front cover would prevent children of certain ages from being able to understand any derogatory reference based off of drugs, crime, and personal beliefs of those in the Irish mafia. Also, the author, TJ English is a former writer for Irish America magazine, Esquire, Playboy, and New York magazines which are directed towards older age groups and a reader might expect Paddy Whacked to follow in suit. The ultimate decision lies in the readers hands and it is up to them to decide what is worth the read and what should just remain on the shelf.

The cover of Paddy Whacked works effectively to entice readers who are interested in investigations, crime, and the life of the Irish mafia. Every side of the cover touches on all the main criteria the reader may be unintentionally looking for. A well presented and thought out title could help the reader understand what is to come within the pages of the book and how death was a product of the Irish mafia. The images used effectively provide a visual for the reader of what potential are to come and the graphic nature of it. Outside input is added on the back as excerpts that work towards getting the reader interested in the content of the book while also giving some slight insight. Lastly, the colors used on the cover of Paddy Whacked sets it back to an era that many of us are not familiar but makes us eager to be familiar with. If the cover works, the reader will enter the mind of TJ English’s history lesson on the Irish mafia’s birth, growth, and struggle within our country.