The Hook

This is the cover image on a collection of stories featuring the Continental Op.
Dashiell Hammett, The Return of The Continental Op. From the Sheridan Libraries, Johns Hopkins University. Photograph by Devika Agrawal.

 

The cover of The Return of the Continental Op makes one inclined to think that she is in for a thrilling ride. The reader’s attention is first captured by the big, bold, capital red letters against the bright yellow background of the cover. Next, one wonders who or what this Continental Op could be. Without knowing that he is a character, one may think it is the name of a place or that it is the name of some sort of operation. The illustration of a gun that is going off in someone’s hand suggests that the story likely involves a villain, a thief, or maybe a hero. The title is written on a yellow colored shape, resembling a badge of some sort. The reader’s mind may now jump and speculate that the police will be involved in this story somehow. The word “OP” is written in the largest font and surrounding it is a red chain like design. It shares similarities with a handcuff because of the “official” badge style ornamentation.  Personally, I think this cover image serves as a “hook,” or introduction that engages my curiosity towards what is to follow.

The cover image is a crucial part in the reader’s experience of the text inside. Even before opening the book, the reader is already given a sense of its contents. One expects something dramatic, electrifying, and sensational. The gun hints at lots of action, some crime, and a flavor of suspense. The reader becomes captivated by this cover image; her mind is now racing as the first impression settles in. This first impression ( in this case, a story filled with blood, mystery, and something big and exciting) sticks with the reader as they go through the text. The reader is now given a point of view, or a lens through which she can view the body of the text. The image creates a mood that reinforces the body of the text, and this mood allows the reader to form preconceptions about the story inside. In particular, this image makes the reader emotionally engaged enough to want to know what Continental Op stands for and why it’s a name that elicits excitement, crime, and danger.

This cover does an excellent job of giving the reader a taste of a Continental Op story. In “$106,000 Blood Money,” the Continental Op is the main character who faces two major obstacles. He battles the betrayal of one of his own agency’s members and fights to try an capture an escaped gang leader. These obstacles not only test his willingness to fight crime, but also test his morality. Through this story, he proves to be a character with a personal code of ethics that he refuses to violate no matter what threats he faces. Violence fails to engender fear in him, and he doesn’t hesitate to kill criminals. The title “$106,000 Blood Money,” also reinforces that risk and temptation will plague the pages inside. This story, as well as other Continental Op stories, fulfill the expectations the reader gets from the cover.  The cover image effectively communicates what kinds of stories the reader should expect to read.

 

 

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