I was commissioned last week to do an illustration for the book review of The Laughing Monsters, by Denis Johnson. The piece appeared in the Boston Globe over the weekend. I only got a few lines from the review, so I had to find other reviews and synopses of the novel to get a clearer picture of what the book was really about. I won't go too far in depth (better to read the actual review, or better yet, read the book), but basically the main character, Roland Nair, works for NATO and is sent into West Africa to locate an old anti-terrorism buddy of his, Michael Adriko. The review describes Adriko thusly: "A native of Congo who has ended up affiliated with the US Army by way of Ghana, Michael is a figure cloaked in so many lies, mysteries, and identities that the novel makes little effort to render him 'believably...'" From what I could gather reading as many reviews as I could find, the main themes of the novel seemed to be ever-changing loyalties, enigmatic identities, and the relationship between these two characters- one driven by greed and power, the other seemingly nothing more than a thirst for chaos. I had one firm idea hit me early on, and turned in only one sketch, however I was pretty confident it would work. Luckily it was well received and I was able to proceed with the final:
Following along with the themes I could surmise, I wanted the identity of the figure to be obscured- it also worked out that scribbling over the face with a black pen looked like a ski mask/balaclava. The characters make their money in this world of rebels and terrorists, not always in opposition to them. The Boston Globe review can be found here.
(I did not make the cover illustration above) It seems like a really intense and intriguing novel, and the illustration was a lot of fun to work on. Thank you to Kim, the AD on this!