By Laura King
It seems extraordinary in an age where “50 Shades of Grey” is on every supermarket shelf that anyone would think of toning down the jacket of Jilly Cooper’s 1980s bonkbuster Riders for a 30th anniversary reprint.
However, that is precisely what has happened to her classic racing romp.The new jodhpur-sprayed derriere is slimmer, flatter and further away from the viewfinder with some boot tops showing.
The manly grasp of the ardent lover’s hand has been removed from the danger zone and shrunk to resemble the uncertain touch of one of dubious heterosexuality.
The overall effect of the new cover? Decidedly unracy.
It certainly would not entice anyone across a bookshop floor to pick it up in its new form like the original did (which sold one million copies in UK alone, its jacket becoming almost as iconic as the famous 1970s Athena tennis girl poster).
Of course, the jacket is bound to be “updated” or “reimagined” for each new edition of the same book.
When I first read about the hooha surrounding the jacket changes to Riders, I naturally assumed it was a carefully orchestrated PR stunt – Successful PR Campaigns can come in all shapes and guises! – to promote the book for its 30th anniversary.
In fact, it turns out to be a true life Jilly Cooper fan who spotted it, was suitably aghast and brought it to public attention.
If it were a PR stunt, it would be quite a risk as literally no one seems to like the new cover!
So if sales do rise as a result of this strangest of PR Events, it will probably be because readers are seeking copies of the original in their droves from secondhand bookshops and websites.
Owners of the original paperback may indeed see a rapid rise in the value of the original so that it quickly becomes a collector’s item.
But I have no explanation for the reasoning behind this.
To de-sexualise the 30-year-old book jacket of Jilly Cooper’s Riders, where both parties are actually fully dressed, in such a sexualised society is very odd indeed.