My new nomination for Worst Book Cover Blurb in the History of the Universe.

From the back cover of the horror anthology Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Scream Along With Me (Dell paperback, reprinted 1977)–


Hitchcock has a brand-new CB radio, built to his own special specifications. With it he can communicate with all his very best fiends where [sic] they may be hiding. Of course, on the wavelength he uses, the call names of his CB soul mates tend to be a bit bizarre: There’s “Mad Dog” * “Bloody Mary” * “Jack the Ripper” * “Strychnine Suzie” – to name but a few. So if you happen to be a CB fan yourself, you can try to tune in on the mater’s [sic] voice beaming out his message loud and clear:



The really sad part is that it’s actually a fairly solid collection of stories: Theodore Sturgeon, Basil Copper, Donald E. Westlake, Thomas Disch, T.H. White, Algis Budrys, to name a few. Even more bafflingly, the front cover actually makes sense, depicting Hitch as conductor of a suitably weird musical combo with three ghoulish old ladies that sort of resemble what I’ve always imagined H.P. Lovecraft’s aunts looked like, and a peculiar one-horned monster accompanying them on bagpipes (that neatly double as a Lawrence Welk-style bubble machine). The tagline: “Hitchcock strikes a high note in horror!” All musical allusions, in keeping with the drollery of the title. It’s not the best-designed front cover in the world, but at least it stays on point.

So where the hell did the CB lingo on the back cover come from? I appreciate that this was the '70s, but still, how was CB jargon supposed to appeal to potential readers of Hitchcock anthologies? Who imagined that there was a huge, untapped audience for both short horror fiction and Hal Needham movies? Is there any form of jargon less scary than trucker talk? Truckers themselves can be plenty scary, but trucker jargon? No. Even today, scientists estimate that fewer than 25 human beings have ever existed who resembled a trucker less than Alfred Hitchcock.

10-4, good buddy. 10-Forever! Mwah ha ha ha ha!

By a coincidence, I saw a terrible cover blurb today.

It was on the cover of Science Fiction: The Best of the Year 2007 Edition. If you look at the image, you’ll see the names Joe Haldeman, Alistair Reynolds, and Michael Swanwick featured. All talented SF authors - so why is this a bad blurb? Because none of them have any material in this book. They had stories in the 2006 edition and, as best as I can tell, the cover designer just carried their names over on to the new book

Funny thing, I remember owning a book of trivia ages ago and I remember with stunning clarity reading the line:

Has anyone besides me EVER heard this before?

I guess this is in the “blurb least likely to inspire an actual book sale” category. I’ve successfully managed to expunge the name of the book from my memory, but it was the usual trite third-rate Tolkien rip-off fantasy trilogy. The blurb? “A stirring fantasy saga, in the tradition of” … now here you’re expecting LOTR, Tolkien, no? No … “The Sword of Shannara” (A second rate Tolkien rip-off by Terry Brooks).

My guess is that when that book came out, CB radios were a huge fad, and anyone and everyone was tying into that fad any way they could, however tenuous the connection. Marketing dweebs were likely responsible.

*Dream or reality? Future or racial memory? Forecast or myth? Every reader will pass his own verdict on this unique and challenging book. * - part of Hutchinson & Co’s blurb for ‘The Chalk Giants’ by Keith Roberts (1974).

Translation - “This book is SO challenging that we don’t understand it. We hope you do.”

Entirely possible, if it was the mid 70s, though 77 was a little late for the CB fad. Most of it was concentrated around late 75 through about mid 76–I know this because as a young kid I was utterly obsessed with it–had all of C. W. McCall’s albums, learned all the lingo, made up my own 10-code, idolized truckers, and pestered my dad until he let me talk on his CB radio (which was against the law, but nobody cared–everybody did it). There were books of CB lingo and CB culture everywhere for awhile right about the time “Convoy” was a #1 hit. It didn’t last long but it burned pretty hot there for a few months. If that book was published during that time, a CB-themed blurb is understandable.


And it also seems to be true of his Best Fantasy book as well.

The horror, the horror!


That’s like saying you have a great new soda that tastes like Mr. Pibb.

The Seven Percent Solution was a Sherlock Holmes Pastiche. Holmes goes to Vienna to be treated by Freud for his cocaine addiction.

The blurb?

No, no, no… that’s just good target marketing… it reminds me of the titles at the local truckstops. I’m a dedicated conniesewer of truckstop pulp. That’s a surefire blurb.

You’re not insane (or if you are, that memory doesn’t prove it)-- according to his IMDb biography page:

–which is certainly an interesting glimpse into the man’s family life, although it’s kind of a leap from “guilty pleasure” to “favorite film.” In any case, I find it hard to believe that Hitchcock’s oeuvre represents a lifetime’s legacy of failure to achieve the elusive directorial character of Stroker Ace. However, I can certainly imagine him watching such films with his daughter, making amusing observations in his dry, offbeat manner. If there were a way to record the voices of the dead for MST3K, he’d be on my short list.

I have to admit it’d be fairly amusing if Hitchcock actually was hugely into CB-- imagine how weird it would be for a trucker, maybe on a late-night run down the coast, it’s about 1 AM, and suddenly that distinctive voice is coming out of the radio. By all accounts, the man genuinely enjoyed dicking with people’s minds in unexpected ways.

I wonder what Hitchcock’s handle would have been-- “Tubby Shadow?”

“Goood eeeevening, good buddies.”

How dare you diss the Pibb?

Um, *what * CB lingo? Or did I miss something in the OP?

“Communicate”? “Wavelength”? “Tune in”? “Loud and clear”?

That’s not CB lingo. CB lingo would have used “modulate” or “jaw” for “communicate,” “channel” for “wavelength,” and some variation on “blowing your doors off” for “loud and clear.” I can’t find anything really CB-ish for “tune in,” so, okay, I’ll give you that one.

I freely admit that I’ve done my best to destroy as much memory of the '70s as possible while still remaining ambulatory. But doesn’t the phrase “BREAKER BUDDY” count as CB jargon? I wasn’t being sarcastic by typing it in uppercase and boldface letters; that’s the way it appears on the back cover (actually I think it’s either Schmalfette Grotesk or Impact).

Granted, they could easily have crammed a lot more in, instead of just establishing the CB premise and the rather limp excuses for spooky trucker handles. But given the copy errors already present in plain English, the end result would surely have been less comprehensible than even the densest authentic lingo-- although quite possibly scarier.

I remember this era so clearly, because not only was my big brother similarly obsessed, with trucking and CBs and whatnot (and I couldn’t help but be influenced, though only in a brotherly way - I didn’t actually enjoy it at all) but I lived out in the country, so a lot of my friends had some connection to CBs legitimately. And then there were movies and TV shows like Smokey and the Bandit (I, II, and III), Movin’ On and BJ and the Bear. Weird phenomenon.

Somehow I only read that in the same way one might describe someone who had just bought a new sewing machine as being a new “stitch bitch” or something, I don’t know. I’m not familiar with “breaker buddy” as a general descriptor of CB users; in fact, outside the phrase (which I never remember anyone actually using IRL), “breaker, breaker, good buddy,” I wouldn’t even recognize those words as belonging together.

All that said, this definitely answers the question “did I miss something in the OP” with a resounding 10-4! :wink: