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Infernal Devices cover

Updated: Nov 10, 2020

More years ago than is quite comfortable to consider (all right, seven) I designed a fan-cover for a book I like very much, Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve. It feels like a bit of a turning point in my development because it was a real step into poster-esque design, and one of the pieces I showcased in my portolio a few months later when I went for the job at Waterstones...

I've always wanted to pair it with a cover for one of Mortal Engines' sequels, Infernal Devices. Infernal Devices is actually the third book in the quartet, and they're all extremely good - but crucially Devices like Engines centres on (the futuristic, predator-city version of ) a town I know and love. It's set largely in Brighton.

I had previously made one or two stabs at the project but they never quite satisfied what I wanted to do.

It's fitting that I finally got there the year I have come back for an extended stay in Brighton (well... Hove, Actually) and am considering moving back more permanently.

Here it is alongside the Mortal Engines cover:

The Brighton landmarks and icons I've included from top to bottom:

  • The Royal Pavilion (reduced here to it's central section) which features in the book as 'Cloud 9'. This palace was built by John Nash for the Prince Regent essentially to house the monarch's mistress. It is inspired by Indian sacred architecture which was extremely fashionable at the time, while the interior is mostly a completely different kind of Orientalism - Japanese- and Chinese-inspired decor. Queen Victoria inherited it and hated it, largely because its grounds are so small and people could practically wonder up to the front door. She hastily gave it to the nation. It really is both stupendously beautiful and silly as a building.

  • The seafront bandstand, used here as a launching deck for... er, however people are getting across to Cloud 9. I thought cable car but didn't want to clutter the image. The real bandstand was several years ago renovated from a very sorry state to an absolutely glorious one and is always a joy to see.

  • The wrought-iron arches from the seafront road. Like the bandstand these sport 'Brighton Green' which is the colour I took my cues from overall. Also like the bandstand the wrought iron and paint has taken quite the battering from the sea air over the years and sadly hasn't seen the kind of refurbishment the latter has. There are plans though I have mixed feelings about them as they are set to fill in the covered walk with rows of chi-chi shops that feel like they'll sap the unique vibe of the area for something more indetikit.

  • The ice-cream coloured terraced houses of Hanover, and the Hanover Centre. The narrow, bright streets on the east hill of Brighton are iconic of the town. I attended a Junior School right at the top of Hanover - and it happens that Reeve went to the same one! Talking of which...

  • The Pepper Pot. This is an 1830... thing which no one is quite certain what it was built for. It is the only surviving part of an Italianate villa which was built at the top of Hanover Hill in the 1820/30s, as Brighton became a very fashionable Regency town. No one's sure if this neo-classical tower-ette was meant as a water tower, a very fancy stink-pipe or just a decorative folly. Whatever it was meant as, by the 1860s it had already changed hands and started on a long list of alternative uses, from housing a newspaper's printing press to an artist's studio to a Scout troop's headquarters - and a public toilet. There used to be one of those under the bandstand too. In Brighton we seem quite fond of making beautiful structures into very fancy hats for loos. It features prominently in Infernal Devices.

  • Embassy Court. A Deco/Streamline Morderne/Modernist block of flats which has housed several famous residents. I love this era of architecture and design and in isolation Embassy Court is an extremely handsome building, though I do agree with those who have said it's built with little sympathy of scale for its surroundings. That was particulay problematic during the period from the 70s onwards that it was run into severe neglect by corrupt and negligent owners. It became a giant eyesore, even more of a disgrace to the seafront than the rusting bandstand or burned-out West Pier.

  • The Dome. This was originally the stable block of the Royal Pavilion palace. It is now a major concert venue (it hosted the Eurovision Song Contest that Abba won!) as well as Brighton Museum, giving you a hint of just how astonishingly rich, self-indulgent and decadent the Prince Regent was.

  • The North Laine. Confusingly there are two separate though close-in-geography-name-and-purpose areas of Brighton. One is the Lanes, one is the North Laine. The latter is an area of shopping streets characterised by small independent shops and cafes and a kind of cafe-culture vibe. The word 'Laine' is a dialectical agricultural word for a parcel of land, rather than being a ye olde spelling of 'lane': it just happens to occupy an area which was once the North Laine of someone's farm. But just to be difficult we also have The Lanes. They're a set of much narrower and twistier alleys.

  • Brunswick Square houses. We have a handful of grand Regency squares and circles in Brighton though perhaps nothing to quite rival Bath's Circus. Brunswick Square is possibly the grandest.

  • The Duke of York's can-can legs. Brighton is home to Britain's oldest cinema, the glorious Duke of York's Picture House built in 1910. Both interior and exterior have remained remarkably in tact despite spending some years as a punk venue. The giant fibre-glass cancan legs which kick giddily up from its roof (previously the balcony) are a beloved Brighton icon - but not everyone knows they were first a fixture of Oxford. They were created by artist for the Not The Moulin Rouge cinema there, hence the can-can theme, and Duke of York's bought them in 1991 when the other cinema was demolished. Perhaps they were always more destined to be an icon of silly old Brighton though, as we have taken them to our hearts - there are even some replicas about, such as a red version on another Brighton venue, the Komedia.

  • Beach huts. Funnily enough you don't really get many (any?) beach huts in Brighton, though everyone assumes you would. They run along the promenade of grander neighbour, since incoorporated with Brighton as a city, Hove. They are all painted in Brighton Green apart from their doors. I suspect even there you have to stick to a range of heritage colours dictated by a Hove Beach Hut Owners association because that's the kind of town it is.

  • The pier. Palace Pier in particular. Brighton has had three in its history: The Chain Pier, the West Pier and the Palace Pier. For one brief moment all three existed at once. The Palace was built to replace the basic Chain which was set to be demolished before s storm conveniently did the work. The Palace and West existed together for many years, the West being the stately near-Hove one and the Palace a cheerfully tacky arcade-on-sea (though it does retain some of the Victorian character). The West Pier closed in 1975 with falling visitor numbers and rising maintenance costs and stood empty but intact and beautiful for many years, like a shipwreck above water. For a period they even msnaged to start lighting up the sign again. Then in 2003 in an act of arson, it was burned to its foundations. Brightonites firmly believe that the then-owners of the Palace Pier, the Noble Brothers, were to blame because if not true literally it was true spiritually - they had blocked attempts to renovate the West Pier citing 'unfair competition'. Storms ravaged the remains of the West Pier into a dangerous state and the largest section of collapsed metal, closest to the shore, was removed. The end section, still retaining the shape of the theatre it once housed, is now all that remains, like an oddly dainty oil platform. The Noble Brothers also changed the signage of the Palace Pier to 'Brighton Pier' but no Brightonite will ever acknowledged the name. The current owners have changed some signs back, so the Palace Pier now displays both names.


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