The Cover Story

About the cover of my published Iraq War memoir:

It almost got me arrested. 

The book, or at least the manuscript, was finished. I needed a catchy title, one that would stand out from all the other war memoirs. One night, around 3 am, it came to me: Does My Suicide Vest Make Me Look Fat? 

Oh, yeah. That’s catchy. 

Now I had to go the distance and create a photo to go on the cover. An authentic-looking suicide vest was needed. I went about gathering the materials to construct a fake suicide vest, buying the components in various cities to avoid establishing a pattern: a workout vest from a major department store, wires from a well-known electronics shop, and modeling clay from an art supply store.

A friend worked at a photography studio in a nearby city, so I hired her boss to do the shoot. Now, this studio, like most others, had a changing room where I could’ve put the vest on before I went before the camera. Staying out of sight wearing a costume that very closely resembled the real thing I saw in Iraq? Good idea, right?

Nah, that made way too much sense! I stood in the lobby while the assistants made sure the wires were sticking out of the clay masquerading as blocks of plastic explosive. Gotta live on the edge, right?

The photo session started, and wouldn’t you know, a police officer walked in the door and into the lobby, asking if he could pick up his daughter’s senior portraits.

The same lobby where I’d been standing, only a few minutes before, preparing to sacrifice myself to send the infidels into oblivion.

That night, I visited a friend to have a few beers in his garage. He worked in law enforcement. After shooting the breeze for a while, he turned to me and said, “Hey, do you have a photo of this prop you’re using on your book cover?”

I walked to my car and pulled a trash bag out of the back seat. Walking into the garage, I pulled the fake vest out of the bag and held it up in front of him. The smile vanished from his face. Very slowly and deliberately, he said, “OK, I STRONGLY suggest you limit the amount of time you keep that in your car.”

Staring at the costume as if for the very first time, I said, “Wow, this might have been a bad idea.”

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