Thursday, February 19, 2009


James O. Born

I think I’ve blogged on this before but I love a good title. Often the book or movie doesn’t live up to the title but I love them just the same. I’ve struggled with several of my own titles and looked with envy on titles others thought of and I missed.

An older Kirk Douglas movie got me thinking about titles. A few weeks ago I watched Cast a Giant Shadow. I’m a sucker for any story about the birth of modern Israel and overcoming incredible odds to establish a homeland. But the title says it all. The lead character, or the fighting citizens of Israel, both must cast a shadow more than what they thought they were to succeed.

My favorite movie right now is Kingdom Of Heaven. I’ve watched it over and over the last few months but the title kept me away for several years. I can’t even pinpoint why.

I liked the book title Redemption Street. I liked the book too, written by my friend Reed Coleman. But the title captures you. For the record my second novel’s title was also a product of Mr. Coleman. After Putnam said the original title, Chaos Theory, might be confused with another book, I called Reed who immediately came up with Shock Wave for the price of an acknowledgement in the book.

Here's Reed and me in my pool just as each of our books came out back in 2004

I had another title I liked a couple of years ago until I ran it by my friend and chief tormentor over at First Offenders, Jeff Shelby. The title was Written in Blood and he immediately said he didn’t like any reference to writing actually on a book. Good advice.

Next month our own Paul Levine has a new book out titled simply Illegal. I think it’s a great title set on a great cover and the one word could have many meanings related to the story. Paul and I have discussed the book and I know what the title refers to, making it that much better as far as I’m concerned.

And Jackie has some great titles. Unfortunately I have referred to An Incomplete Revenge as an Inconvenient Truth more than once. But this week's release of Among The Mad is a captivating title for a book, or a blog now that I think of it.

This is not a plug for my next book, but I’ll mention that my agent sold it with the title of The Second Species. I was never thrilled with the title. Then months after TOR had it and was working with it, I thought of the phrase The Human Disguise. I could tell the instant I ran it past them that they liked it. A lot. I worked that into the next book’s title, The Double Human. The funny part was coming up with a different author name so as not to confuse any crime fiction fans. Finally I realized I wasn’t smart enough to use any unusual name. I’d never answer to it at conferences or during interviews so I settled on my actual first and middle names, James O’Neal. Now I’m happy with what I settled on.

Now I'll ask a favor. Let me know what you think of the cover and the website for James O'Neal. Shoot me an e-mail or leave a comment. I'd appreciate feedback. This is a new adventure.

What about you? Any titles that really turn you on? Movies or books.


  1. The Writer in the Life Jacket. Oh, wait, that's Coleman. I note he has the much larger inner tube.

    Actually, I like The Human Disguise a lot as a title. The Double Human, hmmm, I'm not so sure.

    I like the cover as well. Chez creepy.

  2. Thanks, Mark.

    I agree with the cover assessment.


  3. Great post, Jim. I love a great title and mourn the fact that I usually can't think of anything witty or strong for some of my writings. Titling artwork is never a problem though. :-D

    Looked at your alter-ego blog. Love it except for the strident blue background colour. It's difficult to read for me. Sorry.

    PS: What happened to Ridley's post from yesterday? It's MIA...

  4. James O. Born has done more plugging than Katie Morgan and Jenna Jameson combined.


  5. Fitz,

    Good one. I knew Jenna Jamison but had to look up Katie Morgan.

    Keep 'em coming.


  6. A good title is hard to find. This Barbara Kingsolver title is intriguing: PRODIGAL SUMMER. I also like Paul's TO SPEAK FOR THE DEAD.

  7. Love the cover and the title.

    Reed came up with the title for my third book Dead of the Day after my original Waterlogged was deemed unsatisfactory by my editors. He should make a living coming up with titles.

    That said, I went through 50 titles for my new tattoo shop mystery and everything got shot down. Until my husband called me in the middle of the day and said, how about The Missing Ink? It was a little corny and pun-y, but my editors love it.

  8. I like "The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love" by Oscar Hijuelos. It has well it should.

    I like "Snow Falling on Cedars" and "Bad Day at Black Rock," which coincidentally have similar themes involving racism.

  9. Gischler gets my vote for Pistol Poets, Shotgun Opera and Go Go Girls of the Apocalypse

  10. Gischler also gets my vote for best first line of a novel in Gun Monkeys.

  11. I agree with the Gischler titles. I wonder if the firearms motiff didn't turn off readers who might have tried them. Despite the title Gun Monkeys, the sotry was funny and fast. It had guns but it had characters as well.

    There's nothing not to like about his science fiction. Good title and good book.

    I'm gong to start the revamp of my website with the emails and comments left for me. It lloks like the blue has to go.


  12. I forgot the greatest title of all time, the paperback sensation: "Thinner Thighs in Thirty Days."

  13. There are some magnificent titles that just make you pick up the book and hope it lives up to said title.

    Like Cornelia's "The Crazy School". Crais' "Demolition Angel". G. M. Ford's "Who the Hell is Wanda Fuca?"

    I'm a sucker for a good title.

    I'm afraid I have to agree with Marianne about the alternate site. I love the idea behind the book, and I want to read it, but my old eyes couldn't focus on the black writing because of the blue background. I need more contrast.

    Getting old isn't for sissies, darn it.

  14. Begrudgingly, I will admit that that is an excellent cover.