The Shady Characters book, revealed!

The Shady Characters book cover Ladies and gentlemen: the Shady Characters book is now available for pre-order at W.W. Norton,,, Barnes & Noble and The Book Depository.

Phew. Wow, even.

After months of writing, editing and proof-reading with the help of Brendan Curry, Laurie Abkemeier, Rachelle Mandik and many others, it feels like everything has happened in a rush. The loose, printed proofs arrived in the post a couple of weeks back, closely followed by the bound proofs, and now by the appearance of the book itself at Norton, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

The bound proofs, incidentally, are a wondrous thing. The book has been set, with quite some flair, in Hoefler & Frere-Jones’ splendid Hoefler Text, and the typographic treatment is spectacular — there are certain things that don’t quite work in an electronic medium, and the physical book is just that little bit more cohesive. The pilcrow on the cover is also set in Hoefler Text, though the text is in Futura. I like it a lot, and my default sans-serif font choice of Gill Sans is under threat.

This is all still a little unreal. But not so unreal that I won’t encourage you to head over to the vendor of your choice and pre-order it as soon as you can!


  1. Valerie
    Posted April 14, 2013 at 8:28 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Oh, wow, that’s a great cover! I added the book to my wish list on the Book Depository just now.

    Perhaps you’ve already noticed by the time I post this comment, but the links to and aren’t working—just thought I’d point it out.

    • Keith Houston
      Posted April 14, 2013 at 8:35 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Hi Valerie — thanks for catching that, and for mentioning the Book Depository page. I’ve updated the post accordingly. And lastly, thanks for ordering!

  2. Posted April 14, 2013 at 9:10 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Order placed. There aren’t many books I buy in printed form these days[1], but I’m happy to make an exception for what I hope will be a very nice thing to have.

    [1] For pure text, I prefer my Kindle

    • Keith Houston
      Posted April 14, 2013 at 9:32 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Hi Les — I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. Brad Walrod, the book’s compositor, has done a great job on the paper edition. And as a lapsed programmer, I suspect that e-book composition for Shady Characters is going to be rather tricky!

  3. Michael Zajac
    Posted April 15, 2013 at 1:24 am | Permalink | Reply

    Any anticipated Canadian sellers?

    • Keith Houston
      Posted April 15, 2013 at 8:50 am | Permalink | Reply

      Hi Michael — absolutely! The book is already on, and I’ll post more vendor links as they appear.

  4. Esme Greenfield
    Posted April 15, 2013 at 9:47 am | Permalink | Reply

    Added to my wish list at! Cannot wait for September.

  5. Posted April 15, 2013 at 10:02 am | Permalink | Reply

    Excellent news! And gorgeous cover. Will definitely be ordering a copy.

    • Keith Houston
      Posted April 15, 2013 at 10:14 am | Permalink | Reply

      Hi Kathleen — thanks! I hope things are going well for you in Manchester.

  6. Posted April 15, 2013 at 11:47 am | Permalink | Reply

    I too am a big big fan of Gills Sans as I think it is just a clear-as-a-bell typeface (I should have said legible) and has that classic but somehow, not old fashioned look to it. I also like that width, it’s not narrow and awkward looking like some typefaces.

    Futura is a typeface I have used for 15 years for a client who I design insurance application forms for – I’d love to change it but its their brand typeface. I’m not a great fan of Futura in contrast, especially the question mark (I know as punctuation mark this will be of particular interest to you) which looks like a backwards S with a period beneath it – I don’t like it at all, and my client often asks me to replace it with one from a different typeface. This causes me lots of consternation, not to mention extra work of course.

    Great book, look forward to ordering a copy when it launches as I have really enjoyed reading your blog posts about punctuation and the like.

    • Keith Houston
      Posted April 16, 2013 at 6:31 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Hi Andrew — I think that rather than preferring Futura as a typeface, it may just be that I’m reaching Gill Sans saturation point. It seems to be the official typeface for the British establishment: I see it on, at the National Library of Scotland, in the BBC logo; more or less everywhere, really!

      That said, Futura’s question mark is nice.

      Thanks for the comment, and I’m really happy that you enjoy the blog. Glad to be of service!

  7. annie morgan
    Posted April 15, 2013 at 1:52 pm | Permalink | Reply


  8. Mustafa
    Posted April 18, 2013 at 11:08 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Preordered. Cover looks good and I think this is going to make some great light reading during my idle time at work.

One Trackback

  1. April 21, 2013 at 2:45 pm

    […] link of the week: Shady Characters, a typography/history blog I’ve linked to before, has a book out.  If you liked those links, you know what to do […]

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