Roy Underhill is a little under the weather – both literally and figuratively. We chatted last night, during which I found he’s on the mend from a nasty cold and also at the mercy of the nasty weather in the southeast. So assuming his electricity remains intact, he’s staying bundled up inside at his computer for the next several days as he continues revisions on his novel, “Calvin Cobb: Radio Woodworker!” – a novel with measured drawings.
The book is a delightful screwball comedy along the lines of such great Depression-era films as “His Girl Friday” and “Bringing up Baby,” complete with farcical situations, strong female characters, (seemingly) impossible romance and everything else you’d expect from that genre. It had me giggling on almost every page (perhaps you’ll be guffawing). And should you choose to read it thus, “Calvin Cobb: Radio Woodworker!” also incorporates troubling issues of historic revisionism and gender roles (but Roy doesn’t hit you over the head with the heady stuff). Of course it involves woodworking (there will actually be measured drawings of the plans Calvin shares with his listeners!).
So what gives with the picture above, you might wonder? That’s the Old Post Office Pavilion* on Pennsylvania Avenue NW in Washington, D.C., where much of the book takes place. You’ll find Calvin’s shop behind those clock faces, which to me read as a metaphor for…well, you’ll have to see for yourself how the locations reveal truths about the characters (and reveal Roy’s love for and deep knowledge of the fascinating history of our capital).
If all goes as planned (and as the primary editor it’s my job to make sure it does), Lost Art Press will publish “Calvin Cobb: Radio Woodworker!” late in 2014 (with the high-quality paper and binding you’d expect, with printing in the United States). To that end, Roy is busy whipping the text into shape with a couple of revisions to enhance the plot and pacing; he’s promised me a new draft by the end of the month. We’ll then identify the seminal scenes and select the perfect illustrator to bring them to life in a style reminiscent of vintage Hardy Boys books.
I hope to be able to share with you some illustration treatments by late March – and I’ll be keeping you up to date as the project progresses. In a few weeks, I’ll introduce a couple more of the characters…without giving too much away, I hope. Until then, know that with “Calvin Cobb: Radio Woodworker,” the shit hits the fan. No really – Calvin’s day job is studying manure spreaders.
— Megan Fitzpatrick
* 1911 picture by Harris & Ewing, from Wikimedia Commons