Members of the Montevallo community ordered milkshakes and gathered around tables at Eclipse Coffee & Books last Wednesday September 16 to hear local author and former UM professor Bill Cobb read from his latest book. Past students, old friends and curious locals fought for a chair close to Cobb and his cluster of companions.
The first half hour of the event was set aside for coffee and catching up. Around 4:30, Cobb began reading excerpts from his book, “Captain Billy’s Troopers: A Writer’s Life.” The inspiration for this memoir came after his long-winded struggle and triumph over normal pressure hydrocephalus, a form of dementia, and less immediately his triumph over alcoholism.
He was open and unashamed of these struggles, which were touched on in the passages he chose and wrapped in stories of growing up in Demopolis, Ala.
Cobb read with a light-hearted wit and induced several chuckles and knowing smiles from the listeners, who could easily relate to the stories of his adolescence. Toward the end of the reading, there was a request from an audience member for Cobb’s rendition of “Captain Billy’s Troopers”, to which he replied, “The R-rated version?” and proceeded to sing just that.
Once the laughter died down, he moved to one of the front rooms, where people filtered in and out to get their personal copies of the book signed, or simply chat with the approachable author.
When asked how he felt about this kind of event, Cobb replied smiling, “I love to be welcomed in my town.” Cheryl Patton, Eclipse’s owner and an old friend of Cobb’s, described him as “warm and funny; a southern institution.”
The event had a similar tone, and it’s mood reflected that of a large group of friends meeting for drinks rather than a structured or corporate book signing. Cobb’s future plans are simple and, for the most part, up in the air; “I’ve been working on a long novel, but I’ve never been able to get it right,” he said, smiling.