Calvin Cobb: Radio Woodworker is a new novel by Roy Underhill (yes, THAT Roy Underhill) and published by Lost Arts Press. I was really looking forward to this novel…I’ve loved everything I’ve purchased from Christopher Schwarz and LAP and expected this to be of the same caliber.
The book itself is made in the USA and is just as exquisitely made as everything LAP does, so no disappointment there. The story itself is good, but not great, and focuses on Calvin Cobb, a section chief in the Department of Agriculture in the late 1930s. Calvin’s day job is testing manure spreaders and yes, there are plenty of jokes about it hitting the fan. Roy manages to bring a little woodworking into Calvin’s life by making manure spreader models. This turns into an improbable radio show. Again, Roy manages to sprinkle enough woodworking tool and joinery details that you never quite forget the author. In fact, the book itself is a lot like a film noir version of Roy’s TV show. My objection to the book is this…the situations that lead the story to its climax were, well…uncomfortable. I won’t give away the details out of fear of spoiling the ending for other potential readers and I don’t necessarily object to the real tension Roy was trying to create, but it doesn’t seem to gel well with the rest of the story. In addition to that, the book ends VERY quickly after the climax with a lot of loose ends unresolved.
Again, I didn’t expect Calvin Cobb: Radio Woodworker to be Shakespeare in a shop apron and it isn’t. It is a fun book that I would recommend to fans of Roy Underhill or LAP. Read it with a single malt or good craft beer next to the fire and you won’t be disappointed.
Lost Arts Press has posted a clip of Roy reading his favorite chapter from the book which can be found here.
Editor’s Note: I do not have an affiliate relationship of any kind with Lost Arts Press, Chris Schwarz, or Roy Underhill. However, I respect the hell out of what Chris and Roy have each been able to achieve and with any luck, I’ll be able to buy each of them a beer a Handworks 2015.