John R. Cobb remembers the moment he began writing his first novel. It was in 2004 when he quietly penned chapter after chapter in his Holden home. His wife Heidi and 10-year-old-son Johnny may have thought he was crafting another Maine short story or more newsletter features for Bangor Hydro-Electric Co., where he has been an IT Infrastructure Analyst since 1997.
“The story of three primary male characters had been coalescing in my head for some time,” said the soft-spoken 47-year-old author. “It’s a unique story in that 99 percent of the locales — the Machias Causeway, Helen’s Restaurant, Gleason Cove in Perry — are real. Very few locales were made up for story settings.”
After a year or more of writing his first draft, Cobb showed the story to his wife. A deft editor, she liked the overall tale of love, loss, poverty, and the sea, while others thought it should be more linear, with a natural flow. So Cobb went back to his 1970s-era Down East tale, snipped 10,000 words, tightened his narrative, and shopped it to various publishers.
Rejection slips soon drifted in, forcing Cobb to take criticism in stride. Then he heard about Maine Authors Publishing, a Rockland-based company that helps self-published and independent writers get their books published and into the hands of the right readers.
Cobb paid a reasonable fee in exchange for a carefully edited, attractively designed 226-page book that retails at an affordable $15.95. Eventually he will pocket 100 percent of the royalties and profit even more from a downloadable Kindle format at Amazon.com and Smashwords.com.
“Judith: A Quoddy Tale” should be embraced by native Mainers for its gritty depiction of lobster fishing, rural crime, and family strife. Tourists and book aficionados will like its sweeping 41 dialogue-rich chapters and the mention of such locales as Eastport, Lubec, and Campobello. Men and women will savor its PG-13 raciness and the realism of its male characters and the women in their lives.
Like any skilled author, Cobb poured his own life’s experiences into his novel. A native Texan who moved to Maine at age 8, he served in the Army in the 1980s and since has explored the Maine coast by car, foot, and boat. When he writes about retired Marine Ray Winn, who is building a house in Perry, Cobb draws somewhat on his own military service, which he terms “modest” compared to veterans of the Vietnam War and subsequent conflicts. The other two main characters are Winn’s father-in-law, Jasper Mann, a dying fisherman, and Mann’s troubled son Dale, fresh out of prison for killing a man named Gary Neptune.
Swirling in and out of the narrative are a trio of new and old lovers, highlighted by Dale’s former girlfriend, Donna Sabattus, a member of the Passamaquoddy Tribe from Pleasant Point (Sipayik). Cobb tried to represent characters of Passamaquoddy descent like most any other people of that period.
The remaining ghostly “characters” are the failed 1930s Quoddy tidal power project and The Ole Scot, a made-up apparition thought to eat the souls of lost fishermen. There is also the book’s namesake, a fishing boat named in homage of Jasper’s late wife, being restored by Ray and Jasper. Ray’s wife Judy and his son, Little Ray, died from the probable effects of a chimney fire.
“I hope people like the story,” Cobb said modestly, hinting that a sequel may be in the works. “It could be a collection of short stories. In many ways, ‘Judith’ is many short stories strung together.”
For more information on Cobb and his novel, visit www.Johnrcobb.com.