“William Cobb is an extraordinarily gifted raconteur
who has written a memoir that reads like the best
fast-paced and page-turning novel—a raw, poignant,
and elegiac book of profound wisdom.”
In his audacious memoir, William Cobb reveals the tumultuous creative life of a distinguished practitioner of southern and Alabama storytelling. As poignant and inspiring as his own fiction, Captain Billy’s Troopers traces Cobb’s early life, education, and struggles with alcohol and the debilitating condition normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH).
Like a curving river, the broad sweep of Cobb’s turbulent life includes both startling cataracts and desultory eddies, leading sometimes into shadows or opening into unexpected sunlight. With unsentimental clarity, Cobb recounts coming of age in his native Demopolis in the churning middle years of the twentieth century. It’s there he has his first tantalizing tastes of alcohol and begins to drink habitually. Readers then travel with Cobb to Livingston University (now the University of West Alabama) and then on to Vanderbilt University. Along the way, readers relish his first experiences of love and success as a writer, leading to a career as a professor of writing at Alabama College (now the University of Montevallo) in 1963.
From there Cobb’s struggles with alcohol and depression lead to elongated years of tumbling creative output and the collapse of his marriage. The summer of 1984 found Cobb in rehab, the first step in his path to recovery. His unflinching memoir narrates both the milestones and telling details of his intense therapy and years in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). In the sober thirty years since, Cobb has published a string of critically praised novels and a prize-winning collection of short stories. The capstone of his comeback was winning the Harper Lee Award in 2007 for distinguished fiction writing.
In 2000, shortly after retiring, Cobb developed NPH, which upset his sense of balance and triggered dementia symptoms and other maladies. Nine years later in 2009, brain surgery brought Cobb a dramatic recovery, which began the third act in his writing career. Vital, honest, and entertaining,Captain Billy’s Troopers captures the life of an Alabama original.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
William Cobb was born in Eutaw, Alabama, and was raised in Demopolis. He received an MA in English from Vanderbilt University in 1963 and began teaching at Alabama College (now the University of Montevallo). In 1978, he was awarded a fellowship for creative writing by the National Endowment for the Arts. Cobb’s first novel, Coming of Age at the Y, was published in 1984. Between 1984 and 2001, he published five more novels and a collection of short stories. In the 1980s, Cobb began writing plays. Three of his plays have been produced in New York City. Cobb was made writer-in-residence at Montevallo in 1987 and continued in that position until his retirement in 2000.
PRAISE FOR CAPTAIN BILLY’S TROOPERS
“William Cobb is an extraordinarily gifted raconteur who has written a memoir that reads like the best fast-paced and page-turning novel-a raw, poignant, and elegiac book of profound wisdom.”
—Pat Conroy, author of South of Broad and The Death of Santini: The Story of a Father and His Son
“Cobb is a natural storyteller and his mastery is on full display in this hilarious, moving memoir. I laughed aloud a lot, especially reading about the early years (he may have the best, creepiest oldest-living-Confederate-widow anecdote ever put to the page). But even when things get grim for the older Billy Cobb, the voice is just as endearing, clear-eyed, unflinching. Cobb tells it all, and he does it wonderfully here.”
—Brad Watson, author of The Heaven of Mercury and Aliens in the Prime of Their Lives
6 X 9, 208 pp
ISBN: 978-0-8173-1876-5 Cloth
ISBN: 978-0-8173-8875-1 Ebook