Full speed ahead
Novelist James Cobb '76 is cruising new literary highways, with all four wheels screeching

If you catch Jim Cobb staring off into space, chances are he’s hard at work.

“My mother and my friends call it ‘booking,’” says Cobb. “I can sit for several hours, staring blankly into the distance. I could just be in a haze, but more likely I’m working through a character or a plot turn.”

Truth is, the one-time radio DJ and soccer ball salesman hasn’t stopped “booking” since Arches last checked in with him in 2002.

His first novel, the 1996 naval techno-thriller Choosers of the Slain, received critical acclaim, and heroine Commander Amanda Lee Garrett earned a fan base that followed her through three subsequent books: Sea Strike, Sea Fighter, and Target Lock.

Not one to be pigeonholed, Cobb published West on 66, a dark and gritty mystery featuring L.A. County deputy sheriff Kevin Pulaski, and a science fiction adventure called Cibola. He’s also written a couple of novellas and has become a frequent contributor to the famed Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine.

Cobb has completed four additional books, which are in various stages of contract negotiations.

“Amanda Garrett fans will be pleased to know we’re close to going to press with a new book called Phantom Force,” he says. The book already has been released in Germany and Japan.

Cobb has two new Kevin Pulaski books finished and is waiting for the logjammed mystery market to open up. Another ready-to-publish thriller novel, which he says he’s not at liberty to discuss, will take his career in “an interesting new direction.”

While these stories make their way to bookstore shelves, Cobb speaks at science fiction conventions, collects historic military firearms, practices his aim at area shooting ranges, and dotes on his raven-black 1960 Ford Thunderbird, “Lisette.” And he writes.

Cobb writes most every day, often over breakfast at The Poodle Dog Restaurant in Fife or at Ben Dew’s Clubhouse Grill on Tacoma’s Sixth Avenue. “I write until my laptop battery goes dead, and then I go home to do research, answer e-mail, and do rewrites.

“For me, writing’s not so much a job as it is an addiction,” he says. “A while back, I finished a project and didn’t know what I was going to work on next. I was a wreck. When I don’t write I get antsy and nervous and become rather intolerable.”

Cobb has hundreds of ideas for future stories, and he can’t imagine the day when he stops writing. He’d like to work on a young-adult novel, he’s got a children’s book in the works, and he and Northwest artist Jeff Knutson are planning a car trip during which they’ll attempt to produce a Japanese manga version (illustrated like a comic book) of West on 66.

“I have so many things I want to do,” he says. “I especially want to keep the Amanda Garrett series going. I just know she has more adventures ahead of her. I really want to see her safe in retirement someday.”

Amanda fans have suggested future story lines should somehow link her to Honor Harrington, the heroine of a series of science fiction books written by David Weber.

“Amanda just has to have a child,” says Cobb. “Someday, we’ll probably all learn that her great, great, great, great, great—many greats—grandchild is Honor Harrington. The two women share so many of the same traits that it somehow makes sense.”

Reader input—be it ideas, questions, or criticism—is important to Cobb, who publishes his e-mail address in each of his novels.

“These books are a group effort,” he says. “I’m just part of the team, and I wouldn’t be able to write them without my readers, my network of writer friends and military experts, my editor, my agent, or my publisher.” — Mary Boone

You can e-mail Jim Cobb at

Other new releases

Our Burden Is Light
Starring Denise Coates ‘92 and Nathan Webb
89 minutes, BCI Eclipse

Written and directed by Coates, this DVD plays as part romantic drama, part concert video, with a head-banging alt-rock score by Nate Mendel, bass player for the Foo Fighters. Coates plays Karen, a painter who spends her time hanging out in rock clubs and whose life is dominated by several unhealthy relationships, including her best friend, a Courtney Love clone, and her beau, an obnoxious punk-rock singer. Kyle, meanwhile, is a frustrated, unfulfilled jingle writer who dreams of being a real musician. After Karen and Kyle are mugged at a bus stop and rescued by a hyperactive eccentric, the two fall in love, even while Karen suffers from amnesia—plot twists best served by the suspension of disbelief. Coates, though, is appealing as an artist who reclaims and redefines herself. Included with the DVD is a CD featuring select songs from the movie soundtrack.

— Andy Boynton


Corporate Social Responsibility: Doing the Most Good for Your Company and Your Cause
Nancy Lee ’80 and Philip Kotler
307 pages, John Wiley and Sons

In today’s world of accounting scandals, global outsourcing, and billion-dollar corporate mergers, there’s an ever-increasing focus on the bottom line. But what about the common good? In fact, companies are contributing to social causes more than ever, and as Lee and Kotler demonstrate, there are tangible financial benefits in doing so. Here, the authors help managers choose the right social issues, partners, and initiatives for their businesses, offering 25 case studies. The book also includes tips for nonprofits seeking corporate support. Lee is president of Social Marketing Services and is an adjunct faculty member at the University of Washington.

— AB


The Greenwood Encyclopedia of African American Literature
Hans Ostrom, professor of English, and J. David Macey, editors
Five volumes, Greenwood Press

With more than 1,000 entries by more than 200 expert contributors, this encyclopedia is the most comprehensive reference available on African-American literature. While most of the entries are on individual authors, the encyclopedia gives special attention to the historical, cultural, and political contexts that have shaped African-American writing. Included are entries on critical movements and terms, critics and scholars, historical and social issues, cultural and historical figures, literary forms and genres, literary schools and organizations, and many other topics.


Rover’s: Recipes from Seattle’s Chef in the Hat
Cynthia Nims ’86 and Thierry Rautureau
256 pages, Ten Speed Press

Sporting his trademark fedora, Thierry Rautureau prepares for another night at Rover’s, his four-star restaurant. Anyone who has dined at the charming 50-seat Seattle restaurant can testify to the French-born chef’s attention to creating a warm inviting atmosphere that makes you feel like you’ve stopped by a good friend’s home for an elegant home-cooked meal. In Rover’s, chef Rautureau and Cynthia Nims, a freelance food and travel writer and the author of several cookbooks, present more than 100 recipes.