It’s rather fitting that Thomas Cobb’s second crack at literary stardom could come from an indie film that almost never saw the light of day. Crazy Heart, based on Cobb’s 1987 book of the same name, was headed directly for the video shelf until Jeff Bridges’s lead performance, and some lobbying on the part of Hollywood power players, placed it at the center of an Oscar campaign. The movie is also giving Cobb a boost; his novel, which has been out of print, is being republished as a $13.99 trade paperback by HarperCollins in a 25,000-copy first printing.
Cobb, who now lives in Rhode Island, grew up outside of Tucson, Ariz., and lived in Texas—his fiction is largely inspired by and set in the West—received glowing praise for Crazy Heart when the book came out more than 20 years ago. But that press didn’t translate into the lasting career Cobb hoped. A second book followed in 2003, a collection of short stories called Acts of Contrition, that got a small paperback release from Texas Review Press. In 2008, Scribner released a new novel, Shave Tail, again to little fanfare.
Cal Morgan, who’s republishing Crazy Heart at HarperPerennial, certainly thinks the novel could break Cobb out. Pointing to the praise the book received when it debuted—the Houston Post said it “just might be the finest country-western novel ever written”—Morgan noted that it’s a title that certainly inspired people within the publishing house. Morgan said that a few HarperCollins sales reps approached him, upon hearing about the rerelease, saying they remembered selling the original book and counted it among their favorites.
The new edition of Crazy Heart, which Harper is releasing February 2—a date that coincides with the broader rollout of the film as Fox expands from its current limited release—will feature a tie-in jacket, and Morgan is already reporting strong interest from the chains. He confirmed that Borders recently upped its order.
For his part, Cobb is watching and waiting. He’s hoping that the interest in Crazy Heart will translate to renewed attention for the paperback of Shave Tail, which Berkley is releasing in May. (He noted that that novel “didn’t get much attention at all.”) If nothing else, Cobb thinks he’s back—for the moment. He’s working on a new novel, a work of historical fiction about a little-known gun fight that took place in southern Arizona in 1918, but that won’t be ready for his agent, ICM’s Binky Urban, to start shopping until at least this spring. As Cobb put it, in some ways this all feels like a return to the late 1980s, and that Crazy Heart’s “arc just got interrupted for 22 years.”