Edna Ferber, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Show Boat and Giant, achieved her first great success with a series of stories she published in American Magazine between 1911 and 1913. The stories featured Emma McChesney: smart, savvy, stylish, divorced mother, and Midwest traveling sales representative for T. A. Buck's Featherloom skirts and petticoats. With one hand on her sample case and the other fending off advances from salesmen, hotel clerks, and other predators, Emma holds on tightly to her reputation: honest, hardworking, and able to outsell the slickest salesman. Like her compact bag of traveling necessities, Emma has her life boiled down to essentials: her work and her seventeen-year-old son, Jock. Her experience has taught her that it's best to stick to roast beef, medium - avoiding both physical and moral indigestion - rather than experiment with fancy sauces and exotic dishes.
Yet she never shies away from a challenge, and her sharp instincts and common sense serve her well in dealing with the likes of Ed Meyer, a smooth-talking, piano-playing salesman Blanche LeHay, prima donna of the Sam Levin Crackerjack Belles and T. A. Buck Jr., the wet-behind-the-ears son o trials of Emma McChesney.
Published in 1917 and 1913, respectively, these books represent early steps in Ferber's journey to her 1924 Pulitzer Prize. Fanny is the semiautobiographical story of a Jewish girl growing up in the Midwest. Roast Beef is the chronicle of Emma McChesney, a divorced mother and traveling sales rep for T.A. Buck's Featherloom Skirts and Petticoats.