In Richard Greenberg's The Violet Hour, it's April 1st, 1919, and the young independent publisher John Pace Seavering is setting up his office. With only enough capital to put out one book, John finds himself besieged by two authors. Denny McCleary, John's brash and gifted college friend, has produced a manuscript so unruly it lives in a trio of crates. He's fallen in love with the enchanting heiress Rosamund Plinth, and if John doesn't agree to publish his book today, he'll lose her forever. But John is also being strenuously lobbied by Jessie Brewster, the popular black jazz singer who is also John's very secret mistress. She's written her memoirs and is determined to have her story known.
As John temporizes with these two, another drama is playing out in the anteroom: A machine of mysterious provenance and purpose has arrived and is spewing out stacks of pages while John's hapless assistant, Gidger, strives vainly to stem the flood and leaves John to ponder if knowing the future will allow him to change it?