The Legend of Jimmy Gollihue by George LaCas

George LaCas spent years playing pool in the Deep South as he wrote The Legend of Jimmy Gollihue, and it shows. The novel, about a young pool shark in the not-too-distant past who takes his game on the road to prove himself to the bewitching young woman he loves, reads like something straight out of local legend.

One of my pet literature peeves is the technique (or lack of technique) of plunging straight into a worst-case scenario without giving the reader a chance to get their bearings. LaCas avoids this problem admirably, coaching the reader through the intricacies of professional pool hustling without ever resorting to tedious exposition. By the time the more complicated situations kicked in, I was feeling the way I always do during James Bond gambling scenes—I’ve got no real understanding of the game, but I know plenty to appreciate the action.

The feel of a legend permeates every part of Jimmy Gollihue, right down to the array of different voices telling the story. The multiple narratives develop a dreamlike quality as it becomes apparent that none of the speakers is exactly trustworthy—all of them are just telling a tale. It’s to LaCas’s credit that this comes off as rich and fascinating rather than distracting or frustrating.

The narrative is a tall tale told by a crusty old pool shark, and a legend recounted in lowered voices by true believers in the back rooms of Louisiana bars. It’s a mythic parable of a hound dog running through the mist, hunting an evil prey whose scent it can’t always quite hold. And it’s the matter-of-fact truth in the sassy, adoring voice of Iris, the green-eyed, back-woods Irish witch who weaves magic tapestries in her clan’s trailer park while she waits for her man to come back home.

Jimmy Gollihue is a tapestry unto itself, weaving in traces of the Odyssey, the Paul Bunyan school of American tall tales, magical realism, and some gritty Delta-blues deals with the devil, without ever becoming derivative or muddying the brilliant colors of any of its influences. It’s a fun, absorbing read, with enough violence, humor, sex and magic to keep you on your toes, and enough depth to make you flip it right over when you’ve finished reading to start it all over again.

Visit George LaCas’s great blog about the making of Jimmy Gollihue.

  • JM Schwarz

    J’ai lu ce livre qu’un de mes potes m’a passe.
    J’ai pris le livre , beaucoup parce que je ne peux pas resister a des Yeux verts, meme si c’est un seul oeil, comme un cyclope.
    Ce bouquin avait une sorte de “feel” qui m’a intrigue.. Et ainsi , moi, qui ai plusieurs livres dans ma voiture pour les moments ou j’attends ma femme, j’ai ouvert le livre au milieu.
    J’ai ete instentanement projeté dans un autre monde, Un sentiment que j’ai souvent eu quand j’ouvrais un nouveau livre de Bradbury.
    Ce Las Cas a une façon d’ecrire qui n’est pas necssairement facile pour un homme dont l’anglais ou plutot l’americain n’est pas la langue maternelle. mais, c’est ce qui m’a seduit.
    Ses phrases font image, meme plus, elles portent des odeurs. L’ayant ouvert au hasard, je n’ai pas pu savoir instantenement ou j’en étais de cette histoire. Ma femme cognant a la vitre de la voiture m’a surpris, j’etais ailleurs. Et c’etait séduisant comme un bon réve.
    J’ai pris le livre chez moi et je l’ai commence a la premiere page. L’extrait que j’avais lu au hasard parlait d’Elle,Iris.
    Et je lisais en esperant la retrouver rapidement. Iris, l’oeil vert, j’etais sous son charme.
    Je pense que ce livre se resume a cela: il y a un charme.
    Mais quelqu’un frappe a ma porte et je dois arreter ma revue. Je reviendrai vers vous et vers cette Légende.”La légende de Jimmy Gollihue”
    Sacré ecrivain . ce Georges Las Cas. Il a du talent et un charme.

  • Instant translation of the above –
    (Merci, Jean-Marc! J’espere que c’est correct si je traduis vos mots 🙂 )

    I read this book, which was given to me by a friend.
    I took it mainly because I can’t resist green Eyes, even if there’s just one, like a cyclops.
    The book had a “feel” that intrigued me. So I – and I have many books in my car for times when I’m waiting for my wife – I opened the book to the middle.
    I was instantly transported into another world. It’s a feeling that I’ve often had when I open a new Bradbury book.
    This LaCas has a way of writing that isn’t necessarily easy for a man who doesn’t speak English, or should I say American, as his native language. But that’s exactly what seduced me.
    His words form images, and more than that, they carry scents. Having opened it at random, I couldn’t know exactly where I was in the story. My wife rapping on the car window took me by surprise – I was far away. And it was seductive like a good dream.
    I took the book home and started it at the first page. The section I had read at random was about Her, Iris.
    And I read on, hoping to get find her again quickly. Iris, the green eye, I was under her spell.
    I think that’s a good summary of the whole book: it casts a spell.
    But someone knocked on my door and I had to leave my reading. I will come back to you and to this Legend. “The Legend of Jimmy Gollihue.”
    Quite a writer, this George LaCas. He has talent and charm.

  • Jean-marc

    Hi Erin, congrats and thanks. pretty close translation.
    Shall we say that This George LasCas has
    “A” charm for he is able to cast a spell on you.
    And yes,I fell in love with Iris, the Green Eyes.
    It is refreshing to read a book like the Legend of Jimmy Gollihue.
    A new breath of air in the current mass of books.

  • Loved The Legend of Jimmy Gollihue, George LaCas has a great command of the language.
    I found his blend of classic and contemporary elements wonderful,very visual.

    LaCas paints a fantastic tapestry of his own. I found it very cinematic in its structure, great story telling.
    Homer would have loved it!