Bert Goolsby of Columbia says the average lawyer writes as many words in the course of a year as the average novelist, and maybe more.
He should know. He’s been both.
The name on the dust jackets of his novels is “Bert Goolsby,” but it was more formally Judge C. Tolbert Goolsby Jr. in his 24 years on the S.C. Court of Appeals.
Goolsby’s writing career dates to his student days at high school in Alabama. His published output includes short stories, two books on legal topics (the S.C. Tort Claims Act and a lawyer’s manual on the death penalty), five novels (most of them mysteries), and a just-released volume, 90 Daily Devotions for Lawyers & Judges And Those They Serve. He will be signing copies at The Book Dispensary from 2 to 5 p.m. on Dec. 14.
The new book uses passages from Scripture and weaves in what he describes as “war stories that lawyers and judges tell” to illustrate his points. He originally planned to do 365 devotionals instead of 90, but “I ran out of gas,” he says.
People who suspect judges must be starchy, all-business people even in their private lives haven’t talked with Goolsby. He was once a stand-up comic. Once, literally — one show at an Atlanta-area nightclub when he was in the Army. But he was serious enough about being funny that he also tried out as a comic for the legendary Ed Sullivan All-Army television show in the 1950s.
“This guy stinks,” he heard one of the judges say. But it turned out the judge was referring to the fact that Goolsby’s baby son had thrown up on his father’s military uniform just before the audition. (His biography notes he was drafted during the days of the Korean War and “fought communism as a non-combat percussionist,” playing the drums with several Army bands.)
After his discharge, Goolsby went to The Citadel under the G.I. Bill and then earned his law degree from the University of South Carolina. He later earned an advanced law degree from the University of Virginia.
He spent more than two decades with the S.C. Attorney General’s Office, broken up by two years in private practice. He rose to chief deputy attorney general before his legislative appointment to the appellate court in 1983.
Goolsby sees a connection between legal work and creative writing.
“Every lawsuit is a short story in miniature,” he says, incorporating conflict, personalities and a final resolution.
He got serious about his writing after taking a correspondence course in short story writing. That led to publication of a collection of his work under the title Sweet Potato Biscuits and Other Stories.
After joining a writer’s group, he sold a Christmas short story for $400 to the St. Anthony Messenger, a Catholic magazine.
“I don’t think they realized I was a Presbyterian,” he says with a laugh. The story, “The Box With the Green Bow and Ribbon,” was also twice produced as a stage play.
The first of his five novels was published about 15 years ago; most of them involve crime or courts.
He describes Harper’s Joy as “probably my best.” As for his topics, “They say write what you know, and all I know is the practice of law and that kind of thing,” Goolsby says.
At 78 years old (“I don’t tell people I’m old; I’m pre-dead”), Goolsby continues to write. He has just finished his sixth novel and is looking for a publisher. He has a variety of book signings scheduled, and he will appear on a panel of mystery writers in February.
It’s a long time since Goolsby’s drumming days, but he’s still writing and marching to his own beat.
King Lear in Finlay Park
October 16th-18th and 22nd-25th, the South Carolina Shakespeare Company presents William Shakespeare’s King Lear. All performances held at the Finlay Park Ampitheatre at 7:30 PM. For tickets and more information, click here or call 803-665-2000.
3LAU on Sunday, October 26th and the Unofficial Skrillex Mothership Tour After-Party on the 27th. More information and tickets for both can be found here. VIP tables available.
Bluegrass, Bidding, and BBQ
Join The Palladium Society Thursday, October 23rd from 7-10 p.m. for its 11th annual silent auction, featuring music by The Mustache Brothers and catering by Bourbon and The Oak Table. Tickets are $30 at the door and include admission, drinks, and food. Get yours online now!
The Other Place at Trustus Theatre
Juliana Smithton is a successful neurologist whose life seems to be coming unhinged. A mystery unfolds as fact blurs with fiction, past collides with present and the elusive truth of Juliana’s mental health boils to the surface in The Other Place, running at Trustus Theatre October 17th through November 1st. There will be a talk-back following the matinee on October 19th. Tickets can be purchased here or by calling the box office at 803-254-9732.
Four Miles, Twelve Doughnuts
Winston’s Wish aims to increase knowledge and understanding of children with autism, and you can help by participating in the 4.donut Race on October 25th. Start at Edventure Children’s Museum, run 2 miles to Krispy Kreme, eat 12 doughnuts, and run back! Registration is required and can be done here before October 23rd at 5 p.m.
SEARCH FREE TIMES
U.S. Security Associates
Now hiring immediately for armed and unarmed security officers. WE TRAIN YOU! Columbia & surrounding areas. ussecurityassociates.com
Currently seeking a friendly & detail-oriented individual for an Administrative Assistant/Data Entry Clerk position on our Administrative Office team. Primary responsibilities include: Data entry, process incoming & outgoing mail, good communication skills required. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Local business is searching for new associates who are looking for a fun environment to earn great wages. Great position for college students/recent graduates. Must be well-mannered with excellent customer service skills/work ethic/ability to lift heavy items/must have valid Driver’s License. Call 803-376-4884 or email resume: email@example.com.
Cupcake now hiring a closing manager. Must be outgoing, customer service focused, able to work evenings and weekends. Apply in person. 1213 Lincoln Street, Columbia SC 29201. freshcupcakes.com
Real Estate Spotlight
Mungo Homes. Celebrating 60 years of our family building for your family. mungo.com
CoMar Products Inc. Manufacturing quality surfaces for kitchens & baths since 1965. www.comarproducts.com