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.
Music Break at Music Farm Columbia
Join COR for an evening of networking for music and business leaders on September 3rd, featuring performances by Josh Roberts and the Hinges, Death of Paris, Fat Rat Da Czar, and Lazy A and the Green Thang. Free admission for musicians and members! Register here.
A two-day outdoor art and crafts show celebrating its 38th year. Being held on September 5 & 6, 2014, Click for details
Not Your Typical Greek Restaurant
Ariana’s in West Columbia serves up delicious all-natural, low carb dishes, as well as homemade bread and baklava. Come try the best salad dressing in town! Location info and hours here.
Make Your Own Beer and Wine!
Come get started on your “liquid hobby” and help us celebrate our 46th year in the Columbia area. Bet Mar Liquid Hobby Shop: 736 St. Andrews Road.
Delicious Downtown Breakfast
Tony’s is open for breakfast every day from 7:30-10:30! Conveniently located on Washington St. right off Main. Stop in for something filling and delicious before work! Follow us for updates on specials.
Happy Hour and Sushi Specials All Week
Red Bowl in Lexington now has great early bird and late night sushi specials 7 days a week, as well as 99-cent kids meals on Saturdays! Click here for special information and hours.
SEARCH FREE TIMES
Company seeking carpenters, plumbers, masons work is year around with a 40 year old company. Starting pay is $10.00 but experienced individuals will be compensated accordingly. Must have a clean driving record and must bring a copy of your driving record to the interview. Please call 803-865-1200.
Pool Cleaning-Full and part time available. Must have a clean driving record, be organized and have a professional appearance. Starting Pay is $10.00 per hr, please call for an interview, please bring a copy of your Driving record and a list of all past employers with duration of employment listed as well as telephone numbers for references. Cal 803-865-1200
U.S. Security Associates
Now hiring immediately for armed and unarmed security officers. WE TRAIN YOU! Columbia & surrounding areas. ussecurityassociates.com
Real Estate Spotlight
Mungo Homes. Celebrating 60 years of our family building for your family. mungo.com