Simons’ book is a great trip down memory lane with a few name changes to protect the not-so-innocent.
By Alice Embree | The Rag Blog | April 17, 2023
Jim Simons’ novel, Ad Hoc Livers, is now available on Amazon in paperback or on Kindle. The fictional protagonist, Roy Coobie, is an Austin lawyer with a struggling solo practice. Coobie, on the verge of eviction from his office for non-payment of rent, can’t help but ponder his career path.
Coobie’s favorite pondering places are beer halls, lounges, and Mexican restaurants. Simons’ book is a great trip down memory lane with a few name changes to protect the not-so-innocent. It is set in the years before Austin became the 11th largest city in the country. In Simons first book of fiction, he provides a moveable feast of remembrance.
Coobie spends a lot of evenings drinking with other lawyers and malcontents at the 1866, a German beer hall that resembles Austin’s Scholz Beer Garten. He usually starts his days with huevos rancheros at his favorite Mexican restaurant. He also enjoys Southern cuisine at an East Austin Grill and skinny-dips with two women in Barton Springs. One of the women is a former client, sometimes-secretary, and occasional lover. And he worries about how to keep his office afloat with poor clients who can’t pay the bills and the occasional personal injury case against insurance companies that can pay the bills.
Coobie’s office window in the Hyde Park neighborhood is near an elder care center. From his office window, he thinks he recognizes a famous barrister. The legendary lawyer, Winston Hatchett, has disappeared from his West Texas haunts and no longer makes use of his famous courtroom skills. Coobie builds a friendship with him and his law professor daughter.
A law school friend talks Coobie into defending a poor, elderly African-American man living in a rural settlement near Elgin. The man is charged with murder and Coobie needs to prove that his client acted in self-defense. He must rely on a motley crew of friends and underpaid colleagues. A taciturn investigator is on the case, but Coobie is never sure when or if he will hear from him.
Suffering from a severe case of jitters, Coobie doesn’t know if the pieces of evidence will materialize in time for a decent defense. The case heats up to a fast-paced crescendo before a jury in the Travis County Courthouse.
Jim Simons, the author, knows the law. He practiced it in the service of movement activists in the 60s and 70s. He launched the Austin Law Commune that survived for more than a decade. Simons also knows Austin, its sweet spots and temptations. He has a gift for describing an Austin that has been lost to developers and gentrification.
[Alice Embree is an Austin writer and activist who serves on the board of directors of the New Journalism Project, is associate editor of The Rag Blog, and was a founder of The Rag, Austin’s legendary underground paper, in 1966. Alice’s memoir, Voice Lessons, was published by the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History and distributed by the University of Texas Press.]
Note: For more about Jim Simons, read his Rag Blog posts and the recent post, Defending Dissidents: The Austin Law Commune.
A great review and a trip down memory lane to the sixties. Best time of my life there in Austin. U of T, Cavers, Scholtz’s, and UT student housing on the Colorado. I was blessed to be there!