BILLY PHELAN'S GREATEST GAME (1978)
Billy Phelan's Greatest Game introduces the Phelan family, whose ancestors and progeny appear in five subsequent novels and a play. Billy is a small-time Depression-era gambler, pool hustler, and bookie who, through association, becomes mixed up in the kidnapping of an Albany politician’s son.
"This is not a book you read so much as slip into … Let Billy and Martin introduce you to their friends and enemies. . ."
— Dennis Lehane
“Billy without a city is Billy without a father,” wrote author Dennis Lehane in his introduction to the 2012 Simon & Schuster edition of Billy in England, “because the city transformed into his father when his own, Francis, ran off and became a vagrant … Martin Daughtery has his own paternal demons … Martin, haunted by his failings as a son and as a father, is given of late to obsessing over the Biblical tale of Abraham and Isaac … ‘All sons,’ Martin muses, ‘are Isaac, all fathers are Abraham, and … all Isaacs become Abrahams if they work at it long enough’ … This is not a book you read so much as slip into … Let Billy and Martin introduce you to their friends and enemies, to Morrie and Big Daddy and Bump Oliver, Georgie the Syph, Chick Phelan, Footers O’Brien, and Red Tom. And if it all sounds a bit Runyonesque, well he makes an appearance too. You are about to be taken in hand by one of the twentieth century’s great raconteurs and led through a river of lights in a city like all others, but a city like none you’ve encountered before. Enjoy the (trip).” (Billy Phelan’s Greatest Game, London: Simon & Schuster UK Ltd., 2012.)
Doris Grumbach wrote in the Saturday Review, “No one writing in America today has Kennedy’s rich and fertile gift of gab; his pure verbal energy; his love of people,” and in the Wall Street Journal in 2011 Sam Sacks added, “More than 30 years after it first appeared, the book hasn’t lost a jot of its riffing, smart-aleck energy.”
Billy Phelan's Greatest Game was published in Finland, France, Germany, Spain and Sweden.