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Condition: Used: Very Good
Comment: 1984 printing. Original owner (see "bookmom" photos). Pages clean & tight but tanning. Spine & cover edges faded; spine & corners very lightly bumped. Ships promptly from Virginia, free tracking. (b/40)
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Billy Phelan's Greatest Game (An Albany Novel) Mass Market Paperback – 1983

4.4 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback
  • Publisher: Penguin Books 1983 (1983)
  • ASIN: B004VT41W4
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #11,536,684 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Rocco Dormarunno on March 17, 2004
Format: Paperback
"Billy Phelan's Greatest Game" by William Kennedy is a mesmerizing, hysterical, and suspenseful romp through Depression-era Albany. Read the first chapter, where Billy bowls someone "to death", and I seriously doubt that you will put the book down. Billy is one of the most memorable characters in William Kennedy's galaxy, moreso than Francis Phelan in my book. Billy is a risk-taker, a guy whose heart is in the right place, and a rough-and-tumble sort that relies on his confidence in the midst of trouble. And these are the qualities that make him the inevitable, although unwilling, middle-man in a kidnapping negotiation.
Billy's world of gamblers, drinkers, sharks, corrupt Albany lackies, and broken families is dark and smoky but never despairing or hopeless. And Billy's moral calculus is a bright spot in this otherwise bleak setting. For my money, "Billy Phelan's Greatest Game" is the best of three in the Albany cycle. I found "Legs" to be slow-going and lacking focus. "Ironweed" is a sensational book, a close second to this novel, but its plot of two drinkers going from job to job, joint to joint, drink to drink does begin to wear down. "Billy Phelan's Greatest Game" has a good deal of plot tension, moral conflicts, humor, and a wider array of characters. I'm in the minority here, and that's fine, but in my analysis it's
WIN: (by a nose)"Billy Phelan's Greatest Game"
PLACE: "Ironweed"
SHOW: "Legs"
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By A Customer on May 3, 1999
Format: Paperback
Billy Phelan is my fave of the great Kennedys' books. Billy is a fun guy to roam about with, listen to, learn from and even be inspired by. He is a great pool shooter, decent poker player, half-ass bookie and lovely raconteur.He takes the world as it comes and dives in to any and all of it with gusto and guts.Kennedy tosses in illustrative examples of the magic in daily life and the importance of being able to bounce back from those inevitable moments of (temporary!) defeat. All this told in Kennedys fine voice, a voice like that of a chain-smoking angel who can tell a snappy joke or a dazzling blue stretcher. What fun.
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By A Customer on April 20, 2002
Format: Paperback
Billy Phelan, son of long gone Francis (Ironweed) has become a "man about town" on the streets of Albany. A snappy dresser, willing to participate in, or bet on, any game in town, has found himself caught up in a kidnapping. This isn't just another game and Billy must play the game of his life for his life.Again Kennedy has the talent to make his wide variety of characters true. My advice is to read this book before Flaming Corsage. The whole cast is there.
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Format: Paperback
William Kennedy was born in 1928 in Albany's North End. He was for a time a journalist in Albany, he has lived in or around the city most of his life, and he has written an acclaimed non-fiction work about the city, "O Albany!" He is more noted as a novelist, however, and most of his fiction also centers on Albany - much as James Joyce wrote about Dublin or Saul Bellow wrote about Chicago. Three of Kennedy's novels from 1975 to 1983 were part of a consciously crafted and presented "Albany cycle". BILLY PHELAN'S GREATEST GAME (from 1978) is the second of that cycle.

The first of the cycle, "Legs", focused more on a celebrated bootlegger and gangster from the Twenties, Jack "Legs" Diamond, than it did on Albany. BILLY PHELAN'S GREATEST GAME, though, truly is about Albany. The present action in the novel all takes place within a few days in October 1938, and it revolves around the kidnapping for ransom of the son of one of the three McCall brothers ("Albany's own Trinity"), who control both the Democratic Party and the rackets, bars, and night life in the city. The ripples from the kidnapping quickly engulf the two principal characters of the novel - Billy Phelan (hustler and player par excellence) and Martin Daugherty (leading journalist for the Albany newspaper). Throughout the novel, both Billy and Martin, in their own ways, wrestle with the question: "Was it possible to escape the stereotypes and be proud of being an Albany Irishman?"

The portrayal of Irish-Catholic Albany is superb. Similarly excellent is the exploration of the tensions, ambiguities, and ironies of the relations between religions, race and ethnicities, and economic classes.
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Format: Paperback
This is book #2 of the so-called Albany cycle of books, preceded by Legs and followed by Ironweed. Wm Kennedy is a heck of a writer. Yes, it is a story set in Albany, NY (Kennedy's hometown), but it is much more than a book about the Depression era city. It is a well written story about Irish-Catholics, political power, friends and family, father-son relationships and much more. The story revolves primarily around 1930s "hipster" Billy Phelan and a newspaperman named Martin Daugherty. An alleged kidnapping takes place and both Daugherty and Phelan (very reluctantly) become involved. Phelan makes his way in the world and lives by a strict personal code. He lives in the world and is a part of the world as a street hustler. He runs a numbers operation and makes money bowling and playing cards and billiards. Great chapters on a bowling match, a card came, and a billiards match. Billy is smooth. Everyone is always having a drink or a woman. Billy bails his father out of jail, a man he has not seen in more than 20 years. This is our introduction to Francis Phelan, a down and outer, who had been arrested for registering to vote more than 20 times. Daugherty struggles with the past and relationships with his father, his son, and his father's paramour. Daugherty's young son wants to become a priest and the father wants his son to live. Lot of stuff going, a lot of interesting characters. An insightful story about the workings of political power, in this case the Irish-Catholic democrats in Albany. There is a blown-up photo (on the wall of a bar) of a summer group picture of the bar's regular patrons. When one dies a star is placed on the deceased person. At the end of the story Billy laments that three have recently died. Such is life.Read more ›
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