After poker champion Clutch Henderson drops dead after losing the International Series of Poker, his ghost haunts wannabe player Telly Martin, touching off an uproarious adventure in which both the living and the dead discover their true selves.
Cash (Witches Protection Program, 2015, etc.) assembles a cast of eccentric characters, from sepulchral hoodie-shrouded Adam “the Ant” Antonowski to Clutch’s drunken ex, Jennifer, who gets arrested for using crooked dice in the casino. Much of the humor derives from the confusion of Telly responding to ghostly Clutch while others, who don’t see or hear Clutch, stand by to misinterpret. Though it’s a well-worn premise, Cash proves to be highly capable of juxtaposing the absurd and the mundane, creating a thoroughly enjoyable comic ghost story along the lines of The Canterville Ghost (1891) or Topper (1926). Clutch, for instance, is a spirit with an eye for the ladies. As he wanders the Las Vegas Strip, he inserts himself within a group of drunken women, one of whom vomits on him. When he later sees the same thing happen to Telly—the proverbial nice guy who always finishes last—a connection is made, and the ghost decides to help this poor soul. The writing is sharp, with pointed imagery foreshadowing events to come. Dumbfounded when he finds out the ghost is Clutch, “Telly opened and closed his mouth like a hooked trout.” An out-of-work casino IT specialist, Telly has always dreamed of making his living at poker. Despite their dire straits and his girlfriend Gretchen’s pregnancy, she grants him the opportunity before insisting he take a job driving a cab (a secret tidbit of which Clutch is aware). But Telly is an awful player, and even with Clutch’s cheating, he’s too honest and guilt-ridden to pull it off. Meanwhile, the ghost himself has issues with his exes, father, daughter, and his own angel guide. Despite Telly’s reluctance and Clutch’s rather callous and selfish approach to spiritual guidance, Telly eventually makes it to the tournament, where he faces off against the mysterious Ant in front of an audience featuring every whacky character in the book.
Bet on this funny, well-written tale of second chances.