Mobile business leader David J. Cooper has been successful in the stevedoring business and in the restaurant business, which he tellingly calls “the hospitality business.”

Now, he has launched an entirely new chapter of life. He has written a 168-page novel.

"Laundry Man: The Life and Times of William Beauregard Butler, Jr." is available for $18 at Laundry Man by David J. Cooper, Sr. – Mobile Bay Shop

It is also available at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse in Mobile.

Cooper is now the proud proprietor of four high-end restaurants in the Mobile area: Ruth’s Chris, the BLUEGILL, Felix’s Fish Camp and the Supper Club at Sweetwater Branch.

Is "Laundry Man" a modern-day "Gone With the Wind?" No. There is no Scarlett O’Hara, but there is a war – Vietnam.

Is it a John Grisham? No. The characters are not lawyers, and the drama is not set in a courtroom, though lawsuits from the IRS and the environmentalists do come into play toward the end.

Is it a Lewis Grizzard? No. There is not constant humor, though some. And it is not Georgia Bulldog-based, but rather Ole Miss Rebels.

The name of the lead character in the new novel is totally Southern: William Beauregard Butler, Jr.

William became "Willie."

"Beauregard" for the prominent Southern General, P.G.T. Beauregard. Also, it is the middle name of Alabama’s former U.S. Senator and U.S. Attorney General, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions.

"Butler" for that Southern gentleman Rhett Butler, Scarlett’s O’Hara’s beau in “Gone With the Wind.”

Just as the names of the two characters, Butler Junior and Senior, sharing the same name, are Southern, so are the settings.

The story starts in small-town Mississippi. Butler’s General Store was a small local success in Murray, Mississippi. Harris Butler ("Harris" is a Mobile upper-class first name) runs the store and raises his family. The Baptist Church. Wednesday night suppers. Son William Beauregard Butler (later, Sr.), "Beau," is popular in high school and quarterback of the football team. The prettiest girl in town is Beau’s girlfriend. An unexpected pregnancy with a younger sister of Beau’s friend. A marriage Beau insisted on.

And so the second generation in Cooper’s family story has Beau working on offshore rigs to afford his surprise bride and child. His plans for a college scholarship and business career vanished.

That unexpected child becomes William Beauregard Butler, Jr., “Willie.” He starts with little in life and must work for everything – and work he does. Willie’s life work is most of the story. He discovered a small business opportunity. As a college freshman, he figured out students would use a wash-and-fold laundry near his Ole Miss campus. One laundry becomes two, becomes an eventual string of laundries in seven states.

Willie and lovely bride Mae move to Mobile and enter the social life – Mardi Gras society, debutante balls, deep sea fishing and Wednesday and Saturday golf groups, first at Skyland Country Club and later at higher society Country Club of Mobile.

Willie’s family is blessed with two lovely daughters. They all move to Tuscaloosa for mostly business reasons. It is a difficult transition from an Ole Miss Rebel life to a Crimson life.

Boyfriends. Debuts. Weddings. One daughter went to New York and one to California.

When Willie’s beloved spouse, Mae, loses her battle with Ovarian cancer, the whole family is devastated.

A move to New Orleans. A new long-term girlfriend who has also been widowed.

I won’t spoil your enjoyment of reading "Laundry Man" by telling you the surprise ending. It leaves you wondering. You’ll have to read it to find out — and still may not know.

Jim Zeigler is a former Alabama Public Service Commissioner and State Auditor. You can reach him for comments at [email protected].

Don't miss out! Subscribe to our newsletter and get our top stories every weekday morning.