Paul Kushel’s novel, Lotto Trouble, is attracting attention after a real-life convenience store clerk absconded with a winning lottery ticket, just like the protagonist of Kushel’s book.

Ken Herman, a sharp-eyed columnist for the Austin American-Statesman, wrote about life imitating art in his Sunday column:

As you’ve read in this paper, authorities are looking for a Grand Prairie convenience store clerk indicted for allegedly swiping and cashing in a $1 million-winning lottery ticket from a customer who didn’t realize he had hit the jackpot.

I know a guy who wrote a novel about a similar situation. What are the odds against that? Nothing compared to this. The Grand Prairie clerk and the clerk in the book both are college students. OK, so maybe that covers about 20 percent of convenience store clerks.

And both are of foreign origin. OK, so that’s, what, about 60 percent of convenience store clerks?

But here comes the really good stuff. The ticket thief in Paul Kushel’s novel has the same first name as the Grand Prairie guy.

Long odds, huh? Yes, but still nothing compared to this:

The first name shared by the real-life Grand Prairie clerk and the fictional New Jersey clerk in Kushel’s book is, wait for it, Pankaj.

Pankaj Joshi, a native of Nepal, is the real-life clerk that the cops really are looking for. Pankaj Kamath, a native of India, is the clerk in Kushel’s “Lotto Trouble.”

Kushel, clinical associate professor of accounting and taxation in the Graduate School of Business Administration, penned Lotto Trouble in 2003. He is an award-winning teacher, and is now working on his third novel.