Long nights end

A love letter to New York City

"Long Night's End" is James Rodgers's debut novel.

Page Turner / By Peter McDermott

“One brilliant aspect of [James] Rodgers’s storytelling in this religious-themed novel is how he shows how God’s plan can unfold in the lives of people who don’t believe in him,” said Kirkus Reviews of “Long Night’s End,” a debut novel. “The overall unpredictability of Rodgers’s fictional world also lends it a sense of beauty and gritty realism.”

Sign up to The Irish Echo Newsletter

Sign up today to get daily, up-to-date news and views from Irish America.

Rodgers told the Echo, “The novel is a story about Johnny Gunn who lives in Sunnyside, Queens, his wife Rose and daughter Ellie, his four friends and the tragedies they are trying to overcome, their over-the-hill rock band, Johnny’s mistress, Molly Farrell, and Johnny’s battle with the relevancy of his religion. If one boils it down―it is a love letter to New York City.”

“Sweltering New York City summers provide the backdrop to much of the story, and in this crucible, readers witness a variety of responses to pain and sorrow―from violence and revenge to emotional repression and suicide,” Kirkus Reviews added.

Rodgers’s own experience with Sunnyside dates back to his years playing football for Shamrock FC in the Cosmopolitan Soccer League. But there’s a family link to Calvary Cemetery, too, as generations of his mother’s side, the Gallaghers, were buried there, as was a family chauffeur Eddie, who was Jewish, the novelist told the Echo in 2013. (The cemetery is featured on the book cover.)

Back in the 19th century, shortly after the Famine, Donegal family patriarch Cornelius Gallagher, Rodgers’s great-great-grandfather, was brought as a child by his parents across the Atlantic Ocean to New York and he established early on his business empire based on sand and gravel. Well into the last century that was transported by tugboats pulling barges around the waterways of New York City. Some family members in subsequent generations, however, preferred to spend a lot of their time on yachts.

Rodgers himself has never been far from the sea. After being educated at private Catholic schools in New York City and the Citadel in Charleston, S.C., he served four years as a U.S. naval officer. He is currently practicing maritime law in New York City, where he lives with his family.

James Rodgers

Place of birth: Teaneck, N. J.

Spouse: Karen

Children: Oona, James

Residence: New York City

Published works: Novel - “Long Night’s End,” New York Literary Press (2020); Essay: “What Baseball Means to Me,” The Irish Echo (2017) ; Academic Law articles: UCLA Journal of International Law and Foreign Affairs, “The Continental Shelf of Ireland: The Law and Politics of Delimitation”(1998); UC Davis Journal of International Law & Policy, “Extraterritorial Jurisdiction of U.S. Securities Laws: Application to Lloyd’s of London Membership.” Agreements” (1998); Suffolk Transnational Law Review, “The Adoption of the Good Friday Agreement in the Republic Ireland: Political Expediency v. The Irish Constitution” (1999); Various articles in Fairplay, The International Shipping Weekly (1992-1995).

James Rodgers.

What is your writing routine? Are there ideal conditions?

Having written two novels during a 10-year period which overlapped with different stages of my kids’ development as well as my law career, I found time to write in whatever window opened up and jotted material in a notebook I always carried with me―this included the subway, in court while waiting for my cases to be called, in the New York City playgrounds while “watching” my kids play, at the beach, at the dining room table late at night, and, when dialogue I had been trying to develop suddenly gelled while in court in Brooklyn, across the street from the courthouse in a Starbucks. My many years of drafting legal briefs on the subway made this type of writing venue natural to me.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

I will give it a shot as I consider myself both aspiring and evolving. Most importantly in fiction, write what is true to you―both in the voice you develop and in the story―but always remember it is fiction, which frees you up to be creative and not be restricted with your own baggage. If you are serious then write from the heart but also realize there is a reader out there, so learn the skills necessary to move the story along like, for example, dialogue and the narrative hook. Learn to self-edit, and never be so in love with your writing that you are afraid to cut a word, a sentence, a paragraph, and even a chapter. If the material doesn’t fit what you are trying to do, throw it overboard.

Name three books that are memorable in terms of your reading pleasure.

This is difficult because in every stage of my life certain books were memorable. “Tom Sawyer,” “Johnny Tremain,” “Catcher in the Rye,” “The Sun Also Rises,” “Slaughterhouse 5,” “The End of the Affair,” “Stoner,” “The Ginger Man,” “The Polished Hoe,” “Appointment in Samarra,” “Ulysses”―of course! “The Great Gatsby,” “Ironweed,” “The Sound and the Fury,” “In Dubious Battle,” “Upstate: Records and Recollections of Northern New York,” “The Barracks,” “Smarty Girl: Dublin Savage”…like most of us the list can go on forever.

What book are you currently reading?

“In Search of Ireland” by H.V. Morton, “The Splendor and the Vile” by Erik Larson, “Rumpole and the Reign of Terror” by John Mortimer, and annual re-reading of “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Is there a book you wish you had written?

“ The Ginger Man,” by J.P. Donleavy.

Name a book that you were pleasantly surprised by.

“The Polished Hoe.” Just picked it off the shelf, had not heard of the author (Austin Clarke, an immigrant from Barbados to Canada, who died in 2016), and was blown away by it.

If you could meet one author, living or dead, who would it be?

F. Scott Fitzgerald.

What book changed your life?

“Tom Sawyer,” “The Ginger Man,” “Ulysses.”

What is your favorite spot in Ireland?

West Cork – Schull, Ballydehob, Baltimore, Crookhaven…

You're Irish if…

Complaining is your sincerest means of communication.

Long Night’s End,” published by New York Literary Press, is available on Amazon, Ebook on Apple Books, Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook and Kobo.