No Sun Without Shadow, by Roger SeLegue

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In the Media - Daily Journal

Still a Dreamer, Attorney Has Few Illusions About Himself
Garry Abrams, Los Angeles Daily Journal - 2005

Roger SeLegue has had more ups and downs in his life than a bungee jumper on a Flubber rope.

By his account, he’s been a scuba instructor, a U.S. Marine, a blackjack dealer, an insurance adjuster and an attorney, a profession he embarked on when he was older than 50.

And at age 72, he’s still a dreamer. After a long hiatus, he has resumed his pursuit of becoming a fulltime novelist.

It has been a long twisting road getting to this point, a trip that is worth retelling briefly for the literary perspective.

Perhaps not surprisingly, given his resume, SeLegue is an impulsive sort.

On at least two occasions, SeLegue dropped everything – and I mean everything – in pursuit of his everlasting search for himself.

In the early 1990s, SeLegue took off for a year in Australia to escape what he believed was an impending nervous breakdown.

Pomona attorney Ramon Otero, for whom SeLegue worked at the time, told me Monday that he hadn’t see n SeLegue since those days but recalled that his former colleague “had gone to Australia for some adventures there.”

The other time, in parts of 1997 and 1998, he says he dealt blackjack in Las Vegas, a move that exposed him to the blue-collar reality of the gambling town and cured his romantic notions of one of his favorite places.

When I went to see him Friday, he also told me that the two sabbaticals were punctuated in 1994 by a massive heart attack. Like others who have had near-death experiences, SeLegue said that he had the sensation of traveling through a tunnel of light toward paradise.

“I felt the greatest sense of peace I’ve ever felt,” he said.

With a tinge of regret, he added, “I felt like I was being sucked in, but I never got there.”

Instead, he woke up in an ICU in a sea of pain, first stop on a rocky road to recovery.

SeLegue blames some of the bone-jolting bounces in his life on alcoholism, though he swore off booze more than 30 years ago.

“People almost wouldn’t believe anything I said sober,”  SeLegue said.

His miserable childhood didn’t help much either, he claims, explaining that his mother farmed him out to an uncle after his father died when he was 4.

SeLegue transmitted something of his questing spirit during a brief phone conversation a couple of weeks ago, enough to persuade me it was worth a trip to his modest home in the San Fernando Valley. His library, I discovered, contained books by writers I also admired, novelists Joseph Heller and Evelyn Waugh among others.

Most of all, though, I was taken by SeLegue’s candor. In my business, people often try to portray themselves as better than they are, saintlike even.  This gets tiring, given the reality of human nature. SeLegue, on the other hand, appeared to have few illusions about himself.

I liked him right away. He couldn’t be making up the stuff he was telling me, I decided. And if he was, well, it wasn’t going to get him any prizes.

Former partner Otero confirmed some of my suspicions, saying that SeLegue was conscientious in his work and “a pleasant guy to spend time with.”

Nearly eight years ago, SeLegue said he put himself on inactive status with the Sate Bar to devote whatever time he has left on this planet to becoming a writer.

Actually, it’s a resumption of a dream. In 1980, SeLegue self-published his first novel, “The Wayward Winds,” a picaresque work about the nomadic residents of a boarding house in postwar Los Angeles. But after that attempt, he went on to other things, such as supporting himself and a family.

SeLegue’s return to writing was marked this year by another self-published novel, “No Sun Without Shadow.” It’s a sprawling, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink kind of novel that reflects SeLegue’s mercurial sojourn in this world.

The book’s central character is Vergil Tynan, who in some ways is a fictional version of a young SeLegue. Like SeLegue once did, Tynan works for an insurance company, scuba dives and is enamored of women, one woman in particular.

“No Sun Without Shadow” probably is not a great novel, partly because of its rambling nature. Even SeLegue concedes that it has shortcomings, not least that it takes five or 10 minutes to tell the plot. But the book’s place in literature may not be the point.

For SeLegue, it’s a major milestone.

“I feel like this is a good work,” he said. “I feel like it’s a good story.”

One source of his new book, SeLegue noted, is the essay “The Myth of Sisyphus” by the French writer and existential philosopher Albert Camus. He added that he has carried a copy of the essay with him for nearly 40 years.

The essay is Camus’ take on the Greek myth about a man condemned by the gods to an eternity of rolling a boulder up a hill, only to have the rock crash back to the valley below. Camus concludes that even under such grim circumstances, Sisyphus can find moments of contentment, even happiness.

When I suggested that the Sisyphus myth could be a metaphor for his own life, SeLegue seemed a bit taken back by the comparison.

But then he pointed out one of his favorite lines from “No Sun Without Shadow.”

It reads, “The passion to strive and struggle, to live and to achieve, erodes chip by chip until a tired soul tugs on a tired body.”

In the meantime, SeLegue hopes to write another book.

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