Law Religion Culture Review

Exploring the intersections of law, religion and culture. Copyright by Richard J. Radcliffe. All rights reserved.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Book Review: Rough Edges.

While in law school, James Rogan interviewed with a law firm.

The interviewer chastised him for violating the supposed "cardinal rule" of resumes--he exceeded one page. When the interviewer questioned why the one page rule went unheeded, Mr. Rogan balled up the resume and threw it at him with an explanation.

"Because I didn't live a one page life."

This anecdote (which did not lead to a job offer) fairly encapsulates James Rogan's Rough Edges: My Unlikely Road from Welfare to Washington. Mr. Rogan told the truth--his maverick life cannot be reduced to a single page; in fact, his book spans 352 page-turning pages, and that's just getting started.

While Congressman Rogan gained notoriety as one of the "managers" during Clinton's impeachment trial, the autobiography instead focused on Rogan's life prior to Congress.

For those wondering how the book could be filled with interesting stories from before Mr. Rogan's entrance on the national stage, this book will surprise.

Mr. Rogan details his hard, early life in the Mission District of San Francisco, which included welfare (as the title previews), and the death of his beloved grandfather who took him in, when his biological father wouldn't. The pages are full of childhood pranks that keep the reader laughing.

The funny stories continued into his stints as a union organizer at a pizza parlor, as a bouncer and bartender (during law school), and thereafter. Mr. Rogan became a prosecutor in Los Angeles County and, as a result, the book provides amusing "war stories" from some of his trials.

Then, when he became a judge, he details at least two unforgettable stories. First, when Mr. Rogan showed up in his (soon to be) courtroom in street clothes, the bailiff who did not know him or his position treated him extremely rudely because he deigned to wear a hat. When the bailiff found out that he had just treated his future boss so shabbily, he took early retirement.

The second story involved a recalcitrant party who would not accept any punishment from Judge Rogan--and said so in colorful language. Judge Rogan's restraint and charm under fire were something to behold. In fact, in this context, he mentioned that we was guided by his motto, "Always be charming." Not a bad one to live by.

While Prosecutor/Judge/Congressman Rogan left his Clinton impeachment saga for another tome, he previewed Clinton's role in his life in this one. Mr. Rogan noted how Clinton was an early positive influence in his political career.

Further, Mr. Rogan details two conversions. First, he reports his conversion to Christianity through a tape from Charles Colson, who in turn was converted after reading C.S. Lewis' masterpiece, Mere Christianity. Second, Mr. Rogan details how he converted from being Democrat to Republican in part through the influence of Ronald Reagan (who made a similar conversion).

Impressed with the book, I wrote Congressman Rogan to compliment him. Ever the gentleman, he graciously responded with some kind words. He noted that he personally wrote the book--no ghostwriter. This reality permeates the book--it's personal and passionate.

I heartily recommend.