Sunday, April 17, 2022

'The Lost of New York,' a novel by John Rigney, Jr. - how a hidden manuscript became a novel 70 years later


Hidden away for more than half a century, my late uncle’s novel,

The Lost of New York,  is finally a book (May 6, 2022).

So, why did I task myself with the arduous process of converting a faded stack of chapters into an actual book? Mostly because it fascinated me. I also felt a sense of familial loyalty, seeing as my late uncle, John “Butch” Rigney, Jr., preceded me as the first writer in the family, albeit unpublished. His hand-typed writing made its way across country –twice– before being published. The gritty and sad urban tale, set in early 1960s Bronx, New York, may be unfinished, but is a captivating time capsule.

It’s also a revealing roman a clef of Butch’s own life, cut too short in 1967.

 from the novel’s Introduction:

John “Butch” Rigney wanted to be a writer.

Stories remain amusing about his young life, growing up with a brother, Maureen, and brother, Kevin. His two sometimes abusive often drunk parents, helped him become what his sister called “a throw-away kid. Nobody ever gave him a chance, helped him out.”

John "Butch" Rigney, Jr.

As a youth, Butch went in and out of a series of reform schools for stealing, and jumping in a river from the Teufelberg Bridge, named after the Dutch Devil’s Mountain.

His brother was also a petty thief,
robbing a neighborhood diner.

In the early 1960s, Butch also served in the Air Force, possibly as a bargain for another jail sentence. He was stationed in Anchorage, and got out with an honorable discharge

A letter was sent to his mother –Mrs. John M. Rigney- mistakenly presumed to be his wife, of a package of papers that were left at McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey.

The early writings of Rigney are dated 1963. These “papers” may have been his early drafts of short stories (not in this edition), perhaps the letter and scant scribbled notes. A few of the short stories are signed D.Cno. with J.M. Rigney as the mailing name.