Writer of Fiction
James Roth grew up in southeastern Alabama during the sixties. His father worked for the Army, investigating helicopter accidents. His mother was a homemaker who had studied voice at Julliard. Because his father's job led him to Heidelberg, Germany, he graduated from high school there. In Germany, he made the mistake of taking up golf, an addiction that has stayed with him to this day. It brings him much satisfaction and much pain, as most addictions do. After graduating from high school, he returned to the U.S. and attended what was then called Western State College in Gunnison, Colorado, graduating with a master's in English. A life of skiing, golf, hunting, fly fishing, and riding his motorcycle to Aspen and Telluride were joys. Then along came the reality of having to make a living. He thought his best chance of achieving this was to become a copywriter at an advertising agency. He moved from Colorado to Manhattan, where he attended The School of Visual Arts. To pay the bills, he worked as a bicycle messenger. His plan to become a copywriter didn't work out, though, which he now realizes served him well. He decided to leave the U.S. to teach English in Japan at a private language school, which was the most significant event of his life up to that time. He stayed in Japan for about fifteen years, first living in Akita, then Sendai. During this time, he now and then wrote nonfiction articles about Japanese culture that were published on the now-defunct--but fun to write for websites--flakmag.com and theblacktable.com. When the enrollment at the school he worked for dropped, he reluctantly left Japan. He found a job teaching at Shenzhen University in China and then The Chinese University of Hong Kong/Shenzhen, but he spent most of his free time hiking the mountains of neighboring Hong Kong. After about ten years in China, he became weary of life there and applied to, and was accepted into, the U.S. State Department's English Language Fellow Program. He accepted a posting at Africa University in Mutare, Zimbabwe, and is now in Amman, Jordan, as an EFL fellow.
His parents lived in American-occupied Japan in the months before he was born, so he likes to say he was “Made in Japan.” To his and his mother's lasting regret, he was born in a military hospital in Georgia.
Fiction and Memoirs
"My Minute with Mao." Short-Story-Me. Hybrid nonfiction/fiction about my trip to Beijing to stay with a Chinese woman, romance and the absurdity of seeing Mao lying in state in his very own mausoleum, all very counter-revolutionary. August 2022.
"A Few Photos, Please." A Half Hour to Kill. Story of a former yakuza, now a PI, who is asked by his sister for some dirt on her husband. Overtones of incest. August 12, 2022.
"Outside Hoi An." The Wise Owl. Memoir/travel writing about meeting an elderly, impoverished woman outside Hoi An, Vietnam, while on a venture into the countryside on a motorbike.
"Cultural Revolution." Whisky Blot. A short story without dialogue, in paragraph-length chapters, that tells the story of an independent-minded, attractive Chinese woman who rebels against the restrictions of traditional Chinese culture and finds her own way in the world.
"Bue-haired Girl." Close to the Bone. Flash fiction that is a prologue to a novel, mystery/literary, "A Prayer for my Daughter," set in modern Japan. A police detective's runaway daughter ends up in the wrong place at the wrong time. 2022.
"The Manga Artist." Fleas on the Dog, Fiction Issue 11. A short story about a manga artist who aspires to be taken seriously as an artist and is suckered by the wrong (or is it the right?) woman. Read it and decide for yourself. 2022.
"On the Run." Mystery Tribune Online. A down-and-out ex-con agrees to be a fishing guide for a man who knows nothing about fishing and gets involved in something which will send him back to prison. 2022.
"Black Market MPs." Crimeucompia: It's Always Raining in Noir City. Set in post-war Tokyo, a naive MP becomes involved in the black market and a Japanese woman who knows how to get what others want from him. 2021.
"Any Port in a Storm." "Round Lake." Florida Roots Press Anthology about coming of age in Florida. Memoir and a short story of a Chinese girl adoptee who goes sailing with her grandfather; he instills her self-reliance and confidence. Forthcoming. 2022.
"Manta Rays, a Massage Lady, and Love." The Bombay Review. Two backpackers in Indonesia have different ideas about what they're seeking on their travels. 2019.
"A Career Murder." Crimeucompia: Careless Love. A Japanese man fears that his wife will divorce him, making it difficult for him to receive a promotion in the life insurance company he is devoted to. His plans to prevent the divorce go awry. 2019.
"The Hat." Short Story. The Alaska Quarterly. A man and his wife visit Japan and he fantasizes about Japanese women. 1994.
"The Wise Owl | Sienna in Gold." Two CNF pieces and podcasts, "You're a Bad Man," and "Mickey Rat."
"The Gangster from Hell." Litro. Travel writing, set in Banda Aceh, Sumatra, Indonesia. My experience in a grubby bus station's street food stall with a few men of different sexual and political orientations after an overnight bus trip from Medan.
"Zimbabwe's Illegal Gold Miners." A Thin Slice of Anxiety. A visit to an illegal gold mine, which are plentiful in impoverished Zimbabwe. 2019.
"Mr. G. the Diamond Peddler." Ariel Chart. While in a queue to buy petrol, along comes a man selling uncut diamonds. 2019.
James was the Japanese correspondent for the, regrettably, now-defunct e-zine flakmag.com. His articles included "MOS Burger," bettering an American icon; "The Sento," Japan's public bathhouses; "The 100 Yen Shop," Japan's version of the one dollar shop; "Cycling in Japan"; "Japan, land of the Technotoilet"; "The Honda Cub," the 50cc step-through motorcycle that made Honda Motors what it is today; and "Dining in Singapore," an epicurean's paradise.
Other nonfiction articles appeared in the Univesity of Oregon's, also now-defunct CNF magazine, Etude, "Red Lights, Big City," about legalized prostitution in Singapore, Hack Writers, "Cock Fighting in Port Barton," about cock fighting in a remote beach village on the island of Palawan in the Philippines, and "The Art of Japanese Striptease" in, yes, the now-defunct e-zine The Black Table.
"Black Lives Don't Matter in Zimbabwe." Finalist in the Missouri Review's Jeffery E. Smith Editors' Prize for 2020.
"The Pineapple Girl." Verdad. A young Indonesian girl who sells pineapples makes me think about my failures and successes. 2011.
The Opium Addict. A novel of murder and love in Meiji era Japan. In 1871, Nelson Van Dorn, a former New York City police detective, sails for Yokohama, Japan, expecting to go into the silk exporting business with his prodigal son younger brother, whom he plans to meet there. Yokohama, one of only six Japanese cities open to Westerners at that time, is bustling with activity, as the country rapidly modernizes after more than two hundred and fifty years of self-imposed isolation. What Nelson learns upon his arrival, however, is that his brother is dead, that he was an opium addict, a womanizer, and that he has left Nelson in debt. To pay off this debt, Nelson reluctantly takes on an investigation to find the grandson, a merchant marine, of an elderly and mysterious Jewish man, Ari Markel, an ivory importer. As Nelson follows leads to track down Mr. Markel's grandson, he learns the secrets of other expatriates, that Mr. Markel has deceived him, the intricacies of Japanese society, and the truth about his brother's death.
The Opium Addict
(In Progress. Excerpt Chapter One
on Fresh Words January 2023)
In the planning/progress stage: a short story collection set in post-WW II East Asia; a detective/literary novel set in contemporary Japan; a historical family drama set in the tea country of Rhodesia; a picaresque adventure story about a young Chinese-American's sailing adventures in southern Florida; a collection of stories set in present-day Zimbabwe about the struggles of women, religious hypocrisy, political corruption, economic collapse, the petty rivalries between people that keep the country near the bottom of economic ratings, but also the resilency of many who face their daily struggles silently and with dignity and persiverence. Perhaps his reach exceeds his grasp.
2contact [dot] j [dot] roth [at] gmail [dot] com