I just got back from a ten-day trip to the beautiful Hudson River Valley, the southern part that stretches from about New Paltz, just south of the Catskill Mountains, down to Manhattan.   We stayed part of the time in Peekskill, a lovely town right at the edge of the Hudson Highlands. Once a blue-collar factory town, as many river towns were, it’s now gentrified and prosperous looking. Known for its vibrant Irish Festival, called The Lower Hudson Irish Festival, that is held at the end of each September. I can imagine Channey Moran driving his old Alvis cabriolet up to Peekskill, only a 35 mile drive from his Manhattan studio, to enjoy Peekskill’s beautiful riverside park, the Irish music, outdoor sculpture park and cool restaurants close by the train station. He’d love the menu and ambiance at the Taco Dive Bar right on a busy corner. The view across Peekskill […]

I’ve been thinking of the word bizarre.  Not the flea market sort, but things that look or appear to be bizarre.  There’s plenty of bizarreness that surrounds the phenomena of Somali Pirates, their life and the monetary need for the whole business of pirating.  This was one thing that I found fascinating while researching Photo Shoot, a story that reflects the world of Somali pirates. What began decades ago as a simple but drastic measure to protect their own fishing grounds off the coast of Somalia became a surprise and lucrative opportunity.  The Somali fishermen began boarding and confiscating commercial fishing boats from places like Japan and Indonesia who were taking huge tonnage of fish from the India Ocean close to Somali ports like Eye, Garacad, Hobyo and Harardheere. Then it dawned on the Somalis that they could just as easily hijack a freighter or petrol tanker and the bizarre […]

To purchase your copy of “Searching for Cool, Praying for Heat” Click Right Here!  Or click on the book cover! Searching for Cool, Praying for Heat is a novel of love, desire, loyalty, and honor that affects the O’Rourkes, a relocated New England textile family who face entrenched white supremacy in a small North Carolina cotton mill town in 1960. The narrative follows multiple points of view with the main character being high-school age Brian, whose near death experience leads to love’s exciting fulfillment. Let’s see what a few reviewers think . . . .  By Dorothy Feltz-Gray . . . .  Jon Michael Riley has a gift for compelling narrative. In Searching for Cool, Praying for Heat, set in the early 1960s, he has woven together a coming-of-age story with one of racial injustice in rural North Carolina. As Riley does in an earlier novel, Dream the Dawn, he […]

Sacred Ireland how it began: A few years ago I lamented to a close friend how difficult it was to find a publisher for A Longing for Home. Her reaction was to ask had I thought of doing a book about the sacred aspects of Ireland, and that many people would find this subject interesting. Why hadn’t I thought of that? After all, I already had a good beginning with all the images now stored in our studio. And so I began…. From the Introduction:  At around a million people, Ireland is one of the smallest countries in the European Union. Yet this island of green is dense with rich layers of history, legend, folk sagas, heroes and villains, saints and spirits, colonization, skirmishes, uprisings, famines, plagues and wars of independence. Most have left artifacts, some sort of visual evidence that story this land.  These sacred places, anointed by reason […]

Searching for Cool, Praying for Heat is Published! My new novel, Searching for Cool, Praying for Heat, takes place in a Southern textile mill town in 1960-61, an interesting, if not pivotal, time in terms of American Civil Rights and the struggle to end segregation and curb white supremacy. It’s interesting that Harper Lee’s novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, came out in 1960, and I mention this fact in my novel. My main character’s father mentions Lee’s book in a dinner conversation. [The movie version with Gregory Peck didn’t appear until 1962.] More about this in a moment… In April and May, when I was in final revisions of Searching for Cool, Praying for Heat, I worried the subject matter—race relations, Klan activity and right-wing race-based mayhem—might be outdated and of little interest to a wide audience. Not quite a year before, the Ferguson police shooting of an unarmed African-American […]

I just experienced a Mini-Twenty-First Century Odyssey covering about one week. After another revision on the book cover for Searching for Cool, Praying for Heat, I headed south to Road Atlanta—which is not in Atlanta—for the big vintage road race called “The Mitty,” sanctioned by HSR, Historic Sports-car Racing. The track is wonderful for both spectators and for the drivers. Just short of two and a half miles, it goes up and down hills, has lots of tricky curves and two thunderous straights.  Click here to view the actual race course!  I could go and see all the corners from both inside the track and outside. There are tunnels and bridges for spectators to move about, lots of places to park and quite a few people camp there. There are very good facilities and mini-busses that constantly circulate to take people to other vantage points. Think of a small LeMans-type road […]

2015 Speedfest at the Classic Motorsports Mitty . . . A little history:  Historic Race Car Racing was formed in the mid-70’s with an event at Road Atlanta.  There was one goal then and it remains true today: “to celebrate the race cars from our past!” As a “time machine” of sights and sounds, HSR provides a venue for competitors and spectators alike to share in the wonderful history and excitement created by the cars that competed at race tracks around the world. Vintage racing’s promise is to resurrect the past glories of sports car racing for a modern audience, and no event does that better than the Classic Motorsports Mitty. This 3 day event is spectacular!   At most big-time races, when the cars come off the track, they’re hidden away.  But that isn’t how things operate at the Mitty!  Want a close-up look at an Audi R8, or […]

Wow! The 20th annual ~ Amelia Island Concours d’ Elegance is March 13th – 15th – 2015!  Jon will be taking photos and will be joined by Ellen Jones Pryor of Nashville’s Frist Center for the Visual Arts who are planning an exhibition of classic Italian cars in 2016. It will be curated by Ken Gross who did the fabulous Sensuous Steel exhibition of 1930s Art Deco cars.   The Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance is an automotive charitable event held each year during the second weekend in March at The Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island in Amelia Island, Florida. A New York Times article about “celebrity car ownership” listed “the nation’s top concours d’elegance: Pebble Beach in California Meadow Brook in Michigan Amelia Island in Florida Louis Vuitton Classic in midtown Manhattan. Concours d’Elegance (literally ” a competition of elegance”) is like a beauty pageant for rare and elegant cars. Each entry is rated for: Authenticity Function History […]

Thoughts On Selma . . . In my novel, Searching for Cool-Praying for Heat, I write about a Black sharecropper family, the Millers, and how the white main character’s family helps them. In the background, the two Miller sons—Robert and John Henry—attend North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro. They write to their mother, Iris, and keep her abreast of the long-running lunch counter sit ins. Trying not to alarm their parents, they try to put a positive spin on what was happening there in Greensboro. In the face of white intransigence with desegregating public facilities, a group of students at Shaw University, also in Greensboro, students created the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which became known as SNCC. This was in April of 1960. Notable is that John Lewis was one of the early leaders. In another three months, the Greensboro government and downtown retailers agreed to desegregation. It took […]

Christmas is the time of year that families and friends gather.  Seeing the children’s eye’s light up at that special toy or magical tree – that is what Christmas is all about.  People come from all walks of life to bring joy to the children.  Toys for Tots – began as a Los Angeles charitable effort in 1947. Major Bill Hendricks, USMCR, was inspired by his wife Diane when she tried to donate a homemade Raggedy Ann doll to a needy child but could find no organization to do so. At her suggestion, he gathered a group of local Marine reservists, including Lieutenant Colonel John Hampton, who coordinated and collected some 5,000 toys for local children that year from collection bins placed outside of Warner Bros. movie theaters. Their efforts were so successful that, in 1948, Toys for Tots was launched as a national campaign. Hendricks used his position as director of […]