The History Behind Riley and the Great War: Independence

John Stark (Born in August 28th, 1728 – Died in May 8th, 1822) was a New Hampshire native who served as a major general in the Continental Army during the American Revolution. He became widely known as the "Hero of Bennington" for his exemplary service at the Battle of Bennington in 1777.

The events in the Independence section of the novel do not involve famous people or happenings, so history does not record them. Main and Maple Streets remain important thoroughfares in the bucolic town, while Blue Road long ago became Truman Road. In a reissue of an 1877 Illustrated Historical Atlas of Jackson County, Missouri, I found an eighty-acre parcel of land near the Little Blue River east of town that was registered to someone named J.G. Riley. The livestock in Kansas City’s West Bottoms area indeed burned to death in a major fire in 1917.

The History Behind Riley and the Great War: Prologue: The Columbus Raid

World War One Remembrance stained glass window by stainedglassartist on Flickr

The event that precipitated the 1916 Punitive Expedition led by General John “Black Jack” Pershing was indeed Pancho Villa’s raid on the New Mexico town of Columbus on March 9, 1916. This raid, which followed atrocities by Villa’s men at San Isabel and Aqua Prieta, forced Woodrow Wilson’s hand and made it inevitable that the United States would retaliate by sending a force after Villa, one of several pretenders to power in the long Mexican Revolution. The names of Villa’s commanders in the Columbus raid are as given in the novel. Susan and John Moore actually existed and ran a store outside of Columbus. John Moore was killed by Villistas after the Columbus raid, although history says he was shot by men led by Candelario Cervantes; no history book mentions a Spaniard or a boxing match. Susan Moore indeed hid in the desert after being wounded, and she was rescued by soldiers from the fort. Many years later, the Mexican government paid her the compensation described in the novel. Interestingly, according to a history by Eileen Welsome that is cited in the bibliography, another claimant who received a payment was named James O’Neal. I have no idea what to make of that, but perhaps Cornelius talked his way into some modest compensation for the ordeal in the cave.

To be continued…

Reviews for Riley and the Great War

Book by Santi Di Ferrol cc licensed via Flickr

We’re so proud of all the kind things the reviewers have been saying about Riley and the Great War, an historical thriller that takes a wry look at some of the transformative events of the 20th Century.

The series is off to a wonderful start with a reception like this. Will we see you at a reading or other writerly event soon? If not, you can always keep up with the latest from me and Riley right here on the blog. Once I learn what all the pedals and buttons do on this contraption.

“Captivating and engaging, James Anderson O’Neal’s Riley and the Great War is a blend of historical fiction and nonstop adventure. … The dynamic between Riley and Cornelius definitely steals the show.”
— Foreword Reviews, May/June 2018

“Riley and the Great War is a rollicking good historical novel that will keep the reader turning pages from start to finish. James Anderson O’Neal is a consummate novelist who knows both the craft and the art of good writing. Highly recommended.”
—William C. Hammond, author of A Call to Arms and For Love of Country, winner of the Military Writers Society of America 2011 Gold Medal for Historical Fiction Protagonist

“O’Neal’s evocative prose immerses you in the past, as if you’d stepped inside a painting.”
— Brian Freeman, bestselling author of The Night Bird