“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
“Riley was my grandfather on my mother’s side. He was born on May 6, 1898. He died on October 18, 1993. Every day in between, he was a tough son of a bitch.”
Quiet, intense, and deadly, Riley is fated never to live the respectable life he convinces himself he craves. Smart, witty, and cocky, Cornelius fancies himself a lover, though he’s actually a bit of a bastard. Together, they’re a force to be reckoned with — assuming they’re telling the truth. Their grandson Jim is tasked with digging out the truth in Cornelius’ memoirs, with color commentary from Riley. The problem is that the two old friends are the biggest liars of the Twentieth Century.
Their adventures span the era of American predominance in a pre-global world, a world still often savage and brutal, where torturers and fascists see no impediments to glory. From the Punitive Expedition against Pancho Villa in 1916 to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, Riley and Cornelius find themselves linked to many of the great events of the Twentieth Century.
George Patton takes them to meet Pancho Villa. Winston Churchill dines with them. A mysterious secret agent targets them, forcing one to spy on Rosa Luxemburg and the other into a fixed boxing match refereed by a young fascist with a Charlie Chaplin mustache. Codebreakers, torturers, soldiers, lovers, even a dachshund and a tiger — all of these figure into their adventures.