Loyal TSD followers will be well-familiar with contributor John Riley, both from his distinguished career on the front lines of Delaware business and politics but also for the dozens of his beautifully crafted articles that have delighted the site’s readers over the past eight years.
John’s first piece for TSD, “Hell Above and Hell Below, a Delaware Story of War,” presaged the winsome storytelling that was to flow from his talented pen. It was a compelling tale of bravery, patriotism and—importantly—included a special Delaware connection to the action.
The tales that sprung from John’s uncanny memory and his wry watcher’s eye have captivated and moved us all, thanks to his graceful knack for storytelling and the extraordinary breadth of his life experience. Through John, we have strolled the fairways of Augusta National and shot craps in the old caddy shack at Wilmington Country Club. We encountered unscrupulous fight promoters and raffish rascals in gritty urban boxing gyms.
We read about the influential, inspiring history of once-great institutions like Christ Our King parish. And we met true American heroes such as Jon Reynolds, Murphy Neal Jones, and James J. Connell, while coming face-to-face with the supreme sacrifice of local boys who went off to war and never returned.
As it turns out, those stories were just a small appetizer to the entree served up in John’s enjoyable, bustling new book, “Delaware Eyewitness: Behind the Scenes in the First State,” which will be released on September 30 (available for pre-order and e-book format now).
Following a year that included teaming up with best friend Kevin Reilly on his autobiography, Tackling Life, and leading the launch of the Delaware Prosperity Partnership, John devoted himself to recalling, researching, and writing about the people, events, and crazy coincidences that have made his life story pretty darn remarkable.
The final product is a gift to all of us who love history, humor, and Delaware.
The title promises to bring us “behind the scenes,” and this book certainly does that, offering a candid, firsthand account about major business and political events that have grabbed headlines and indelibly shaped our state. John has never been one to toot his own horn, and his modesty and discretion have made him a trusted advisor to governors and CEOs. To be fair, though, he spent plenty of time in the public spotlight himself.
Moments recaptured in this book will be a delightful surprise to both old friends and those who have never met John alike.
I have never heard John use the term, but fate put him on Earth at the front end of the fabled post-war ‘Baby Boomer’ generation in the second half of the “American Century.” So his story provides a riveting tour of the halcyon Eisenhower and Kennedy years, when the country’s ambitions knew no limits, the unrest of the Vietnam era (including John’s experience with the draft and Army life), the awkward ’70s, the go-go ’80s and so on into the ’90s and the Internet age.
John’s default setting is optimism, but like any autobiography worth reading, his includes disappointments, failures, and a dose or two of pain. Delaware Eyewitness takes us back to the often-challenging circumstances in the Riley household, acknowledges personal fears and insecurities, and shows how opportunities once thought lost forever can reappear in the most unusual ways. That makes for inspiring, delightful reading.
Whether you know John or not (and it seems everyone in Delaware does), I hope you will get this book. When you read it, I expect that like me your thoughts will inevitably drift to your own story … your roots, family, faith, and the extraordinary people you have crossed paths with along the way. Everyone has their story, and thank goodness John has taken on the herculean task of sharing his with all of us in such an elegant, entertaining way.
You should do yourself or some other Delawarean you care about a favor, and buy this book! Meanwhile, in the coming days, TSD will be providing exclusive excerpts from Delaware Eyewitness that will give you a flavor for the rich reflections in this special memoir.
The book can be purchased HERE.