• Jon Michael Riley


Updated: Mar 11, 2018

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 bay towards Bear Mountain, Mt. Dunderberg, and the Bear Mountain Bridge is not to be missed. The Appalachian Trail goes across Bear Mountain, then across the bridge and then ascends the north flank of Anthony’s Nose, the other mountain around which the Hudson River makes a sharp bend.

We also stayed in an Inn dating back to 1832 in Cold Spring, which is right on the east shore of the Hudson River. From there one has a good view of West Point, Crow’s Nest and Storm King Mountains, the highest (around 1400 ft.) in the Hudson Highlands.

While there I had time to ruminate of what will happen to Channey next; what comes after the end of Photo Shoot?  I can’t say I have a definite answer, but here are some elements that I might be working with:

  • A late middle-age woman living in a Southern state has no idea who her birth parents were. Only that she was a product of the Irish orphanage system that took babies from their unwed mothers at the age of three months and sold to American couples.

  • Glennie MacDonald, from my novel Dream the Dawn, has an elderly aunt in County Kerry who wants very badly to find her child that she had to give up in the 1950s. Glennie’s aunt begs her to help find her daughter before she dies.

  • The only real clue she has is that her daughter had a heart-shaped birthmark on her left arm and that the adopting parents were from Atlanta, Ga. Glennie’s aunt continues petitioning what is left of the now defunct orphanage to get any shred of actual information as to who the parents might be.  Glennie asks Channey Moran if he will help her track down this mystery daughter in the American South. He says yes.

  • The mystery woman (who does have a heart-shaped birthmark on the inner side of her left arm) lives in a rural area close to an electrical power plant that has old coal ash ponds, which are is a sad state, with leaks and failing infrastructure.  If the pond walls break, it will be a disaster for anyone living within three miles.

  • A hurricane bringing torrential rain is coming up from the Caribbean. The power company has kept the sorry state of their ash ponds a deep secret.

  • The mystery woman’s husband, who might be part of the power company’s cover up, is an alt-right, Fox News watching angry old man who thinks Trump is just what our country needs.  Being a climate denier, he ignores the weather forecasts as “fake news” to scare honest God-fearing Americans.

  • Channey Moran might use a drone to photograph just how bad the leaks are in the huge coal ash ponds. He is risking his life to get these photos and videos because the entire power plant is locked down and under armed guard as the hurricane approaches.

That’s just a bare story line that has been in my mind for a while. Seeing the movie, Philomena was important to me, a student of Irish history. I’m also a fan of the great actor, Judy Dench, who played the searching mother.

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