The great grandson of slaves, he was born in Panama, and later raised in the mountains of Jamaica. He grew up barefoot, cutting sugarcane, and hauling firewood and bananas down to the coast until he finally saved enough to buy his first pair of shoes at age 18. With new shoes and big dreams, he made his way back to Panama, and within 2 years became a professor at the local university. He then applied to NYU, won a scholarship, and arrived in New York’s Greenwich Village in 1952. While attending classes he waited tables, performed in off-Broadway shows, wrote several screenplays, sang in Village venues, and cut an album. After graduating he became a NYC public high school teacher in East Harlem.
Teacher by day, actor and singer by night, in the early 60’s he became heavily involved in the civil rights movement. Angry at systematic racism that directly impacted Blacks and Latinos across America, and increasing frustrated by the slow wheels of change, he was determined to do more than just continue to attend rallies, march, and write petitions. He started with what he knew: the arts and teaching.
The institutionalized oppression of minorities was also deeply embedded in educational system and he set out to improve it. He started by writing short biographical plays (Martin Luther King Jr., Louis Munoz Marin, John F. Kennedy, and many others) that his students would then act out, and from there the fuse was lit. His students came alive. They wanted to know more about history and writing, and most of all they wanted more of his books/plays.
Each day after work he put all his energy into developing a curriculum designed to engage and empower inner-city minorities who were either failing or dropping out of school in record numbers. He wrote twenty more plays and then added workbooks to create a true core reading and literacy program which he aptly named Teaching Reading Through Drama.
His next challenge was production. Undaunted by being rejected by every publishing house he approached, he decided to turn the tables and do it all himself. With his meager savings he purchased a small printing company on West 25th St and then created his own publishing company.
Difficult as it was to leave his students, he stopped teaching and went out on the road to tackle the Board of Ed. Through the strength of his will, his charisma, his never give up mentality, and the power of the Teaching Reading Through Drama program he soon won contracts in NYC, Baltimore, Washington DC, Chicago, and LA. After becoming the embodiment of the American dream as a successful Black-Latino businessman, he faced new challenges. The mafia came after him with guns demanding kickbacks, and the police, fire department and building inspectors all threatened to shut him down if he didn’t add them to his payroll. He faced them all with bat in hand at his front door, refusing to give in, back down, or pay a single dollar.
Despite the success of his program, the Board of Ed made massive spending cuts in the early 80’s and keeping his company afloat became more and more challenging. He finally decided to close up shop and reinvent himself by becoming a restaurateur and club owner. West Indian quinine and head-lining jazz musicians like Bennie Carter, Ahmad Jamal, Patato Valdez, and George Benson performed downstairs while he wrote and directed plays in the upstairs venue.
After 12 years in the night club business he went full circle and decided to return to his first love: teaching. He remained a NYC school teacher, mentor, and advocate for change within the Board of Ed until his death in 1995.
Who was this amazing man?
His name was John A. Hines (everyone called him Juan), and I’m proud and honored to say he was my father.
Love always Dad
At the IAVA (Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America) Heroes Gala at Cipriani’s last night I sat and listened to the incredible speeches and testimonials from IAVA president and founder Paul Rieckhoff, General David Petraeus, the reigning Miss USA (and Army captain!) Deshauna Barber, and the gold star wife who brought everyone to tears when she described the day she was making care packages with friends to send to soldiers in Iraq when she was notified that her husband had been killed in combat that morning. Throughout it all the common theme was that veterans and their families need our help.
It’s great to honor our soldiers and thank them for their service and sacrifice, but it’s simply not enough. As IAVA board member Leslie Gelb stated, “With the exception of a brief period after World War II, American veterans have been consistently mistreated and neglected for 240 years!”
Every politician, Democrat and Republican, wants a photo op with a hero in uniform, but then they resist making the policy changes needed to give our veterans what they need and deserve.
So as we honor and thank the men and women who have served in the United States Armed Forces, think about the 150,000 troops currently deployed overseas, think about the 6 soldiers who were killed in Iraq and Afghanistan this past week… and then pause and think about the 20 veterans who will commit suicide today because they couldn’t get the proper help and treatment that might have saved their lives.
There are a lot people fighting to change our policy of neglect towards our veterans and the IAVA is one of them. Paul Rieckhoff and everyone at the IAVA are on the front lines making a difference and ultimately saving lives.
You can too! Get informed. Get involved. Find out more here.
I’ve been blessed to have shared so many incredible moments with friends and family throughout my life, but last Saturday will always stand out as one of those unforgettable nights that I wish was recorded from start to finish so I could replay it over and over again. Here’s what happened:
Martin Sierra, a great friend and my personal hero, invited me to his house for drinks. (For those of you who don’t know, Martin is a fellow NYC LES native who joined the Army with his son in 2001. Since 9/11 he’s had multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan and was awarded the Bonze Star as well as numerous other medals.) So I’m expecting a few beers and a couple of rounds of pool in his man cave, but when I walk into his house it’s packed with friends, family and Special Ops soldiers he’s served with and they’re all standing, clapping and cheering. When I realized that the applause was for me and they were all there to celebrate the success of my novel Bishop’s War, I literally stood there frozen. The moment was overwhelming and as I realized what Martin and his beautiful and amazing wife Pepsi had done for me, I had one immediate goal: Don’t Cry! Not only did they invite everyone there, they made poster-sized blow ups of the book cover (and my author pic!), they set up a table with microphones where Martin interviewed me and had me do my first book signing! Pepsi even hired a pianist and a bartender, and cooked up a spectacular feast.
No one has ever done anything like this for me before and my description doesn’t come close to capturing how special it was. It’s also very humbling to receive praise from these true heroes who selflessly serve our country and will soon be leaving home for another year.
Thank you Martin and Pepsi Sierra for giving me a night that I will never forget.
God bless you and may he protect you all while you’re gone and bring you home safe and sound.
Content courtesy of The Reading Wolf
I could not put this book down! The further I read the more I raced to finish it! As most people know I love all books John Grisham and nobody has ever compared to his greatness. However in this book I found that the author Rafael Hines did so well, I almost preferred his writing over Grishams!!. Political Corruption? Check! Family crime syndicate? Check! Fast paced read with lots of twists and turns? Check! The plot was so intriguing and unlike most books I’ve read before. In this book we follow Special Forces Sergeant John Bishop, who is a decorated war hero retuning home. John comes back hoping for a quiet life, but gets thrown into battling against Afghan warlords, terrorist operatives, and someone who has powerful connections in the White House. Life is anything but quiet for this hero (oh and did i mention his uncle is a major crime boss?). The scenes in this book are so vivid and so detailed that you feel as though you are there. Hines knows hows to write! This book will have you gripping the edge of your seat with suspense and staying up late at night to continue reading just to figure out what happens to John. Although i must note that before i read this book i checked out other reviewers singing his praises and comparing him to Clancy, Patterson, and Grisham, and with Grisham being one of my favorite authors I was super hesitant of me liking it, but Hines really pulls it off!!! So, throw in a reminiscent dash of John Grisham, a dash of Tom Clancy and a sprinkle of James Patterson and you have Hines’s book. This man far surpasses some of the greats and I cant wait to see what happens next! Thank you Rafael for letting me read this masterpiece! 5 out of 5 stars.
Indie Author Interview with Rafael Amadeus Hines – Author of the Suspense Thriller Bishop’s War.
Rafael Amadeus Hines is a native New Yorker with Panamanian, Jamaican, and Irish roots, who was born and raised on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Dipping into his early Alphabet City memories, he loosely based many of the characters in his first novel, Bishop’s War, on the people he grew up with, and adapted many of his own experiences into the book as well.
Alan Kealey (Indie Author News): What is your (writing) background?
Rafael Amadeus Hines: I’ve always wanted to write, but didn’t actually start typing on my laptop until about six years ago. It began slowly for me. Writing at night after my kids went to sleep, I often struggled to complete a few paragraphs in two or three hours sessions, but late one night something clicked and the words came pouring out. Once the flood gates were opened I couldn’t stop and there were many sleepless nights where chapter after chapter have seemed to magically appear on paper.
Who are your favorite writers, your favorite books, and who or what are your writing influences?
I’ve been an insatiable reader all my life, but in my late twenties I gravitated towards suspense-thrillers with interesting characters and great dialogue. One of my all time favorites is Elmore Leonard. From his early westerns to his edgy crime thrillers, Dutch was and always will be a true artist who let his characters tell the story. John Sandford is another influential author for me and very few can match his seemingly effortless writing style in his phenomenal Prey series about Lucas Davenport. A few others that strongly impacted me are James Lee Burke, Tom Clancy and Stephen Hunter. I also recently discovered the Julius Ceasar and Genghis Khan historical fiction series by Conn Igguilden and the man is a true master.
When did you first know that you wanted to be a writer?
I grew up in neighborhood where everyone was a story teller. Vietnam combat vets, cops, gangsters, and dope fiends would congregate day and night on my block on Manhattan’s Lower East Side and listening to their stories was way better than watching TV or going to the movies. I soaked it all in and in my teens I dreamed of someday becoming a writer, but that dream lay dormant for many years. The real catalyst for me was 9/11. After watching my office in the south tower come down, like most New Yorkers, I anticipated more attacks to take place throughout the city. Thank God that never happened, but years later the hero of my military thrillers, John Bishop appeared on paper to stop those attacks and I’ve been writing ever since.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Bishop’s War is actually the first story I’ve ever written, but it has evolved and grown from initially being a short story into a full length 445 page thriller over time.
“[…] a somewhat quirky nightly routine.”
Tell us about your writing process. Do you have a writing routine?
Yes, and it’s a somewhat quirky nightly routine. Lights go out at 10 or 11PM and I lay in the dark for thirty to forty-five minutes visualizing scenes and hearing the dialogue in my head. It’s kind of like watching a movie with your eyes closed and when I can see it all clearly I jump up, hit the lights, and rush over to my laptop to get it all down on paper before I fades away. I’ve tried daytime writing, but so far I haven’t been able to get in the zone the way I can with my “lights out” writing approach.
Please, describe your desk/workplace.
Very basic. Square three by three foot desk with a laptop attached to a monitor to help me see better.
What do you find easiest about writing? What the hardest?
I definitely wouldn’t say that writing is easy for me, but no matter how hard or frustrating it can be at times I always enjoy it and that’s been one of my main drivers. If it wasn’t so much fun I probably wouldn’t bother doing it.
“Scenes, characters, and dialogue just appear out of nowhere […]”
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
The greatest joy of writing for me is when I become the funnel and have an almost out of body experience. When that happens I’m not the one writing anymore. Scenes, characters, and dialogue just appear out of nowhere and I just sit back and enjoy the ride. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does it’s pure magic.
Rafael, please tell us a little about your Suspense Thriller Bishop’s War.
Bishop’s War is a fast-paced and action-packed suspense thriller that introduces readers to Special Forces Sergeant John Bishop, decorated war hero, and nephew of crime boss, Gonzalo Valdez. After returning home from Afghanistan John’s hopes for a peaceful future are quickly shattered when he is catapulted back into the global war on terror through a succession of life-threatening events and corrupt intrigue. He battles against terrorist operatives in New York, a powerful Afghan warlord, and a psychopathic billionaire with powerful White House connections. When John’s uncle gets involved, he proceeds to treat John’s enemies to a bitter taste of mob vengeance. From that point on the ride speeds up and the reader will have to hold on for dear life. This is a thriller not to be matched for intensity and breathless excitement—not for the faint-hearted.
What inspired you to write the book?
As I mentioned earlier, the impact of 9/11 and the anticipation of follow up attacks eventually led me to imagining a lone citizen-soldier who could battle the terrorists in NYC and then take the war back to their home turf in Afghanistan.
“[…] anyone who loves military-action-thrillers with strong characters”
Who do you see as your target audience?
I think my target audience is anyone who loves military-action-thrillers with strong characters that you both love and hate. Many of the characters in Bishop’s War are based on the cops, gangsters and combat vets that I grew up with so I had a lot to work with.
What makes your book special?
As an author of military-thrillers, despite having never served in the United States Armed Forces, I feel extremely fortunate to have been surrounded by combat veterans for most of my life. Over the years I’ve had the privilege of hearing their jaw dropping firsthand accounts of battles and tactics, of belly laughing at their tales of the often hilarious and improbable moments that happen in war and shedding tears when they occasionally talk about the men and women they’ve served with who never made it home. I recognize what an honor it is to have these friendships and personal access to living legends who were actually reading my draft chapters while serving in Combat Outposts in Afghanistan. That said, Bishop’s War is very special to me because I know and love so many of the people in it and I laughed and cried as I wrote it.
“[…] sales have skyrocketed and people from all over the world…”
How would you describe the success of your self-published books so far?
So far the global response to Bishop’s War has been phenomenal and I actually wrote it just to see if I could write a novel and had no real intentions of ever publishing. It was just my fun late night hobby that I shared with friends who were kind enough to read it, but before my mother passed away a year ago she made me promise to self-publish. Early sales of 4 to 6 a day were exactly what I expected them to be for any unknown author and I anticipated it would dwindle down to nothing after my circle of 300+ friends, family and associates hit the buy it now button on Amazon. To my surprise sales have skyrocketed and people from all over the world are writing reviews, emailing me, and posting on my Facebook author page. It’s been quite a ride and I feel so blessed and honored to know that there are thousands of people out there who have enjoyed reading Bishop’s War as much I did writing it. All I can say is thanks Mom and thank you to all the Bishop fans out there.
“[…] you really have no idea where your writing will take you.”
Can you give some advice for other Authors regarding the writing process?
The old adage, just keep writing. The more you write the better it gets and unless you’re a polished professional who’s super organized with a structured and detailed outline you really have no idea where your writing will take you. Sit back and enjoy the ride.
Are you working on another book project? Can you tell us a little about it?
Yes, I’m currently writing the next action-packed Bishop novel and it’s really starting to come together. No ETA yet, but I’ll post some preliminary chapters on my website when it’s near completion.
Where do you see the book market in 5 or 10 years? Will there be only eBooks and will book stores disappear like record stores disappeared?
I sure hope not. Although 90% of my sales are from eBooks I still love holding a paperback or hard cover in my hand and I love going to book stores and roaming the isles for a new adventure.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I tend to e-read on the go so most of the time I read eBooks on my iPhone.
Do you write full-time or do you have a day job? When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?
Yes, I have a full time day job as the Director of Business Development for a global public company in the energy sector. Another reason why I write at night! 🙂
Thank you very much for the Interview, Rafael.