J. Michael Niotta, PhD
Early Los Angeles Crime Historian
Writer. Artist. Musician.
Italian-American writer-artist-musician, J. Michael Niotta, looks at the Southern California you won't find in the palm tree infested brochures. The crime journalist and early L.A. historian has lectured at the Las Vegas Mob Museum and the Plaza Hotel's MobWorld Summit, and appeared on the Travel Channel show, Mission Declassified, as an early L.A. crime SME. In December 2019, Fonthill Media imprint America Through Time released his second nonfiction title, The Fight Abroad & the Fear Back Home: Italians of the California Coast during WWII, which covers the Italian story long missing from American history books. Like the Japanese, the U.S. government targeted Italians living along the California coast. Branded as "enemy aliens," they endured home invasions, property seizure, curfew and travel restrictions, forced relocation, and even internment.
As the eldest great grandson of Los Angeles Godfather, Jack Dragna, delving into SoCal's sordid past in order to clear up the errors and conjecture has become a near obsession. Years of research and interview spill heavily into his work, and has even influence his art. Niotta's focus as a mixed-media and analog collage artist lies in crime-themed dadaism, abstract, and surrealism.
Although Niotta holds a Masters in Human Behavior and a business doctorate, the time behind a desk did not sever him from his blue collar. The son of a Teamster and a Beautician has worked as a plumber, mobile diesel mechanic, line crew firefighter, furniture mover, and bouncer. As such, it's no wonder a working class mindset and dialect feeds so directly into his prose. Bleak yet witty, Niotta's narrative displays a cynically funny way of looking at life and recapping history.
J. Michael is an Iraqi Freedom veteran with 18 years of military service and is also the former Editor in Chief and Columnist of two custom culture publications. While managing Rabid and 86 Magazine, he penned the edgy columns "True Tales of Bar Madness" and "If I'm Still Alive...Why Am I In Hell?" More recently he contributed to the National Crime Syndicate website via the true crime column, "The Early Days of Los Angeles."
Niotta first gained notoriety as a musician performing under the stage name "Highway J." He toured Europe and the Southwest United States on upright bass with SoCal "neo" Rockabilly act, Hard Fall Hearts and has performed with several garage and punk bands as well. Most recently, he sat in with legendary Rockabilly sensation, Rip Carson. Niotta was among the first cohort of The Rosie Network's Service 2 CEO entrepreneur program and is a longtime member of the Conquistadors Car Club of San Diego.
Presently he is working on a variety of writing projects, including a biography of his great grandfather, Jack Dragna, and an early history of organized crime in SoCal which he is co-authoring with longtime mafia researcher Richard N. Warner.
Press & Reviews
Brave new words here. J. Michael Niotta dies for our sins and lives to write about it with fearless poetry and prose. He takes us from bar stools to Baghdad to face head on the kind of issues most of us run from. Reminds me a little of Bukowski.
The stuff is good. Quite good. Straight up - like a good half-glass of whiskey.
Author of Chump Change, Poet, and Screenwriter.
Writer, Director, and Producer for The Discovery Channel, National Geographic, and indie films, including "White Trash Cinderella."
Wild and gritty street-style writing in the hard fiction arena where there's no holding back.
Publisher Shadow Archer Press, Novelist, and Painter
What's Buzzin' Cousin?
Dec 2019 - The Fight Abroad just hit bookstores and the author is slated to return home soon from an overseas military deployment. Visit the EVENTS section for upcoming appearances. A welcome home signing is slated for late January at Lestat's Coffee in Normal Heights!
Oct. 2019 - Following completion of edits on my new book (out in December) I have been spending a considerable amount of time on completing the rough draft of the Jack Dragna biography, Beneath the Hollywood Mafia Mask. No projected completion date as of yet. The manuscript is now at 21 chapters and 148K words!!!
Aug. 2019 - Just received the proof for the cover of The Fight Abroad and a pdf of the layout. Working on the final quality control edits on the manuscript. She is now slated for a December release. FontHill Media's imprint America Through Time will be releasing the title.
June 2019 - Working on the final edits of The Fight Abroad & the Fear Back Home. This true tale of Italians along the California coast during World War II is still slated for a November release on FontHill Media.
Apr. 2019 - Just completed instructing on a 3 day military leadership course that I helped put together for the state. It is rewarding wearing a teacher / Prof hat and I intend to do more of it, along with lecture, in the future. My cameo in the new show, Mission Declassified, on the Travel Channel should be airing late this month so look for it. I will be visiting Vegas later this month as well. May have to hit up my buddy Meyer Lansky II and hit the Las Vegas Mob Museum. He has been giving a lot of tours lately.
Mar. 2019 - Edits continue on the new book. She's really coming together. And episode 6 of the new Travel Channel show, Mission Declassified, covering the New Orleans Axeman and featuring SMEs J. Michael Niotta and his associate Richard N. Warner, is slated to air on April 28th.
Late Feb. 2019 - I'm excited to announce that contracts have been signed with Fonthill Media for my next book, The Fight Abroad & the Fear Back Home: Italians of the California Coast during WWII. More to follow!!
Feb. 2019 - I am presently in contract negotiations for my second book. Exciting news! More details to follow! Also, this month I will be displaying artwork during two shows at San Diego's Subterranean Coffee Boutique: The Return of the Cult show on Feb. 16th and the Trifecta of Weird on Feb. 23rd. Check the events section for further details.
Jan. 2019 - The New Year's resolution is to TCB (Take Care of Business). I'm kicking that off by starting a new club. The El Rey Breweriana & Homebrewers Club (ERBHC) pays homage to my great grandfather, Los Angeles entrepreneur, Big George Niotta, who owned the Bay Area brewery, El Rey Brewing Co. The club looks to bring together beer enthusiasts and host events in the near future. JOIN the club free and check out the CLUB page!
This month my artwork is showing at La Bodega Art Gallery in Logan Heights, San Diego. Check the Events section for details.
Late Dec. 2018 - My associate Richard N. Warner and I recently served as early Los Angeles crime SME's for a Travel Channel documentary about the Axeman of New Orleans. We filmed in LA outside of the home where a man theorized to be the axeman was gunned down by the widow of one of the victims. Should be airing in April!
Dec. 2018 - Installment 16 of my National Crime Syndicate website column, The Early Days of Los Angeles with Dr. J. Michael Niotta, will be out soon ( ). This story covers infamous bootlegger Dominic Di Ciolla, the man from Chicago. I have been receiving a good amount of commissioned art jobs and have another art show coming up in mid-January. Check the events section for details. Thank you so much for all the support!
Nov. 2018 - The Dysfunctional Disney themed art show was such a fun event. Look out for announcements about upcoming art shows. I've been getting a steady flow of commission work art wise, in addition to selling paintings off my website store. Thanks so much for the support.
Oct. 2018 - Played host to my good pal, Meyer Lansky II. Jack Dragna and Meyer Lansky grandsons had a blast touring the historical and mob related sites in San Diego. Videos and photos to follow!
Late Sept. 2018 - My Mob Museum lecture sold out and was a success. I was asked by the museum's Sr Content Editor to assist in updating some of the information about my great grandfather, Jack Dragna. This is a huge milestone for me in my efforts to shave the errors and conjecture which have been largely fueled by Hollywood and the old generation of crime authors. Look for upcoming video clips from my museum event.
Early Sept. 2018 - I will be lecturing at the Mob Museum in Las Vegas on September 22nd. Reserve your seat now at www.themobmuseum.org, space is limited and nearly full! More to follow on whether the event will be streamed live.
July 2018 - The MobWorld Summit out in Las Vegas was a blast. Thank you so much to Geoff Schumacher from the Mob Museum for mediating my panel, to Larry Henry for putting the event together, to my fellow staff members at the NCS, and to the fans that came out to support the maiden voyage of this special event. Had the pleasure of hanging at the new Speakeasy in the Mob Museum with the NCS crew, some new pals, and with Meyer Lansky's namesake, Meyer the II. A Dragna and a Lanksy walked into a bar... No kidding!
May 2018 - I will be headlining a panel on early mob activities in Los Angeles at the MobWorld Summit in Las Vegas. Sr Content Editor of the Las Vegas Mob Museum will be mediating this discussion held at the Plaza Hotel during Father's Day Weekend. Check the EVENTS section of this website for further details. My 8th column installment with NationalCrimeSyndicate.com hits their website this weekend. Also, I have nailed down a lecture date at the Vegas Mob Museum. I will be there speaking and signing books in late September. More to come!!!
Apr. 2018 - Still talking with the folks at the Mob Museum about an upcoming lecture, I've started penning a regular installment with NationalCrimeSyndicate.com entitled, "The Early Days of Los Angeles with Dr J. Michael Niotta," and have been discussing speaking at a panel for a few upcoming true crime related events. Stay tuned for updates.
Feb. 2018 - Presently in discussion with the good folks at the Las Vegas Mob Museum about lecturing and holding a signing later this year. Exciting news! And it looks like I may be doing a fairly regular installment on organized crime covering the early days of Los Angeles with NationalCrimeSyndicate.com. The site recently melded with the Classic Gangster Society Facebook page. Lots of new developments! If you haven't picked up a copy of LA Sugar Ring yet, you are wrong! Order a signed copy for just $20 in the SHOP. Much love, J.
Dec. 2017 - Signed contracts with well respected long time mafia researcher, Richard Warner, in order to co-author an early history of organized crime in Southern California. More to follow!!!
Oct. 2017 - LA Sugar Ring is available online through Arcadia Publishing, The History Press, Amazon, Target, Walmart, B&N, www.jmichaelniotta.com, and soon Costco. Not sure which locations will physically carry it (as that is up to them) and I still haven't received a list of indie retailers YET. I did just learned that B&N offers a hardcover version (exciting!!) BUT (disclaimer) this is through their printers NOT Arcadia's. Arcadia / The History Press books are Made In America. Exciting news!!
late Sep. 2017 - The History Press has set up the first of hopefully many promotional events. Come meet me at Flintridge Bookstore in La Canada on Saturday, November 25, from noon till 2pm. I will be there signing books and showcasing some of my crime inspired original artwork. I look forward to seeing you there. Let's meet up!
1010 Foothill Bilvd
La Canada, Flintridge, CA 91011
early Sep. 2017 - The Los Angeles Sugar Ring now available for presale (print and download) through indie bookstores and such heavies as Walmart, Target, Barnes & Nobles, and Amazon.
Aug. 2017 - Suggested edits have come in from the copy editor and he appears to be in love with the story! Changes have been submitted; the book is really looking great!
Jul. 2017 - The front and back cover art for The Los Angeles Sugar Ring are in!
Jun. 2017 - J. Michael is currently working on a crime themed art collection to release with his new true crime title, The Los Angeles Sugar Ring!!
May 2017 - The Los Angeles Sugar Ring release date announced; available on AMAZON and in bookstores on Oct. 23, 2017!!
Apr. 2017 - Back Cover Copy for The Los Angeles Sugar Ring is in!!
Early movers and shakers of Los Angeles didn’t always operate within the confines of the law, including opportunist and family man Big George Niotta, who supplied sugar to make illegal liquor. Niotta rose to prominence thanks to his magnetic charm and collaborations with infamous bootlegger Frank Borgia and influential gambling baron Jack Dragna. But the fall is hard for those high soaring. Bled dry by the IRS, Niotta fought to restore his wealth through ringer horses, a multimillion dollar lottery and a notorious gambling parlor. Through the moves of a pawn dead set on wearing a crown, author J. Michael Niotta explores three decades of L.A. crime, including a rare insider’s look at the history of the Eagle Brewing Company and other survivors of prohibition.
Mar. 2017 - Contracts for J. Michael's true crime book (formerly titled SUGAR) have been signed and it's looking like a possible September release!!
Highway J. Michael slideshow
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