Tuesday, October 11, 2016

CODE NAME: PAPA - My Extraordinary Life While Hiding in Plain Sight by John Murray - A JMPO Book for Me!

A little background to get you started...
On a gloriously brisk New England day, a tree branch, hidden under a thick layer of autumn leaves, snapped sharply, causing both my friend and me to noticeably jump. A moment later, we both laughed, but the angst of the sudden and unexpected sound reminded both of us that not so long ago an abrupt sound often signified real danger.
My friend, a Dutch covert operative who was also now retired, had arrived to visit me at the big house in Connecticut that had once been my group's headquarters. I'd worked my way up to the head of the American arm of an international covert ring whose sole intent was to rid the US and other countries of eminent danger or political damage. The job often meant taking "the bad guys" out, as there were seldom easy fixes. And let me tell you, there is no shortage of bad people in our world intent on stealing power and inflicting all types of pain and even death on their captives. You likely know that from reading or watching the news. Some of them are just easier to spot than others.
Well, the honest truth is I can't tell you my name. It's a secret that remains all these years later. Who'd have thought a bright but fairly ordinary young man from middle class America who got just above average grades, dated the same girl throughout high school and went to church most Sundays, would grow up to eventually head a very secretive band of brave individuals--both men and women--who regularly put their lives on the line because they wanted to protect the rest of you. Yet that's what we did, often sacrificing our personal lives (four marriages for me) and our health (countless broken bones, major surgeries, even death) to do it.
Meanwhile, you're just going to have to call me "Papa" like everyone else around the globe has through most of those wildly unpredictable and dangerous years...
Now a year later, even though I'll always be looking over my shoulder, I feel safe to finally share some of my remarkable life with you. Here's my true story, revealed for the first time. On the names and a few places have been changed to protect the innocent.

My Extraordinary Life While Hiding in Plain Sight

By John Murray

Over 10 years ago, I read a book that was based upon the life of a young soldier, I loved the story, but my boss and publisher for whom I worked at that time said it was terrible, that it was full of incorrect information and clearly had not been researched. I was sad to hear that, but I still loved the story as it was written. I did learn something, though, that some writers may choose to write a fictional novel as if it was a true story.

I have no reason to believe this is the case with Code Name: Papa, except for the book itself. While it has been written with assistance of Abby Jones and is well-written, and although there may be others who think the book is great, I cannot recommend it. 

By calling it a memoir, first person has been used so that the writing is passive, except during the "assignments." Even most of what is said about family members of the group are told by the main character and, of course, presents a "show not tell" style that becomes boring with no other characters becoming real people other than his group. For instance, we have Bob who is told his wife has a big mouth and he's going to have to handle it... All through the book, it seems clear that Bob is unhappy and he's there only because of a commitment he shouldn't have made??? Even when his wife dies, little is said other than Bob can't go on missions for awhile... Feelings are normally filtered through Papa's telling.

If this story is true, then the only acceptable reason that my mind can accept is that Papa was a leader of a group of mercenaries who were hired to do "the dirty work" whenever somebody just wanted it...handled...

A primary reason in making this assumption is that these individuals traveled across the world. Given the state of international relations between and among countries, it is highly unlikely, in my opinion, that Russia, for instance, would ask Americans to come into their country to handle politically sensitive activities...

Bottom line is, if you want to read a book that is solely based upon assignments where a group goes in and takes out one or more people, ensuring there is no trace, often by killing innocents, then...go for it!

The lack of emotional content is a major issue. The three soldiers, who began their service in Vietnam, were later recruited by one of the men's father. There is no mention of, for instance, the mother/wife in this family. 

Then there is the author, who later becomes Papa, after the father of his friend dies, who when approached by Papa to join his group, asked about a cover if they were going to be undercover... He was going to be a civil engineer! His wife commented that she never knew he had an interest in that...and later said that as long as he wasn't with another woman, she'd be ok, or some such nonsense... First of all, you don't get trained to be a civil engineer--you earn a degree in the profession. Second, there is so little interaction between Papa and his wife/2 children, well, it seemed unbelievable. Every once in a while Papa mentions his family, but clearly, with no real emotional loss in not being home with them often... A younger son is mentioned as getting into trouble, and is excluded thereafter...Apparently Papa wrote off his younger son...or was it just a lack of expertise in writing a book? Neither was a satisfactory answer for me...

And then there was the time that Papa told his female operatives that they'd have to get hysterectomies so they wouldn't have to deal with "all that" on a mission...

Even the sub-title is questionable to me... This man and his group didn't hiding in plain sight; i.e., Papa did not lead his regular life and then leave to go on assignment...Papa mostly stayed closeted in the headquarters of the group, which was originally the family home for the first leader. There were a few references to spouses, but it was clear that the job controlled their loyalty rather than family. And the way it was presented, it appeared that crises all over the world needed their skills...on and on and on with rarely a stop.

On the other hand, Papa was living quite comfortably in his mansion-style headquarters and flew off to this place or that in private planes. If ever I had accepted the stereotypical assessment of mercs who were in it for the love of money and the killing...I was willing to believe it upon reading this book.

Then there's the fact that this is scheduled to be a trilogy and the second book is titled Code Name: Amy... First of all, how can a memoir of another team member be written by this author? And, second, Amy is listed as Papa's mentor (from Canada)... OK, I have to say it, are we really to believe that there was no sex in this close group of workers that were dependent upon each other for life and death? Of course, Papa might not have wanted to tell his latest wife, Sharon Murray, all about that? All I know is that a book that presents nothing but killing assignments right after the other, has little to offer readers. There is little to draw readers into the lives of characters when they rarely reveal any emotional ties to anything but what their next job is...

The only major bit of drama was that the original Papa's son lost his wife to cancer and then his son was in an accident and considered dead, only keeping him alive by machine. The father chose to create a hospital at headquarters and hired medical staff, keeping him alive... and even sought Papa's promise to continue that treatment in case of his death. All that I could see was that this man had been traumatized by all the killing he had done and when death came to his family, he could not accept it. He was no longer able to function as a team member... A sad commentary on these men who had signed up for a job, with a non-negotiable "no way out..." until their own physical health kept them from continuing...

Can we afford to make heroes of mercenaries when our soldiers come home as veterans that are turned away by the government once they've lost their ability to continue to serve?
PTSD has become rampant in today's armed services because the soldiers cannot bear what they've been asked to do...

When a writer chooses to write nonfiction which reads like fiction, a story being told, there will be readers like me who question what is being said. I don't believe this is a true story of this man's life, unless, of course, he was really a mercenary and I'd still not recommend that life as worthy? I'm sorry. You decide on this one... Most of this is Just My Personal Opinion...


A Vietnam vet, John Murray, later known as "Papa," has spent the majority of his adult life working as an undercover agent for the U.S., Canadian and various European governments. During this time, he rose from agent to the head of US Operations.

John was raised in the South by his grandfather who taught him at an early age how to survive by hunting and fishing, which all served him well for his future. He firmly believes that if he had not had the guidance of his grandfather and others who influenced his life that he never would have survived the ordeals that he did.

John, who enjoyed a very average American childhood, always wanted to be a ‘normal’ husband and father, but you'll eventually understand why that was impossible.

Papa and his crew’s bore the responsibility of taking care of much of the world’s evil – evil that could never have come to the public’s attention.

Now retired, he and his wife are living in a small rural Western town. As ‘normal’ as he tries to live, he will always be haunted by the visions of what he saw and what he tried to prevent or rectify.​

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