The Way Things Used To Be

A review from KTEP's Folk Fury Host Dan Alloway

Austin Jimmy Murphy's newest release, The Way Things Used To Be, leans toward the Americana category. In fact, they predate the Americana genre. Jimmy reaches into his back catalogue for songs from his past and brings them to life. This collection of tunes have sort of a laid back feel to them. The lyrics are heartfelt and reflect a simpler time. There are a few Honky-Tonk tear jerkers such as, My Drinking Days Are Over and My Heart’s On Fire. Some of the songs possess a folk-like quality to them. His medley of Amazing Grace/Will the Circle Be Unbroken starts out as a slow blues and segues into a an almost bluegrass/barrelhouse/second line strut number. Although the songs have a full band accompaniment, Jim’s guitar playing is upfront and foremost. His picking is as always superb and his rough hewn vocals are chock full emotion. Listening to this CD, one can almost conjure up an image of sitting on the front porch with Jimmy picking while watching a desert sunset.


The South Franklin Trinity ... Jim, I just finished The South Franklin Trinity. I simply don’t know what to say. I was taken aback by your genius—not a formalized, practiced genius, but one that simply flows from a self-admitted imperfect, rough-hewn vessel, like molten gold from a rusty cauldron ... You are absolutely one of a kind. Actually, I see you as two of a kind: a surface that gives pleasure to many, and an inside that boils with a somewhat unfathomable but huge significance ... I loved this book as I did the My Life Before I Decided to Commit Suicide book ... It is an honor for me to know you personally; and I, for one, would have bowed down to you while you were on that cross—even though you probably deserved to get charred for being such a nut case. Richard PS: And I make the genuine, heartfelt statements above, despite your shitty command of the King’s English and those pesky old grammar, punctuation, and format issues—as evidenced by the 7,321 flaws in your otherwise beautiful, wonderful, outstanding, superb, delightful, tremendous, and delightful book.” - Dr. Richard Palmer

— Personal Email from Dr. Richard Palmer

MY LIFE BEFORE I DECIDED TO COMMIT SUICIDE - 25th Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards ... Author's note: While I did not win an award, the review is very positive ... Review of My Life Before I Decided To Commit Suicide: A Love Story ... The spoiler title did not soften the shock I felt when the suicide popped up in the Prologue. It occurred to me that lazy readers might skip the Prologue, as they are wont to do, zooming straight to the diverting memoirs beginning in the big white house with no grass where the Bob & Betty Circus dominates after Murphy breaks his nose ... The author has a unique sense of humor that readers are bound to appreciate. This humor is liberally laced with sarcasm. The author has a gift of presenting characters as fully-formed stars like the Beehive Lady, with her nosey curiosity, and his childish interpretation of her as a Russian spy ... Murphy has a singular way of presenting stories, like the one about his hamster dying on the same day as JFK. Murphy’s description of the Catholic Church and religion, in general, is unexpected and wry ... There is an undercurrent of pathos as his narrative proceeds into young adulthood, of impending sadness, coming to drape itself over this original view of life, and of course, readers must know that because of the warning is given in the title ... This memoir must have been tremendously cathartic to write and it will deeply touch readers who find it cathartic to read. I am glad the author was rescued by his father ... The amount of anger present may put off some readers, but it will attract others.” - Judge 56

— 2017 Writer's Digest Self-Published Book Awards

REVIEW OF, THE RIGHT TO KILL ... Judge’s Commentary ... James Robert Murphy has written a fast-paced, swift little novella in THE RIGHT TO KILL, which is something of a historical novel merged with a bit of speculative fiction. The premise is that Texas has passed a “right to kill” act, with the proviso that the person requesting the kill has to commit the act. That’s an interesting premise, and one that I think Murphy could actually elaborate upon in a much longer work ... Much of the writing is effective and sometimes darkly funny (and also quite a bit raunchy), and the dialogue generally sounds believable and authentic ... I think Murphy is onto something with this concept, but I feel that it needs expansion, and then it might make for a more effective novel. I can see it finding quite an audience, given the subject matter.” - Judge #70

— 25th Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards.

THE SOUTH FRANKLIN TRINITY - Former Nedrow resident James Robert Murphy has used his upbringing in Central New York for stories previously featured in this column, but his newest publications, "The South Franklin Trinity" is inspired by his current state of residence and a desire to survive the holidays, respectively ... The South Franklin Trinity takes place in El Puente, Texas, where Murphy lives. The small town is situated within the Franklin Mountains. The author says he enjoyed doing research for the book and also enjoyed writing it, something he hopes it evident to the reader ... Murphy says the story is about three signature characters, absorbed in their own personal search for the meaning of life, and "Their unpredictable destinies cross a fiery path on the third Tuesday of April 2016." The story includes secret government projects, and the possibility of time travel.” - Casey Rose Frank

New thrillers and mysteries: CNY books and authors

BOOK REVIEW: THE RIGHT TO KILL Tom Riddell's Review ... Jim Murphy’s latest book, The Right To Kill, made me cringe. It begins as a dark, grisly, and graphic tale that had me a bit nauseous but then a quick twist in the plot, surprisingly had me cheering on the six misguided and murderous youngsters ... Even though this is a work of fiction, the author took me on a chillingly deadly and dark adventure that had me rethinking the human condition and prompted me to re-examine what our true human nature really is composed of ... One of the most ironic, intriguing and haunting aspects of this story is how timely it is given the current political climate. The United States, in this fictional version, is much different than the country that we know but it is eerily close to where we could be if the “right” or “wrong” leader took the reins of our country. It really is up to us to decide ... This is not a book for young readers or the easily offended but it is a book worth reading. The author’s tongue is placed firmly in cheek in this one and the bits of sexual humor will have you laughing hard, but have no doubt, the premise of this tale will stick in your mind and have you thinking well after the last page is read ... This one has the legs that could take it to the bestseller list ... I give The Right To Kill 5 stars.   ” - Tom Riddell

— Tom Ridell

Small town justice on a national scale  James Robert Murphy blends his Central New York upbringing with his current life in El Paso, Texas to tell a story of the 1950s and 60s re-imagined. Murphy spent his formative years growing up in Syracuse and Nedrow, and uses the north side of Syracuse as the setting for the beginning of his book ... He also uses himself and his real life friends as the inspirations for his characters ... Murphy writes about six young boys who feel the need to adopt a "right to kill" concept in order to keep the peace in their poor, broken down Syracuse neighborhood ... As adults they find that their concept of safety and justice is at the forefront of a shift in government policy in the United States as the northern and southern borders are all officially closed, and Texas passes the controversial "Right To Kill Act." ... As many other states begin to follow Texas's lead, the country finds itself joining the rest of the world in spiral of conflict. Though a work of fiction, Murphy says that the ideas he explores in his book touch upon concerns and actions that are all too real today ... "When I explain it to fellow Texans, many ask me when the Right to Kill Act was passed and how does it work. I remind them that this is a work of fiction.” - Casey Rose Frank

— Syracuse Post Standard

El Paso Authors Plan Joint Book Signing ... Two El Paso authors will have a joint book signing from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Dec. 10 at Papa Pita, 7114 N. Mesa ... James R. Murphy will sign copies of his books “El Paso 1850-1950," “My Favorite El Pasoans, Past and Present," and his new novel, "The Right to Kill.” ... Murphy, development coordinator for the El Paso Museum of History, is also a well-known blues musician who performs as Austin Jimmy Murphy. He also will perform during the event ... Richard L. Palmer will sign copies of his books “The Life Story and Collected Works of Opal W. Fitzgerald,” the story of a notable poet, and “The Difference Between a Duck,” a diverse collection of his own work ... Doors will open at 5 p.m. ... Information: Papa Pita, 581-2341.” - N/A

El Paso Times

My Life Before I Decided To Commit Suicide: A Love Story ... Touted as an expose of life in small town America, the book follows author Jim Murphy's life in Auburn and Nedrow between the mid-1950s and the mid-1970s ... Jim Murphy's mother wasn't really a Secret Service Spy and she didn't really kill the woman down the street with a pair of scissors. But that's how the El Paso, Texas resident portrays a neighborly confrontation in his embellished memoir, "My Life Before I Decided To Commit Suicide." ... He changed names of neighbors and friends, he said, but it isn't too hard for them to figure out who's who. And beyond the specifics, he said, anyone who grew up in a small town should be able relate to the stories in the book ... A coming-of-age novel in many ways, he said, the story is fairly humorous leading up to a serious ending ... The suicide scene in the book corresponds to a nervous breakdown in Murphy's un-embellished life ... But Mr. Murphy states that the overall message of the book is a positive one: "If you can be patient enough to let your heart heal a little bit, and not commit suicide, the rest of your life will be fine ... My Life Before I Decided To Commit Suicide," which Murphy said he would not recommend for young readers.” - Nicole Ann Gorny

MY LIFE BEFORE I DECIDED TO COMMIT SUICIDE - 'The humor or silliness of the turmoil': Texas writer recalls life in Auburn, suicide attempt in memoir ... James Robert Murphy's battle with depression lasted long after he unsuccessfully hung himself from an Eastwood home's attic rafter ... In the eight years following his 1978 suicide attempt — one foiled after his father cut him free — Murphy hitchhiked across the United States, temporarily laying down roots in California, Washington, Texas and Florida before returning to Nedrow, the place he spent most of his childhood ... He eventually ended up with a Liverpool woman and settled down in Colorado. But with Murphy still floundering as a "verbally abusive, insecure person," the relationship, like his first marriage, ended. When she left me, I finally figured things out," he said. "I finally figured out my insecurities." ... Murphy, an Auburn native, fell in love with and married an El Paso, Texas woman, whom he has been happily with for 28 years. They moved back to New York from Texas and spent 18 years in Syracuse. before returning to Texas in 2004 ... During his time in Syracuse, Murphy worked for the Cultural Resources Council of Syracuse and Onondaga County, now known as CNY Arts. He also created the New York State Blues Festival. and co-created the Guinness Irish Festival, also in Syracuse ... Sometime after his family moved back to Texas, Murphy, an award-winning blues guitarist, got the itch to write. After writing two books about El Paso, Murphy decided to focus his gaze inward — hungry to write about his childhood and examine the experiences that led up to his suicide attempt ... His humorous and heartbreaking memoir, "My Life Before I Decided to Commit Suicide," was published in January ... In advance of an upcoming book signing in Syracuse, Murphy spoke to The Citizen about his memoir — the first four chapters of which take place in Auburn ... Q: What made you want to write "My Life Before I Decided to Commit Suicide? A: I needed to write something. I had written "Legendary Locals of El Paso," which was rejected. It really broke my heart that it was rejected. I thought, "I still have plenty to say ... Murphy then wrote the start of his memoir and sent it to a Colorado editing company for advice. An editor reviewed his draft and told him to reexamine what he wanted to tell readers ... I'm a novice at this, more or less. Once I started rewriting, I realized I had a lot to stay. I knew that a lot of quirky, weird things, and just-by-chance things had happened along the way. In order for me to get my point across, I learned how to write in great detail. I felt it had a to be a visual book. This completed version is probably my 10th version of the book. It took me three years to put it together ... People who didn't really know me liked it, so I knew I was on to something. I just kept working at it and working at it ... Q: Was writing your memoir therapeutic? A: It was a great project, and I really enjoyed doing it. I was never really into drugs, and I knew within my inner self that drugs weren't for me. I feel fortunate to have gotten out of that. Everything in this book, in some regards, is the truth. That's why I call it an embellished memoir. Everything in it did happened, but some of it is, well, a bit embellished ... Q: What do you hope readers get out of "My Life Before I Decided to Commit Suicide?" ... Everyone — especially my age group or even younger I suppose — everyone goes through this same depressing turmoil in their life in one way or another. What I hope others gain from my story is the humor or silliness of the turmoil. I believe depression is a passing thing. And if you can make it through that, then you become a stronger person inside and out. Just live your life... You're not here that long anyway.” - Samantha House

Auburn Citizen

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