Book: D.D. Murphry, Secret Policeman
Type of Book: Fiction, themed short story collection
Why Do I Consider This Book Odd: Because the whole book is based on the delusions of a seriously mentally ill man.
Availability: Published in 2009 by Raw Dog Screaming Press, you can get a copy here:
Comments: I’ve been thinking about the mentally ill a lot lately. I technically have mental illness, but given my recent methods of fighting back as well as the relative mildness of my condition, I am getting very close to being The Sanest Person You Know. Earlier this year I read Pete Earley’s book, Crazy: A Father’s Search Through America’s Mental Health Madness, a sickening and sobering look at the mental healthcare system nationwide, but especially in Florida. When the face-eating cannibal case hit the headlines, my first thought was, “I bet he was a schizophrenic.” News said it was bath salts but the autopsy said all the face-eater had in his system was marijuana. I looked it up and sure enough – Rudy Eugene had a rich history of untreated schizophrenia, resulting in many assaults and several arrests.
It is with Earley’s book and the recent graphic example of the mental health care system failure in Florida in mind that I am writing this discussion. There is a lot that is funny in this book. Clark and Massie wove a mentally-ill conspiracy so well that it is pure genius – at times I wondered, briefly, if the conspiracy was real, that perhaps Murphry was ill but was also being used as a pawn by a malevolent force. So strongly does Murphry believe the truth of the misfires in his brain that the reader, even with strong clues that this is indeed a mentally disturbed man acting out what is happening in his mind, cannot help but think there is some truth to such energetic and labyrinthine delusions.
It is impossible to discuss the structure and plot of this book in much depth because to do so would utterly spoil the book. So I plan to give a bare-bones plot synopsis and then discuss the parts of chapter one that resonate with me. D.D. Murphry is a mentally ill, mostly homeless man. When a social worker helped him get on disability or some sort of Social Security, he interpreted that as having been hired by the “True Government” to spy on and take action against the “False Government.” His interpretations of various situations, as filtered through his damaged mind, range from the hilarious to the deeply disturbing, often depending on how it is he decides to react. He believes a librarian named Kate, who fears and loathes him, is his secret bride, given to him by the “True Government.” He believes her nasty reaction to him is a facade assumed to throw off others and he longs for the day he can finally consummate their marriage. Kate inadvertently provided a large source of fuel for Murphry’s delusions, as she taught him to use a computer and access e-mail. Murphry sees spam as secret communications from the True Government and Clark and Massie really shine when they show how he manages to find real life corollaries in the simplest things that match the messages he thinks he received in the e-mails. Murphry careens from humorous misinterpretation to grave acts of utter mayhem as he tries to make the world a better place for the True Government and foil the actions of the False Government.