Jim Murphy, who wrote vivid stories for young people, dies at 74


And there was “Breakthrough! How Three People Saved ‘Blue Babies’ and Changed Medicine Forever” (2015), about a groundbreaking heart operation performed in 1944 and attributed to two white doctors, Alfred Blalock and Helen Taussig, although significant parts of the procedure were was the work of a black research assistant, Vivien Thomas, whom many at the hospital, Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, thought was a janitor.

Mr Murphy didn’t mince words about Dr Blalock not including his black assistant when he took credit for the operation.

“Blalock could have advanced the career of his talented research assistant without a problem, and he could have fended off all the criticism directed at him,” he wrote. ” But he did not do it. Instead, Blalock was, like too many people in positions of power, happy to let an unfair situation drift.

In these and other books, Mr. Murphy relied heavily on first-person accounts, many by ordinary people rather than generals or presidents. It’s an approach he took early in his writing career. He was considering a book on the history of tractors, until his father scoffed at the idea as too boring.

“And I realized that one interesting thing about tractors, especially steam tractors, is that they explode a lot,” he told Publishers Weekly. “So I wrote a history of tractors, collecting first-hand accounts from people who had survived tractor explosions.”

The resulting book, “Tractors: From Yesterday’s Steam Wagons to Today’s Turbocharged Giants”, was published in 1984 and did well.

“I realized the key was the first-hand perspective,” he said.

James John Patrick Murphy was born September 25, 1947 in Kearny, NJ to James and Helen (Grasso) Murphy. In addition to history books, he occasionally wrote fiction, and in one such work, “Revenge of the Green Banana” (2017), he drew inspiration from his experiences at St. Stephen’s at Kearny to tell the story of a sixth-grade student named Jimmy Murphy who seeks revenge on a teacher for casting him in a school play as a banana. He writes this in the dedication:

“To all the teachers at St. Stephen’s, each and every one. I want to apologize for what I did and thank you for putting up with my antics for so many years. I came to St. Stephen’s like some kind of kid and left like a whole other.


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