The Other Book 10

This reader’s review of The Catholic Orangemen of Togo appeared on Amazon yesterday. I like it very much because it seems to understand what I was trying to do. I really enjoy reading the readers’ reviews on both Amazon and on Facebook virtual bookshelf. When you write a book you crave feedback from those who experience reading it.

I remain very sad that my publisher buckled at the libel threats from Schillings on behalf of mercenary killer Tim Spicer, and I had to publish The Catholic Orangemen myself. The result was a much smaller readership. Murder in Samarkand deals with the extremes of human experience; The Catholic Orangemen is less spectacular, but I think it is better written and it contains the little wisdom I distilled from over a decade of working intensively on Africa and its problems,

As in his earlier book, Murray is enormously entertaining. But this is also by far the most informative book I have read about the nature of the problems modern African states tend to have. For instance he describes how many modern African countries have developed very restrictive trade agreements which allow them to accept subsidised US or EU produce, thereby bankrupting their own businesses, but won’t trade with each other because so many businesses are corrupt monopolies owned by relatives of government officials and they don’t want their neighbours to get the jump on them.

Murray also details a colossal level of corruption and bloodletting among all the West African countries, even the relatively stable Ghana. In the earlier part of the book Murray details his role in London having responsibilities for West Africa as a whole. Later he became Deputy High Commissioner of Ghana.

His most remarkable achievement here was in going to enormous lengths to facilitate a free election at the point when Jerry Rawlings had to give up power, having served two terms, and by virtue of incredible levels of organisation and very hard work managed to get a result.

This book is also frequently hilarious, never more so than in recounting his stage management of a Royal visit to Ghana, Duke of Edinburgh and all. At one stage the royal support team set up camp, so to speak, at an Accra hotel, at another the High Commissioner is gloriously upstaged. Some sections remind me of Evelyn Waugh’s ‘Black Mischief’. Murray speaks the truth and sometimes its shocking, often it confirms in glorious detail what one had often suspected, and sometimes it’s hilarious.

This book is set in the 90s, before Murray went to Uzbekistan, but was written quite recently, and Murray wasn’t as cynical about the morality of his own government during his stay in Africa as he later became. But what he has to tell us about the Arms for Africa affair reveals that what has shocked so many of us about Blair’s involvement in the Iraq war was not a one-off, driven by some compulsion to kowtow to the Americans. Long before 9/11 he was ignoring the painstaking work of whole departments of the Foreign Office to get his mates off the hook with their massively profitable corrupt arms dealing.

To anyone who loves Africa, and to anyone who wants chapter on verse on exactly how degraded the conduct of our government has become, this is essential reading.

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10 thoughts on “The Other Book

  • Chris Marsden

    How about a book on your Polish experiences? Given recent events in Eastern Europe with the wheels coming off the alleged ‘economic mini-miracle’, it could be illuminating – and funny, obviously…

  • Clark


    I don’t know how the libel laws work – now that your book has been available for some time without a libel case against it, would a mainstream publisher still be at risk from Spicer’s solicitors?

    Also, I still have the PDF version available on my web space. Do tell me if you’d rather I removed it now that the book is available through Amazon. Or would you prefer that I continue linking to it here?

  • Jon

    Btw, it was hinted on another thread that Murder in Samarkand is not being well advertised by Auntie, deliberately, to avoid excessive criticism of the govt. I don’t this is the case though – there was a cracking preview just after Front Row last night, at 7:45pm. Just the right audience, in fact, who would be interested to tune in.

  • Jon

    Craig, I seem to remember that you were making a loss on Catholic Orangemen books if they were purchased on Amazon. Is that still the case, and if so is there a smaller bookshop that might sell them with a better split of the proceeds?

  • Craig


    I still don’t have a problem with people reading it free.


    I hope that the paypal link to buy at top left of this site is working again. I had pretty well no luck getting bokshops to stock, but you could try Bookmarks or Wordpower, or pretty well any bookshop should be able to order it – which does give me a small profit.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Oh, publishing nowadays is full of lily-livered people. Conformity is the mantra. It is a consequence I think, of the demise of a real Left publishing in this country.

  • Richard

    Dear Mr. Murray,

    Firstly please allow this ‘small c’ conservative to express his gratitude to you for the stance you took while ambassador in Taskent. A small (no offence implied) figleaf to cover the naked moral bankruptcy of the country I once loved.

    But one small quibble. If the treatment of Pat O’Donnel is as described, then it doesn’t belong in Uzbkistan either. It doesn’t belong anywhere.

    Best wishes,


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