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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Villager with varied careers adds ‘author’ to his list of accomplishments

Jay Barrett’s careers have ranged from golf pro to flight test engineer to off-shore treasure hunter and advertising model. His book, ‘False Flag,’ adds author to his list of professions.

Villages author Jay Barrett has been a priest, a policeman and a boater – in ads selling various products.

But being an advertising model is just one of the many careers Jay has pursued over the years. How about flight test engineer, golf pro, squash champion and treasure hunter, to name only a few.

He also adds “author” to his list of accomplishments with his historical novel, “False Flag,” which examines the possibility that the United States government scuttled their own battleship, the USS Maine, in Havana Harbor in 1898 to start a war with Spain.

“There have been several wars that might have been false flag wars,” Barrett believes. “Vietnam, the Gulf War. The unrest in the Middle East. The sinking of the Maine in Havana is often cited.”

Although to this day the actual facts are obscured, the most likely cause was a fire in the ship’s coal bunker that set off the ammunition locker, Barrett notes. But the “official” cause was some sort of intervention by Spain.

‘False Flag,’ was written by author Jay Barrett. It is a fast-moving book about the deadly search for the fictional Anderson Diary that might shed light on the nonfictional sinking of the USS Maine in 1898.

Barrett was born to working-class parents in Lawrence, Mass. At that time, the small city was a center for the wool industry with the giant mills employing 90 percent of the residents. His mother was a secretary in a mill office, while his father repaired the giant belts that transferred power from the massive water wheels to the machinery.

In the 1950s the textile industry moved south and Lawrence struggled for survival. By that time Barrett was on his way to Annapolis Naval Academy. “I always had an interest in the ocean, so I joined the Naval Reserve. That led to a prep school in D.C. and a seat at the Academy exams,” he says. “They took the top 120 from the exam. I was number 101.”

The effects of an accident during his first year (“I fell from a trampoline,” he admits.) worsened and he was unable to graduate, spending five months in Bethesda Naval Hospital. When released he married his “sweetheart,” Barbara Jean, enrolled in Tri-State College (now Trine University), obtained a degree in mechanical engineering and joined General Dynamics as a flight test engineer on the F-106 aircraft. Over the next few years Barrett went on to work on other aviation-related engineering projects in the U.S. and Germany and have five children.

“Born in four different states and one foreign country,” he notes.

He also took on a part-time job selling mutual funds. Soon he was the top salesman. A friend convinced him to quit his engineering work and become a full-time fund salesman.

Barbara Jean wasn’t completely sold at the time.

“She wondered how we’d eat if the sales didn’t work out,” he says.

Barrett turned out to be a super salesman and retired at age 55 in 1984, wondering what to do next. A group sponsored him at a pro golf school training to become a tour participant.

“I’d always loved golf ever since I was a kid caddying for 50 cents a bag,” he says. “But I found that I didn’t have the concentration necessary to be a tour pro. Those guys talk, eat and sleep golf. It’s all they think about. I had other things I wanted to do.”

Instead, he joined a company offering private golf lessons to business people and professionals taking up the sport.

“Perhaps a doctor and his wife looking to play at the local country club. They wanted to have lessons before they joined so they wouldn’t be embarrassed,” he says.

While on a stint in Germany during his engineering days, he also became a USAF championship squash player. After retirement he played on a Massachusetts State Championship team that took on squash teams from Harvard and Tufts, among others.

Barrett’s love of the ocean and scuba diving led him into treasure hunting on wrecks with the likes of the late Mel Fisher, who was probably one of the most famous hunters of Spanish treasure. Barrett recalls diving in an area called “The Bank of Spain” off Vero Beach, where a treasure fleet sank in a hurricane in 1715. The divers blew off the overlying sand and picked up the “pieces of eight” silver coins from the bottom.

He also worked off the coast of New England and in Lake Erie using side-scan sonar to locate wrecks and sunken vessels for insurance companies.

“False Flag,” published by Hallard Press in 2020, tells the fictional story of Tony April, a private detective who assists a client in finding her grandfather’s diary in the Ecuadorian jungle. Set in 1972 amidst the Rickover investigation into the sinking of the USS Maine, the novel promotes the fiction that the grandfather, an explorer, had visited the Maine on the day of her sinking and had witnessed something that might answer the mystery. The connection was written in his diary, which was buried with him in the jungle in Ecuador.

Barrett brings in the legend of the last Inca ruler, Atahualpa, and his curse on the wagons of gold promised to Spanish conqueror Pizarro, and an Ecuadorian family who knew the terrain and respected the curse.

The NSA wants to suppress the diary, Rickover wants to publicize it, Sydney Street wants the Aztec treasure map, and Tony April, the private investigator, suddenly wants to have a son. The question Barrett poses for the reader: Can everyone get what they wish for?

“False Flag” is available on Amazon as both a print and eBook.  Insert URL into “False Flag”.

Dedicated to Barbara Jane, Barrett’s wife of 63 years who died in 2018, “False Flag” is probably not his last book. The Village of Lynnhaven resident says he is working on a couple of other ideas for novels and, perhaps, a book on the unique characters he has known throughout his many careers. In the meantime, he swims, plays golf, stays active and loves to spin a good yarn.

John W Prince is a writer and Villager. For more information, visit www.HallardPress.com. If you know of someone with a good story and a good book, contact him at John@HallardPress.com.

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