The story of Gene Moore’s life would never have made a good book. Not that he, as a family man and self-made business owner, wasn’t a dynamic and interesting person; it’s just that he was a middle America Everyman who came into adulthood as World War II ended.
That’s probably how Gary Moore, sone of Gene and author of the book Playing With The Enemy, probably would have believed . . . before. Before he found an old letter addressed to his father. Before he wouldn’t take no for an answer, this time, when asking his father about his past life one night over dinner.
That night Gary Moore was able to crack his father’s hard exterior, and the story of Gene’s youth poured out of him. I can only imagine what it must have been like to hear it for the first time, as the son. It’s the stuff movies are made of, and I hear a major motion picture is in the works for Playing With The Enemy.
No matter who they get to play Gene, the two undeniable stars of the story are the game of baseball and World War II. It’s a surprising but unbeatable combination, and when you add in the tantalizing fact of a secret mission, the tale gets even juicier. I won’t spoil the story for you, although if you pick up the book you can learn far more than this just by reading the flaps and reviews. Suffice it to say that Gene was an extremely talented, likeable young man in an extraordinary situation who was tested, who failed, and who ultimately succeeded in human terms.
Gene Moore’s story is compelling because it’s true, and the fact that his son Gary coaxed it out of him 24 hours before Gene died makes it seem very “Hollywood” indeed. But don’t be fooled -- this is not the story of a superhero, so don’t look for that. This is not the ultimate Hollywood underdog story either, although there certainly are elements of that. This is the true story of your retired neighbor who waters his roses every morning in his undershirt. This is the true story of the man down the street who drives to his business every day, long after he needs to work, because it’s his life, his passion, his responsibility. This is your grandfather or great-grandfather’s true story that he never told you; that faraway look he would get in his eyes when the conversation turned to “the old days.” The people who lived through World War II sacrificed in more ways than we can ever know, and this is just one extraordinary tale.
I have a special interest in this book, as our family friend Val Laolagi did the wonderful illustrations that grace the pages. That’s how I learned of Playing With The Enemy. Thanks Val -- I am so glad I read it. Once I got going I read most of it in two days.
I gave Dad the book for Christmas, and if there’s someone you know who appreciates a dramatic story from the World War II era, I recommend Playing With The Enemy.