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The 231 Club: My Ten Year Journey From Therapist to CIA Courier and Sanctioned Kills - A True Story

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After a successful therapist is recruited to become a courier for the CIA, his ordered world descends down a dark path leading to sanctioned kills and questioned loyalties, forever altering his concept of self and country. The 231 Club encompasses intriguing personalities, an examination of the psyche behind the storyteller, exciting and unique espionage adventures at a t After a successful therapist is recruited to become a courier for the CIA, his ordered world descends down a dark path leading to sanctioned kills and questioned loyalties, forever altering his concept of self and country. The 231 Club encompasses intriguing personalities, an examination of the psyche behind the storyteller, exciting and unique espionage adventures at a time when wits were at play more than gadgets. It dissects how one man with a great career and fulfilling life takes a radical detour which turns his whole world upside down. J Bartell was an instructor, lecturer and chief of staff of a large California-based therapy institute whose clients included people from all walks of life. But it was his worldwide travels on behalf of affluent clients, including heads-of-state, that put him on the radar of the CIA. What started out as simple courier work eventually lead to Bartell becoming part of a small group that handled off-book assignments, meaning no record, so there’s “plausible deniability”. The group, consisted of Bartell, his CIA handler Chauncey Holt and former U.S. Marine, Michael Harries, best known for having created the famous Harries Flashlight Technique used by law enforcement around the world for handling arms in low-light conditions. Additional support to the group came from master gunsmith Jim Boland and Jeff Cooper, who is considered to be the father of modern combat shooting and tactics. The significance of the book’s title is that once J Bartell became truly engaged in black ops, his handler Chauncey Holt welcomed him into “The 231 Club” — 231 being the name of the gun powder for their weapon of choice, the 45 caliber Colt 191. This group, and others, was an extension of the CIA’s black ops division referred to as Executive Action which was created in the 1950s. As a result of Bartell’s increased involvement, he experienced everything from weapons deals and covert training missions to helping ruthless killers, hiding behind positions of power, get their due.


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After a successful therapist is recruited to become a courier for the CIA, his ordered world descends down a dark path leading to sanctioned kills and questioned loyalties, forever altering his concept of self and country. The 231 Club encompasses intriguing personalities, an examination of the psyche behind the storyteller, exciting and unique espionage adventures at a t After a successful therapist is recruited to become a courier for the CIA, his ordered world descends down a dark path leading to sanctioned kills and questioned loyalties, forever altering his concept of self and country. The 231 Club encompasses intriguing personalities, an examination of the psyche behind the storyteller, exciting and unique espionage adventures at a time when wits were at play more than gadgets. It dissects how one man with a great career and fulfilling life takes a radical detour which turns his whole world upside down. J Bartell was an instructor, lecturer and chief of staff of a large California-based therapy institute whose clients included people from all walks of life. But it was his worldwide travels on behalf of affluent clients, including heads-of-state, that put him on the radar of the CIA. What started out as simple courier work eventually lead to Bartell becoming part of a small group that handled off-book assignments, meaning no record, so there’s “plausible deniability”. The group, consisted of Bartell, his CIA handler Chauncey Holt and former U.S. Marine, Michael Harries, best known for having created the famous Harries Flashlight Technique used by law enforcement around the world for handling arms in low-light conditions. Additional support to the group came from master gunsmith Jim Boland and Jeff Cooper, who is considered to be the father of modern combat shooting and tactics. The significance of the book’s title is that once J Bartell became truly engaged in black ops, his handler Chauncey Holt welcomed him into “The 231 Club” — 231 being the name of the gun powder for their weapon of choice, the 45 caliber Colt 191. This group, and others, was an extension of the CIA’s black ops division referred to as Executive Action which was created in the 1950s. As a result of Bartell’s increased involvement, he experienced everything from weapons deals and covert training missions to helping ruthless killers, hiding behind positions of power, get their due.

30 review for The 231 Club: My Ten Year Journey From Therapist to CIA Courier and Sanctioned Kills - A True Story

  1. 4 out of 5

    Ginger Marin

    I co-authored The 231 Club and I don't feel comfortable reviewing it as if I were some casual reader of it. However, I do recommend it as a very interesting read for those wishing to understand from where the CIA recruited some of its assets back then.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Ronald Tambor

    It is apparent from the get-go that J Bartell lead a colorful life, whether as a young man, as a therapist, in the military or certainly via his connection to his CIA handler, Chauncey Holt (described as one of the so-called "three tramps", undercover CIA, arrested in Dallas on the day President Kennedy was assassinated), and the assignments and other events that came of it. As a writer, Mr. Barell displays an easygoing fluid style. I found the author’s decision making process convincing when he d It is apparent from the get-go that J Bartell lead a colorful life, whether as a young man, as a therapist, in the military or certainly via his connection to his CIA handler, Chauncey Holt (described as one of the so-called "three tramps", undercover CIA, arrested in Dallas on the day President Kennedy was assassinated), and the assignments and other events that came of it. As a writer, Mr. Barell displays an easygoing fluid style. I found the author’s decision making process convincing when he describes having to decide about becoming a subcontractor for the CIA. That is to say, he was not employed directly by that organization. I enjoyed his description of first contact with the First Earth Battalion. That in itself is very unusual and not too many people know about the concept. And he has some good stories to tell about his trips to Morocco. That fluid style, though, serves him especially well when he describes his Paris and South America CIA-authorized assignments. This is an appealing memoir with enough name-dropping and action to keep anyone from ever getting bored.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Myrber

    How many times do you look at a person across a room and wonder what they do for a living or what kind of life they’ve lead up to that point? When he was quite young, J Bartell felt the pangs of having been bullied. He grew to becoming a therapist and helped others with their various troubles and explained his theories and work structure to other medical professionals. Then another professional came calling looking for answers to pain management and that professional happened to have been someon How many times do you look at a person across a room and wonder what they do for a living or what kind of life they’ve lead up to that point? When he was quite young, J Bartell felt the pangs of having been bullied. He grew to becoming a therapist and helped others with their various troubles and explained his theories and work structure to other medical professionals. Then another professional came calling looking for answers to pain management and that professional happened to have been someone from the CIA. That in itself is unusual. So from that first meeting, which turned out to be a bit of coincidence in itself (as you’ll discover), J Bartell met the man, Chauncey Holt, who was going to help turn his life upside down. I say “help” turn his life upside down because J Bartell managed to do that quite a bit himself. What’s very interesting to me is the hows and whys of that life upheaval. It takes a very unique person to go the route that Mr. Bartell went and he paid the price in many ways. I understood his needs and I came to understand the loss of self over the years. Did he ultimately do good in the world when he was out in the field doing what some CIA agents did back then? As far as the operations themselves, it sure sounds like it. But when it comes to protecting our agents through his therapy work, I would say most definitely yes, yes and yes.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Gigi Harris-Masters

    A friend of mine suggested that I read this true story because it had so many unusual elements in it. Mr. Bartell is a very interesting person and I liked how he began with a bit about his earlier life so we could understand his journey. But he never took it to the extreme. His book is interesting in all its aspects, from his military background, to him being a therapist with his left and right brain theories, to his getting into black ops work with the CIA. The tales he tells are adventurous an A friend of mine suggested that I read this true story because it had so many unusual elements in it. Mr. Bartell is a very interesting person and I liked how he began with a bit about his earlier life so we could understand his journey. But he never took it to the extreme. His book is interesting in all its aspects, from his military background, to him being a therapist with his left and right brain theories, to his getting into black ops work with the CIA. The tales he tells are adventurous and he has some good humor added where it counts. I especially liked how he named some of the "characters" he came across in his field work. All in all. the book was very fluid and easy to read.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Aammton Alias

    Shocking revelation of a real CIA subcontractor unit. An exciting read about a real CIA subcontractor unit hired out to do odd and 'plausible deniability' jobs from 1970s to the 1980s. J Bartell lead a double life: in the known world he was a respected psychotherapist and hypnotherapist whilst in the dark world, he was a covert courier and assassin. There is no Hollywood magic to this story, this 'memoir' is brutal in its honesty and details and surprises me on how little we know how intelligence Shocking revelation of a real CIA subcontractor unit. An exciting read about a real CIA subcontractor unit hired out to do odd and 'plausible deniability' jobs from 1970s to the 1980s. J Bartell lead a double life: in the known world he was a respected psychotherapist and hypnotherapist whilst in the dark world, he was a covert courier and assassin. There is no Hollywood magic to this story, this 'memoir' is brutal in its honesty and details and surprises me on how little we know how intelligence and counter-intelligence units work in the world. As the last man standing in his former unit, J Bartell portrays a good tribute to his fellow and fallen brothers. Highly recommended read.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Píaras Cíonnaoíth

    The 231 Club is well written and I certainly appreciated the author’s voice and the casual style. It also made me think what I would have done if I were in his shoes. Take the safe road and stay in my day job of therapist or take the one going left to the big unknown with plenty of risks along the way? Fortunately I was in my armchair enjoying the dilemma. All in all, the book is very interesting, both in the author’s background as well as in the various stories he tells of life in the fast lane The 231 Club is well written and I certainly appreciated the author’s voice and the casual style. It also made me think what I would have done if I were in his shoes. Take the safe road and stay in my day job of therapist or take the one going left to the big unknown with plenty of risks along the way? Fortunately I was in my armchair enjoying the dilemma. All in all, the book is very interesting, both in the author’s background as well as in the various stories he tells of life in the fast lane. The author’s adventures make for very good reading especially when you know they are true tales of CIA exploits. What may have started as high level thinking about the jobs that needed to be done in South America or Latin America during this time period was soon relegated to the people who actually had to carry them out and they often did so with very little resources or help from the upper level “suits”. This was a very interesting read and I would highly recommend it.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Harnemo

    This memoir is an effortless read, amazing tale about the author's experiences working for CIA. It explains how a therapist (Mr. J. Bartell) become a CIA agent leaving his old life behind. In some things written in the book it is almost hard to believe, but everything is delivered in a very "matter-of-fact" and honest way, exploring J. Bartells emotions while he is doing the job. The book has a little bit of everything: action, adventure, drama; I highly recommend reading it!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Joe Graham

    J Bartell’s “The 231 Club” is as much a book offering insight and life lessons and the thinking process from a therapist’s point of view as it is about him becoming involved with the CIA. For that reason, this is a valuable resource as well as a pleasurable reading experience that offers exciting adventurous black ops assignments.

  9. 5 out of 5

    John

    Humdinger of a book. Loved it and highly recommend to all fans of CIA, memoirs and general nonfiction interested in how a life gets derailed.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Sandy J.

    An undeniably interesting life all well told. The 231 Club is also exciting in parts when the author describes his dangerous missions on behalf of the CIA. I liked the inclusion of his therapy method and descriptions of events that also included his therapy while out in the field. It comes full circle when he explains how his vibrant earlier life had been devastated by the choices he made to get involved with black ops.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Bas Adler

    A certainly above average individual is Mr. Bartell. Good memoir as it has different and interesting topics being discussed. I found his background quite interesting overall as it sets the stage for the rest of the book and how he came to work with CIA. While a therapist, and apparently a very good one based upon some of his high level overseas clients, he gets asked to join the CIA to do courier work. But he appears not to be satisfied with just doing that and his job is elevated to field work. A certainly above average individual is Mr. Bartell. Good memoir as it has different and interesting topics being discussed. I found his background quite interesting overall as it sets the stage for the rest of the book and how he came to work with CIA. While a therapist, and apparently a very good one based upon some of his high level overseas clients, he gets asked to join the CIA to do courier work. But he appears not to be satisfied with just doing that and his job is elevated to field work. He has the abilities and that’s what his CIA handlers noticed in him. I found the stories about his missions to be quite interesting as they develop into some with extraordinary risk attached. Actually, a little crazy. I didn’t realize the whole money thing and how much the CIA was involved with money transfers back then. But money does make the world go around so I guess it really does make sense. After that, the stories become daunting with his final mission topping things off in an exciting fashion even though it leads to the ultimate realization for him that he's lost much of his "self". As a writer, he’s got a good sense of reporting the facts in a very visual manner. And I really could see this being turned into a movie. I would certainly go see it. I am also certain he has a lot more to tell on this aspect of his life. I would recommend this book for sure.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Michael Thomashewski

    Excellent memoir by a man with two extraordinary aspects to his life. Added to that are highly adventurous tales of the CIA field operations kind. Definitely recommend to those liking extraordinary true life spy stories.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Bob Jameson

    J Bartell’s The 231 Club is highly readable and well written. The book largely details his ten years in black ops for the CIA with the necessary background information to understand who this chap is/was and why he would get himself into doing subcontractor work in the first place, especially after being a successful therapist. It sounds bloody crazy. His basic personality was as a risk taker as which he explains by way of his various career choices. A colorful chap to say the least. His style is J Bartell’s The 231 Club is highly readable and well written. The book largely details his ten years in black ops for the CIA with the necessary background information to understand who this chap is/was and why he would get himself into doing subcontractor work in the first place, especially after being a successful therapist. It sounds bloody crazy. His basic personality was as a risk taker as which he explains by way of his various career choices. A colorful chap to say the least. His style is unapologetically casual, even in the use of the occasional swear word to depict his nemeses out in the field or his basic frustration with his world. There are some unusual and interesting references along the way, like to the First Earth Battalion, which few people would actually know anything about. Also he doesn’t mind dropping a few famous names.

 For someone not particularly interested in the finer points of guns, it’s certainly not necessary that you read the paragraphs devoted to them. I think he only included that information to reflect his interest and knowledge and it’s obviously geared to those who do know and like guns. Trust me, there absolutely isn’t too much of that in the book. But if you’ve selected to read anything about CIA field work, you can expect some of that to be included. Also be aware he does get into some violence when describing a few assignments. Spying and its related activities can be rather messy. I appreciated his candor as much as his service in this difficult line of work. Hats off to him and his co-writer for a well done project in bringing this story to the world.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Gary Williams

    I actually came across this book during a Google search for Michael Harries (Harries Flashlight Technique) and because Michael was advertised as being part of The 231 Club, I had to buy it. I was not disappointed. J Bartell’s memoir is fascinating in itself. He was a successful therapist who became a courier for the CIA and then went on to work in the field both as an agent and continuing as a therapist when duty called. But the added attraction for me was his involvement with weapons tactician I actually came across this book during a Google search for Michael Harries (Harries Flashlight Technique) and because Michael was advertised as being part of The 231 Club, I had to buy it. I was not disappointed. J Bartell’s memoir is fascinating in itself. He was a successful therapist who became a courier for the CIA and then went on to work in the field both as an agent and continuing as a therapist when duty called. But the added attraction for me was his involvement with weapons tactician Michael Harries (both as a student of Michael’s and being his team member). I knew Michael did train some special ops guys, but the totality of his involvement in that realm was a revelation. So, for me, this was a very enjoyable find and a wonderful reading experience. While I would have liked some more information about CIA handler Chauncey Holt, as far as how he got his orders from his superiors, I do understand that Mr. Bartell was not privy to that. I guess I just wanted more of a good thing! I certainly would recommend this book to those who wish read how Mr. Bartell, as a therapist, made a jump to CIA. It's quite interesting, indeed.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    I thought that this book was really interesting and unlike anything else that I have ever read before. This book covers the true story of a therapist turned into a CIA courier. My grandfather was in the CIA, so I am very interested in the CIA genre. I thought that the author did a great job of explaining his transition from being a therapist to then getting into the CIA. J Bartell is truly a brave person and this autobiography really stands a testimony to his character. This is probably one of t I thought that this book was really interesting and unlike anything else that I have ever read before. This book covers the true story of a therapist turned into a CIA courier. My grandfather was in the CIA, so I am very interested in the CIA genre. I thought that the author did a great job of explaining his transition from being a therapist to then getting into the CIA. J Bartell is truly a brave person and this autobiography really stands a testimony to his character. This is probably one of the best autobiographies that I have read in a long time.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kerry

    I loved the adventure and the excitement of this book. I really enjoy to read action-based stories and this one was so thrilling. I thought that the author did a great job of telling the story. One of the best things about this story is that it is based off of a true story. I liked the writing style and found the book to move at a fast pace. I was never bored throughout the story and found that the author did a great job of keeping my attention. I would hope that this author would write another I loved the adventure and the excitement of this book. I really enjoy to read action-based stories and this one was so thrilling. I thought that the author did a great job of telling the story. One of the best things about this story is that it is based off of a true story. I liked the writing style and found the book to move at a fast pace. I was never bored throughout the story and found that the author did a great job of keeping my attention. I would hope that this author would write another book as this one was one of my favorites that I have read in a long time.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Catherine Parsons

    I appreciated the subject as well as the author’s voice. "The 231 Club" tends to read like a novel in parts which is great in terms of pacing and adventure. But, it’s all too serious considering that is a true story. How fascinating some lives are!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Zoe J

    I can’t believe I didn’t come across this book sooner because I’m a CIA black ops junkie and I’m awed by the subject matter. J Bartell explains very succinctly the kind of therapist he was and how open minded he was to learn new aspects of the trade. It’s obvious that this open-mindedness lead him to even consider what CIA agent Chauncey Holt was asking of him. To become a courier at first and then to get more deeply involved in covert operations. If Bartell didn’t have the provable skills he ne I can’t believe I didn’t come across this book sooner because I’m a CIA black ops junkie and I’m awed by the subject matter. J Bartell explains very succinctly the kind of therapist he was and how open minded he was to learn new aspects of the trade. It’s obvious that this open-mindedness lead him to even consider what CIA agent Chauncey Holt was asking of him. To become a courier at first and then to get more deeply involved in covert operations. If Bartell didn’t have the provable skills he never would have been asked to get involved on the level that Holt wanted. In writing his book, Mr. Bartell details his therapy principles; he talks about the mind, the subconscious, polygraph tests and helping field agents deal with fear and anxiety. He’s got a couple of very funny stories about his work overseas and some harrowing ones too. He never gets bogged down in too many details, wanting instead to capture the essence of his life during those rough years and what drove him to do the things he did for his country.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Marie Z

    An intriguing story that follows a man, J Bartell who leads an exciting life to say the least. He starts of as a courier for affluent people, to ending up as a courier for CIA. There are many adventures in this story that were nicely written and his overall life story was very interesting for me to read, and I couldn’t wait to find out what happened next. This memoir offers a great insight into the life of a man who was recruited by CIA. Highly recommended.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Todd Capoli

    I found J Bartell's story to be very interesting and highly readable both in content and style.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Joseph Garcia

    Fast reading of a dramatic topic by a man who lead an dynamic life filled with unusual and risk-filled adventures.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Larry Hostetler

    This would get a 4.25 out of 5. VERY good read, with the combination of competitive shooting, unique therapy, and black ops. The story moves along quickly (I was able to finish it primarily on two two-hour flights), and I found it all to be interesting. The interrelation of therapy with the black ops was interesting, and to be able to get into the mind of J as he faced situations we only see on television and in the movies was instructive. Spaced throughout are photos of the people in the story, This would get a 4.25 out of 5. VERY good read, with the combination of competitive shooting, unique therapy, and black ops. The story moves along quickly (I was able to finish it primarily on two two-hour flights), and I found it all to be interesting. The interrelation of therapy with the black ops was interesting, and to be able to get into the mind of J as he faced situations we only see on television and in the movies was instructive. Spaced throughout are photos of the people in the story, with a number of photos at the end of the book. It would be a good read if it were fiction; that it is "A True Story" makes it even better, almost unbelievable. But the photos add credence to the truthfulness of the story. It would make a good movie (J and Ginger both having screenplays to their credit) but I would think it might need to be toned down or would seem to be fantasy more than reality. While I would have enjoyed even more explanation of the therapies J (that is not an initial, it's his first name) has developed, I understand that there is some opportunity to still trade in that knowledge and earn from sharing it. It is also understandable and yet a distraction to tell stories that must be draped in secrecy and not use either place names or names of the "bad guys". To have provided names and locations with the caveat that "names and places have been changed" would have been better. The reason for the less-than-five-star rating was the overuse of commas in the writing and some grammar issues (syntax, run-on sentences, etc.) that created some hitches in the narrative and work to decipher meanings. I'm glad to have won the book in a Goodreads giveaway and recommend it highly as a Good Read.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Tony Bellimore

    A+ for this tale of two people who just happen to actually be one in the same. The therapist vs. the CIA subcontractor at a time in which the U.S. was coming off the Cold War and battling dictators in different parts of the world from those we’re reading about now. The author explains the unusual therapy-geared work he was doing at the time he caught the eye of CIA agent Chauncey Holt which then caused him to eventually join forces with a small team that became “the 231 club”. It’s an interesting A+ for this tale of two people who just happen to actually be one in the same. The therapist vs. the CIA subcontractor at a time in which the U.S. was coming off the Cold War and battling dictators in different parts of the world from those we’re reading about now. The author explains the unusual therapy-geared work he was doing at the time he caught the eye of CIA agent Chauncey Holt which then caused him to eventually join forces with a small team that became “the 231 club”. It’s an interesting story and that's primarily where the A+ comes in. It's just so damn unusual. After that, we join the author as he describes the various assignments he went on tackling money transfers overseas to eliminating drug cartel bosses and their minions to the crazies running armies that no one should ever want around.  These tales are quite exciting in themselves. But they are neatly tied to the author’s therapy background and his emotions. Who gets into this line of work and why? You’ll get the answers and a little education along the way. Overall, I thought The 231 Club was written well with an easy-going style; in fact, it's a very quick read with just the right amount background information before you get to the really good CIA related stuff. Some stories are better than others, of course, but most enjoyable to read. And I liked that the author included numerous photos throughout the book. I also liked how he wrapped up that period of his life with his last reflections and the stories of how his teammates died and even the funerals.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sunny Margolies

    Well written memoir. “The 231 Club” is extremely interesting subject matter as it describes how a behavior therapist came to be courted by the CIA to work as a courier transporting documents for them since he was traveling overseas. Makes sense. He was then asked to escalate his involvement by working with them in the field on more dangerous missions (as well as using his therapy practices) because he proved himself adept with weapons. This is a case where the CIA knew a very valuable asset when Well written memoir. “The 231 Club” is extremely interesting subject matter as it describes how a behavior therapist came to be courted by the CIA to work as a courier transporting documents for them since he was traveling overseas. Makes sense. He was then asked to escalate his involvement by working with them in the field on more dangerous missions (as well as using his therapy practices) because he proved himself adept with weapons. This is a case where the CIA knew a very valuable asset when they came upon him. His team mates were also very interesting people and they certainly deserve their own books. I think Chauncey Holt (the CIA agent who courted Bartell) has been written about extensively. Now it J Bartell’s time. Good book with good descriptions of his missions which were quite exciting to read about.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ira Friedman

    I enjoyed Mr. Bartell’s memoir for the interesting and unusual life he has led. He has certainly had an interesting mix of careers over the years with the big ones being that of a respected therapist and a CIA subcontractor. It reads larger than life and unbelievable at times but Mr. Bartell has wisely used enough photos to back up his claims - the Moroccan Green Medal, his shooting competition skills, photos of him and Michael Harries, his demonstrations as a therapist, his military background, I enjoyed Mr. Bartell’s memoir for the interesting and unusual life he has led. He has certainly had an interesting mix of careers over the years with the big ones being that of a respected therapist and a CIA subcontractor. It reads larger than life and unbelievable at times but Mr. Bartell has wisely used enough photos to back up his claims - the Moroccan Green Medal, his shooting competition skills, photos of him and Michael Harries, his demonstrations as a therapist, his military background, photos of him in Paris and Morocco, the story about the First Earth Battalion - and you can certainly go on the internet and look up his partners. They existed and were just as larger than life as he. There seems to be a bit of controversy surrounding Mr. Bartell’s partner Chauncey Holt’s credentials but I’ve seen all his videos too and he backs himself up with numerous facts. There will always be people wanting to discredit others and that is unfortunate. As for Mr. Bartell, he is highly credible if you watch his videos here on Goodreads or on YouTube. He was interviewed by two award winning journalists, one an American and one from the Netherlands. For all that, I give this book 5 stars. I thought The 231 Club was generally written well and the stories he tells were exciting to read. I liked his style.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Nabitha Aline

    I actually found this book quite unusual in that J Bartell was an academic, if you will, who got sucked into performing work for the CIA, first as a simple courier. How that work morphed into risky business is interesting to read and analyze as far as Mr. Bartell’s own behavior goes. He was, after all, a therapist and behavior specialist so it was interesting to see how he rationalized his own actions. As far as the missions he went on, some are very adventurous to read about and it’s there that I actually found this book quite unusual in that J Bartell was an academic, if you will, who got sucked into performing work for the CIA, first as a simple courier. How that work morphed into risky business is interesting to read and analyze as far as Mr. Bartell’s own behavior goes. He was, after all, a therapist and behavior specialist so it was interesting to see how he rationalized his own actions. As far as the missions he went on, some are very adventurous to read about and it’s there that his story telling really excels. I loved the fact that this is book being nonfiction involves real people doing extraordinary things. One thing to keep in mind is that this takes place in the late 1970s through late 1980s so it is light (really nonexistent) as far as gadgets and computer snooping and stuff; just humans doing the dirty work when ordered to do so at a dangerous time when our government did things a bit differently. I bought the book directly from the 231club website. I was referred to the site by a friend of mine. I’m not sure the book is being sold on Amazon right now but it’s worth checking if you’re interested.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Karl R.

    This true story is well written as it explains how J Bartell made an important transition in his life. It’s a terrific CIA memoir by a man who made a decision to depart his usual life (average therapist) to helping people with the usual things we face in a society to helping the CIA as a courier and then as a field agent incorporating his therapeutic practices to help other field agents. Actually Mr. Bartell was anything but “average” with respect to his therapy practice. I doubt there were man This true story is well written as it explains how J Bartell made an important transition in his life. It’s a terrific CIA memoir by a man who made a decision to depart his usual life (average therapist) to helping people with the usual things we face in a society to helping the CIA as a courier and then as a field agent incorporating his therapeutic practices to help other field agents. Actually Mr. Bartell was anything but “average” with respect to his therapy practice. I doubt there were many other therapists who put on demonstrations of pain and blood control before hundreds of people back in the late 1970s. J Bartell’s life transformation actually made total sense. His personality fit the bill. He was the kind of adventurous and even patriotic person who would do such a thing. The book contains just enough early life background information to see what events molded his character. And the epilogue puts a final tap on his opinions of more recent events. I highly recommend it.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Susie Kramer-Joneston

    As a behavior expert in the late 1970s and 80s, J Bartell had a successful career that warranted overseas travels on behalf of high-end clients.From there he went on to do work for the CIA strictly as a subcontractor performing both therapy duties and work as a field agent. The 231 Club was a small group made up of him and two other individuals who worked in the field. They did things like transferring money to assets overseas and putting down some really nasty drug dealers.I found Mr. Bartell’s As a behavior expert in the late 1970s and 80s, J Bartell had a successful career that warranted overseas travels on behalf of high-end clients.From there he went on to do work for the CIA strictly as a subcontractor performing both therapy duties and work as a field agent. The 231 Club was a small group made up of him and two other individuals who worked in the field. They did things like transferring money to assets overseas and putting down some really nasty drug dealers.I found Mr. Bartell’s story compelling and thought the book was written well.He relates stories of helping other agents in the field, even so one of them could pass a lie detector test. The information he provided on this was quite interesting. His perspective on behavior in general is well utilized. Other stories about his missions bordered on remarkable, exciting and dangerous. The book kept my interest and I never felt bored with any part of it.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Vincent Luna

    This is a slick memoir about an intriguing subject. I found it to be well written and organized overall. The author makes no bones about being on the fringes of the CIA, an an organization, but yet he effectively manages to persuade us that he didn’t quite need to know the ins and outs of who gave him and fellow team their marching orders and why. Back in the late 1970s and 1980s, it was quite a different world I suspect as far as skepticism about what the government was up to or perhaps Mr. Bar This is a slick memoir about an intriguing subject. I found it to be well written and organized overall. The author makes no bones about being on the fringes of the CIA, an an organization, but yet he effectively manages to persuade us that he didn’t quite need to know the ins and outs of who gave him and fellow team their marching orders and why. Back in the late 1970s and 1980s, it was quite a different world I suspect as far as skepticism about what the government was up to or perhaps Mr. Bartell and his team were given just the right kinds of assignments to spur them onward. All in all, a very interesting book. I too, as others, must thank the author for his service to our country. That service does come in many forms as you will find out when reading “The 231 Club”.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Bangha

    Much respect to the author if any of this is true. However, the book comes of as a disjointed collection of highly questionable, testosterone infused, movie inspired clichés. So many of them, it made the book an uncomfortable, eyebrow raising read. I am VERY familiar with the environments in which his sorties develop, and even the most basic premises do not add up. No, there are no stray dogs in Paris. 90% of Parisian buildings do not have back doors. Latin American criminal masterminds do not te Much respect to the author if any of this is true. However, the book comes of as a disjointed collection of highly questionable, testosterone infused, movie inspired clichés. So many of them, it made the book an uncomfortable, eyebrow raising read. I am VERY familiar with the environments in which his sorties develop, and even the most basic premises do not add up. No, there are no stray dogs in Paris. 90% of Parisian buildings do not have back doors. Latin American criminal masterminds do not teach piano lessons on the side. I wish the author much success; this is however by no means, a credible account, nor a good read for my taste.

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