The Gray Ghost by Clive Cussler and Robin Burcell takes readers on a thrilling car ride as they race to find a valuable antique car before the bad guys find it. Amateur sleuths Sam and Remi Fargo,
smart and philanthropic self-made multimillionaires, find adventure at every turn.
The authors brilliantly explain the backstory through
a journal, that becomes almost a secondary character. The back and forth between 1906 and the current time makes the story even more riveting. A distant relative of theirs seeks their help in finding a rare 1906 Rolls Royce prototype, The Gray
Ghost to clear his uncle’s name. In the course of their investigation they find that it might contain a rare treasure of money stolen in a train robbery more than a century ago. Much to their detriment they find others are also looking for the
car, and are willing to do whatever it takes to recover the car and the treasure. The body count mounts up as Sam and Remi search for the auto, while trying to avoid getting killed.
Elise Cooper: How did you become a co-author with Clive?
Robin Burcell: I was told Clive wants to talk.
Need-less-to-say I was thrilled because I considered myself a mid-level author. When he asked me to come on board I thought to myself I am getting paid to take a Master’s Course on writing. He is paying me and yet I get to learn. It
is great fun to write with him because he is a wonderful storyteller that has a great sense of humor.
EC: Was it hard
to write someone else’s characters and series?
RB: I first thought that as a mystery writer how hard could it be to write adventure stories. Boy was I
wrong. It was very challenging. Finding my way is a lot more difficult than I thought it would be. I had to change from writing the dark police procedurals to writing a “G” rated book, without swear words and sex.
EC: You appear to have found your groove with this book?
This is the third book we have written together. It took me a few books to find my stride. We hash out the synopsis that usually takes a few days. Because he is a ‘hands on writer’ we go back and forth. I hope readers can’t
tell where one of us left off and the other begins. I also hope that I complement the way he writes.
EC: Do you have
RB: There was this scene I wrote in our first collaboration, The Pirate. Clive re-wrote this scene and had the main character, Sam, shoot this
guy in the head after he exits a warehouse. I guess my police background came into play because I said Sam needs probable cause. Then I looked at him and knew he wanted it this way. I made it work by having Sam peering into the warehouse
and seeing everyone armed.
EC: So are you a fan of antique cars?
RB: No, that would be Clive. He actually has a museum in Colorado full of his collector cars. I saw him bid on two different cars including the Ahrens-Fox fire-engine, the one written about in this story. While
watching him bidding on it I thought it would be cool if we wrote it into the plot. As I was doing the research the idea of writing a plot around something that has been lost was formulated. We decided on having the artifact a prototype to the
Rolls Royce Silver Ghost. This story takes real history, tweeks it, and has a ‘what if’ aspect: what if it is about a car that never made it to the car show.
EC: Throughout the plot you put in some fun facts about cars, but it is never over the top?
RB: We must
balance what we find interesting with what is necessary for the story. Clive likes to be a little sparse with the detail. Writers must always decide how much detail is put in because we never want the story to be weighed down.
EC: Does each of the books mention Clive Cussler, something similar to what Alfred Hitchcock did?
RB: Yes, there are shout-outs to Clive. I noticed in reading the previous Fargo books before I started writing with him that he makes cameo appearances. He will come in and help the protagonist with
the investigation. In this book there are two references, one where his name is mentioned outright and one with a cameo appearance where readers have to figure out by the description.
EC: Two issues explored are memory loss and abuse?
RB: I want to get the information out for people to
know about and be aware. But we do not make it graphic. These books will never have gore but issues like these can be dealt with without hammering a point home.
EC: Can you describe Sam and Remi Fargo?
RB: People have referred to them as a modern Nick and Nora Charles from the “Thin Man Series.”
For me, I think they are more like the couple that was in the “Hart to Hart” TV shows. I think the Fargos are the vehicle for the plot. They are able to be sleuths because of their background. Sam is a CIA type who knows hand-to-hand
combat, while Remi is a linguist and an expert marksman. Together they are a forced to be reckoned with.
EC: Can you give a
heads up about your next Fargo book?
RB: It will start off in Africa and explore human trafficking a bit. As with this book, there will be a tangible artifact, a
lost library from Parmenides, the Greek founder of philosophy.