Pirate: Clive Cussler & Robin Burcell

Pirate is Clive Cussler’s latest, a Sam and Remi Fargo adventure, co-authored by Robin Burcell. As Cussler fans know, Mr. Cussler is lead writer of many of his books, Cusslerizing the writing of others well know for works of their own. Grant Blackwood, Russell Blake, Robin Burcell, and Thomas Perry have all co-authored one or more of the Fargo’s adventures.

Pirate is a treasure hunting tale featuring the Fargos, a wealthy husband and wife team with a knack for research and the discovery of long lost treasures. Funds are never a problem for the globetrotting Fargos.  Back at the ranch in La Jolla, they employ a research team with access to fabulous resources, with Selma Wondrash as the lead researcher, booker of travel arraignments and general go-to person who lubes the way for the Fargo’s success. Fargo adventures share a sense of light banter and by-play between the Fargos that makes the stories a bit softer than other Cussler series books.

The tale opens with a version of the story of the loss of King John’s treasure, a vast fortune in valuables, coins and crown jewels. This sets the stage for the hunt. We meet the Fargos in San Francisco’s China Town where they are searching for a copy of Pyrates and Privateers at Pickering’s Used and Rare Books. Immediately, they are confronted by a minion of Charles Avery, a corporate raider, salvage expert and all-around bad guy who also is searching for King Johns treasure.

As is typical in the Fargo adventures, Sam and Remi bounce from one spot on the globe to another running down clues at the sharp end of the stick, feeding Selma info she synthesizes into practical next steps. In Pirate, they hit Jamaica, Oak Island off of Halifax, Snake Island off Brazil, and Great Britain in their search for King John’s treasure. The Fargos find themselves one step behind Charles Avery most of the time.

The exciting conclusion occurs underground (as is often the case in Clive Cussler’s stories), this time in caves under the city of London. There they fight a final battle with the evil Charles Avery and his troops and of course, find the treasure.

Another in the long series (17 to be precise) of Clive Cussler’s New York Times best sellers, this is an action packed adventure studded with bits of history, geography and light romance between the Fargos. Did I want to keep reading? Yes!

Pirate by Clive Cussler at Book Shop

Clive Cussler at Book Shop

Mystery Adventure Fiction at Book Shop

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Bill Bryson: One Summer America, 1927

Bill Bryson is one of our great contemporary humor writers. If you have read In a Sunburned Land, or A Walk in the Woods, or I’m a Stranger Here Myself, you know his keen ear for dialogue and his ability to describe his adventures with hilarity while dishing facts. It is this ability to deliver on the facts that makes One Summer America 1927 such a great read.

Mr. Bryson is a consummate researcher. Following his graduation from Drake College in Des Moines, he returned to Great Britain with his British bride and did a decade stint as journalist, copy editor and national news editor so he comes by this skill honestly. He loves to dig up obscure facts about the topic at hand and lay them out to marvel upon, then top them with a real zinger prefaced by “and here’s the thing…”.  With Bill Bryson you learn a lot, chuckling as you go.

One Summer America, 1927 is a researcher’s book. Bryson selects the year 1927 and goes to town on it. You get a biography of Babe Ruth, of Charles Lindbergh, Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover. You come up to speed on the events preceding the great market crash, the trial of Sacco and Vanzetti, the state of aeronautics, and the advent of ‘talkies’ (films with sound). We see Prohibition driving illegal liquor trade and Al Capone profiting as a result.

You learn that of all the aviators vying to be first to fly from New York to Paris, only the marginally funded Lindbergh could actually navigate. The Spirit of St. Louis was basically a canvas kite with a state of the art motor and 450 gallons of fuel. The plane was optimized for low fuel consumption during flight and barely made it over the power lines at the end of the runway. Due to the rake of the landing gear, Lindbergh could not see the runway for takeoff or landing and in flight had to crab the plane to see forward from the side window.

Before Babe Ruth’s entry into baseball, the most prolific home run hitter had 7 homers for the season. Baseball was played as a technical incremental game with bunts and directed hitting. Nobody swung for the fences. In 1919 the Babe himself belted 11 homers, more than any entire team in baseball. That said, he pitched for the first quarter of his career, with an ERA of 2.28 and a winning percentage of .671. His fielding average was .996, by far the best in the league and he was just warming up. He was an incredible athlete and a prodigious eater.

We find Cal Coolidge as the original do nothing president, Herbert Hoover as a humorless, tireless manager of monster projects (like funneling food into Europe to stave off food shortages following WWI). If Mr. Hoover did it, there would be a press conference so all were aware. We see Sacco and Vanzetti condemned to death because if they were not guilty of the crimes they were charged with, they were surely guilty of something. We see Al Capone brought down for tax evasion (where did all that money come from AL?).

Bryson brings it together in this fact filled delight. Like a jigsaw puzzle, facts and info snap together to complete a picture of USA circa 1927. As always, he digs out one cool detail after another, piles them up and zings you with his conclusion. Does One Summer America 1927 pass my test – did I want to keep on reading? Yes, indeed.

-Dave