Robert Greer

Robert Greer

Interviewed by: Lauretta Pierce
August 29, 2007

Q.    How do you come about the plots for your stories?

A.    The plots for my CJ Floyd series of mystery novels and my medical thrillers don’t seem to come to me with any synchrony. They seem instead to just pop up when I need them. The plot for my second CJ Floyd mystery, The Devil’s Red Nickel, about a famous R&B disk jockey who gets killed, essentially percolated up from my reading of a book on the history of rock and roll and R&B. My first novel to feature CJ Floyd, The Devil’s Hatband, arose from a combination of circumstances. As a longtime Colorado cattle rancher, I’d just read the novel Beyond Beef, a book that takes the American cattle industry to task. At the same time I was working in my pathology laboratory at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center on an anticancer research project that dealt with identifying how the human papillomavirus, the very same virus that can cause warts as well as cervical cancer in women, might be identified and eradicated from human mucosal tissue. In The Devil’s Hatband, I developed a plot in which radical environmentalists attempted to wipe out the cattle industry using a virus to which both humans and cattle are susceptible—ergo, the papillomavirus. The book, something of a crossover between a medical thriller and a mystery, turned out, luckily for me, to be quite successful.

The Fourth Perspective, my seventh novel, came about because I am a collector of things, especially books, and I had just finished reading the book Montana Medicine, which outlines the history of medicine in Montana. I decided to use that book as the stepping-off point for The Fourth Perspective, a novel that deals with the mystery and mayhem that ensue when a rare million-dollar photograph is stolen. That photo, fictionally at least, is found taped to the backboards of the Montana Medicine book. So coincidence intersecting with an idea offered me the novel’s plot.

Q.    How did you come about the idea surrounding the daguerreotype in The Fourth Perspective?

A.    Daguerreotypes, which are rare mid-nineteenth-century photographs, are an art form that I learned about during a course in college. I therefore had some limited knowledge about them, and I knew that if I tied a rare, priceless daguerreotype to a famous historical event—in a fictional way of course—I had myself a plot. The daguerreotype that I have appear in The Fourth Perspective is one that depicts the famous laying of the Golden Spike at Promontory Summit, Utah, an event that highlighted the 1869 completion of the transcontinental railroad. In the novel I have someone try to sell CJ Floyd the daguerreotype, and as happens in mysteries, that person ends up murdered and CJ is forced to wade through the who, what, how, and why of the killing. To answer your question in a nutshell, the daguerreotype and its use as a plot device came from my collegiate past to intersect with the present and give me a catalyst for action in the novel.

Q.    How did you come about the insurance scam that McCabe presented CJ with?

A.    One of the principal antagonists in the story decides to make his shekels not as one might expect, by selling the famous daguerreotype on the black market, but instead by ransoming the photograph back to its owner. It’s a scam that’s been presented in fiction before, but in The Fourth Perspective the scam “rolls over” on both its perpetrator and the daguerreotype’s owner. One has to read the novel of course to fully understand what happens.

Q.    Will Celeste surface in your next novel?

A.    Celeste Deepstream, a longtime nemesis of CJ Floyd’s, and in some sense the mirror image of Moriarty in his relationship to Sherlock Holmes, will appear in a forthcoming CJ Floyd novel, but it won’t be my next book, which I’m eighty pages into at the moment. For the moment, she is comfortably resting in Paris licking her wounds after an encounter with CJ in The Fourth Perspective. But like Arnold Schwarzenegger, she’ll be back.

Q.    Will we read more about Theresa and Stafford in your upcoming novels?

A.    I don’t have any current plans to bring Theresa, the hardworking Latina protagonist of The Fourth Perspective back, or to reintroduce Howard Stafford, the bombastic egocentric wealthy villain of that novel—but who knows? In writing, as in life, one never says never. Who’s to say they won’t surface again?

Q.    How did you come about the title, The Fourth Perspective?

A.    The title has its genesis in the fact that there were three famous photographs of the laying of the Golden Spike ceremony by three prominent American artists of the time. The photograph that we all very likely remember from the third or fourth grade shows two trains, cowcatchers nearly touching, lined up somewhere in the middle of desolate Utah as railroad workers and many of the robber barons who financed the transcontinental railroad gather for the Golden Spike ceremony. I came up with the title The Fourth Perspective because the three now priceless photographs depicting that ceremony are pure American history. The Fourth Perspective, which turns out to be the photo that CJ finds in the book Montana Medicine, is a photograph and thus a perspective that no one has previously known of; hence the title.

Q.    What is the title of your next book?

A.    The title of my next book, due in stores this October 9, is The Mongoose Deception.

Q.    Will you give the readers a brief summary of your next novel?

A.    The Mongoose Deception is a CJ Floyd novel with a historical thriller twist. Here’s the setup. When Cornelius McPherson, a former miner turned highway maintenance man, finds himself trapped in a tunnel he helped create decades earlier, he is horrified to discover the well-preserved frozen arm of a former fellow worker. McPherson remembers a secret the man once whispered to him—that he knew who assassinated John F. Kennedy. When McPherson also turns up dead, CJ Floyd steps in to sort out the details, in the process going on his own hunt for the presidential assassin. CJ’s journey is a retrospective trek that has him fielding CIA plots, mafia dons, and Cuban conspirators. But it is not until he realizes that there were two attempts on Kennedy’s life prior to his actual assassination in 1963—one in Chicago and one in Tampa—that he is able to home in on who might have really killed the president. The investigation takes him from the pristine mountains of Colorado to the muggy swamps of Louisiana and ultimately leads him to a grieving, long-silent Louisiana backwoods Creole mother who may hold the key to what happened. The Mongoose Deception is a book that I’d like to think will bring some closure to one of America’s enduring mysteries.

Q.    Are you currently working on another novel?

A.    Yes, I’m eighty pages into a new novel. The working title is Blackbird, Farewell. It is a story about death, drugs, deception, and double-dealing in intercollegiate athletics and features CJ Floyd and Damion Madrid, who also appears in The Mongoose Deception.

Q.    What message would you like readers to receive from reading The Fourth Perspective?

A.    There are several messages that I hope ring true that stem from the pages of The Fourth Perspective. Two are especially important. First, I hope to leave readers with the idea that history is filtered through the eyes of the beholder and that the people who narrate the stories of history always paints each story with their own color. Who knows, there actually could be a fourth daguerreotype of the Golden Spike ceremony out there somewhere.

The second thing I’d like to leave readers with is a concept that I hope surfaces in the book, one that implies that no matter how powerful you may appear on either the American scene or the world stage, there is always someone, maybe even a determined illegal Nicaraguan immigrant like Theresa Del Mora, the person who triggers the action in The Fourth Perspective, who might offer you your comeuppance.

Thank you for the chance to chat about my book, and good reading, as always.