BURNER IS THE 12TH BOOK in my Gray Man series. Any author who has been given the opportunity to spend this kind of time with characters he loves would consider himself lucky. I know I do. However, there’s no question that the longer a series goes on the more difficult it is to keep things fresh. I mean there are only so many ways you can stage a car chase or a gun battle. I always joke that one day I’ll be writing a knife fight in a hot tub, and I’ll think, “This is the third hot tub knife fight I’ve written. How can I make this one different?”
Well, one element you can change is the characters. From my first book, it’s been important to me that Court Gentry develop like a real person. As much as I enjoy James Bond, it’s unrealistic that he’s exactly the same well-dressed, cocktail-drinking, debonair killer in The Man With the Golden Gun that he was in Casino Royale.
I like to think that Court has changed as the years have gone by. He started as a steely killer. Since then he’s been a member of a team, a CIA officer, an unofficial Agency asset, even a bodyguard. He’s a smart guy—he has to be to have lived this long—but he’s not always right. He frequently finds himself in over his head in various situations, but he always finds a way out.
The one thing that hasn’t changed about him over the years is his moral code. For a man in his profession, he suffers from the worst possible flaw—a conscience.
One person who recognizes the good in him is Zoya Zakharova, former Russian foreign intelligence officer, deadly killer in her own right, and Court’s lover. When I started writing Burner, my first thought was that I wanted to explore their relationship in a way I’ve never done before.
So I started the book in a way that even I didn’t expect, at the beginning of the story they have gone their separate ways and each is the worse for it. It soon becomes clear that the only thing that may ease their pain is some field work, but with these two, pain has a tendency to increase not decrease.
Things go wrong right from the start. When a Swiss banker tries to get proof of massive corruption out to the media, everyone from the Russian mafia to the CIA races to stop him, and it’s not long before Court and Zoya find themselves fighting for their lives—on opposite sides.
Right and wrong are rarely clear-cut issues in the Gray Man’s world. No one understands that better than Court and Zoya. Clear-cut or not, choices must be made. They’ll have to decide where their loyalties lie. Because one thing’s for sure. If they’re going down, they’re going down together.
I hope you’ll have the opportunity to read Burner. I’ve wanted to write about Court and Zoya’s love for a while, but I could never find a way into story that didn’t feel artificial. I think I’ve cracked that problem with this novel. I hope you’ll enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Mark Greaney’s debut international thriller, The Gray Man, was published in 2009 and became a national bestseller and eventually a film, starring Ryan Gosling, Chris Evans, and Ana de Armas (2022). Greaney is also the bestselling author or coauthor of seven Tom Clancy novels, including three Jack Ryan novels before Clancey’s death in 2013. In his research he has traveled to dozens of countries, visited the Pentagon, military bases, and many Washington, D.C., Intelligence agencies, and trained in the use of firearms, battlefield medicine, and close-range combative tactics. He lives in Memphis, Tennessee, with his wife, his three stepchildren, and his four dogs: Lobo, Ziggy, Winston, and Mars.