Salvage operator, flying boat pilot, checkered past, Key West resident, and adventure seeker–these are words I would use to describe Buck Reilly. But these only tell you a fraction of the real story. Let’s dive in a little deeper and find out what makes the star of the Buck Reilly adventure series do the things he does.
In this exclusive interview we will touch on some lighter topics like Buck’s favorite rum and favorite beach bars, then we will dig a little deeper to find out why he falls for the women he does, his love of flying boats, and why trouble always seems to follow him.
Buck Reilly is the star of a fictional adventure book series that takes place in Key West and other exotic Caribbean destinations. You can find Buck in the pages of Red Right Return, Green to Go, Crystal Blue, and Second Chance Gold. Just because Buck isn’t real doesn’t mean he can’t do interviews right? I got with author John H. Cunningham to find out a little more about his exciting main character, Buck Reilly.
Exclusive Buck Reilly Interview
When falling off the grid after E-Antiquities, why did you choose Key West as your place of seclusion?
BUCK: I spent a lot of time in Key West as a kid, and Mel Fisher’s exploits in searching for and finding the Atocha there no doubt left a lasting impression. But what I love about Key West is you can disappear in plain sight. It’s a live and let others live island. I named my charter and salvage company Last Resort because that’s what Key West’s nickname used to be, and, well, because that’s what it is for me, too.
You and Buffett became friends through your love of flying boats correct? Have you and JB ever had any adventures other than that crazy and dangerous night in the BVI?
BUCK: Back before e-Antiquity cratered we had some mutual friends and had a few wild times. I’ve buried those days deep in my mental vault, for now. When I bought Betty, which was Jimmy’s old Grumman Widgeon that he crashed off Nantucket, and used what cash I had left to restore it, I don’t think he was very pleased I had the plane. He’s occasionally spotted it in places like Key West and given me grief for her condition. When he and Matt Hoggatt saved my ass in the BVI, I didn’t have the heart to tell him I’d recently crashed her off Cuba. I think he’d be as shocked as I was to see her in St. Barths. To tell you the truth, I’ve been avoiding him so he wouldn’t find out about Betty.
You seem to be attracted to very passionate women, is there a certain girl from your recent adventures that you wish hadn’t gotten away, or that you were still with?…and why?
BUCK: After my wife Heather ditched me when I went bankrupt, I vowed to not let myself fall in love again, at least for awhile. Dead men don’t bleed, is what I tell myself. But you know how it goes, when you find yourself in the heat of adventure, either side by side with a strong woman, or trying to rescue one, you can’t always count on your defenses to prevent falling for them. Yeah, I miss Karen for her caring, inquisitive mind, Nina for her strength and beauty, Crystal, well, better not go there. And as for now, I’m still splitting my time between Key West and St. Barths, so, ah, Nicole is still putting up with my antics for the moment. She’s laid back, smart, French and well, I’ll leave it at that.
You have visited some amazing places in your travels, the USVI, BVI, Cuba, St. Barths, and the list goes on. You’re sure to have some favorite watering holes in these exotic locations, which ones do you cherish the most?
BUCK: Seems I never get the time to fully enjoy some of my favorite beach bars, but yeah, Soggy Dollar for Painkillers, Foxy’s for a soursop daiquiri they make, Beach Bar on St. John, Bomba Shack, Cooper Island, Bodeguita Del Medio in Havana, Basil’s Beach Bar on Mustique, Le Select on St. Barths, the Dune Preserve on Anguilla–gotta check out Bankie Banx for Moonsplash, Pelican Bar on Jamaica, Goaty’s Bar on Petit St. Vincent, and then closer to home, I spend a lot of time at Blue Heaven, Smokin’Tuna and Schooner Wharf on Key West. I’m always open to new ones if you have some suggestions.
What is your rum of choice at these island bars?
BUCK: My favorite rum is often whatever’s available, but given a choice, I like Havana Club Siete Anos, Matusalem, Barbancourt, Barilito 3 Star, Papa’s Pilar and the new flavored Blue Chair rums are pretty damn tasty, too.
Which exotic location is still on your bucket list?
BUCK: Too many islands, not enough time. Salvage projects or friends in need often steer me to destinations, and my financial situation is still pretty fragile, but if I can fly the Beast and land in blue water, hell, even brown water will do, consider it on my list.
You’ve had two flying boats, Betty the Grumman Widgeon, and Beast the Grumman Goose. Each bird has a fascinating story, but which plane do you prefer to fly?
BUCK: You have any tissues handy? Yeah, thanks for asking about Betty, Ryan. What’s next, my ex-wife? Let’s just say she still has a special place in my heart–Betty that is–and given recent circumstances, I haven’t given up on getting her back, you can believe that. The Beast, however, has grown on me. The Goose is much more stable and roomier–I am 6’3″ after all, but flying Betty was like wearing an emotional glove. I love them both for different reasons. Nothing evokes romance, escapism and facilitates fast escapes like the old Grumman amphibians.
You tend to get yourself caught up into some dangerous adventures, nearly getting yourself killed on numerous occasions. Why to you think trouble seems to follow you like a thick ocean fog?
BUCK: That’s a damn good question. If you figure it out, let me know. Guess the reality is that when you run something like Last Resort Charter and Salvage aboard antique flying boats, and have a history as a renegade treasure hunter–Ryan:You mean e-Antiquity? BUCK: Right, well, trouble has a way of coming after you. That and my interests these days being to have a battle to fight, an adventure to live and the occasional beauty to rescue, I expect nothing less than to be living on the edge. What the hell else would I do, sit in an office in front of desk? No thanks, I’ll take the unknown adventure any day. Once you’ve seen the world through my eyes, you’ll never look back.
After your crazy adventure on St. Barths, are you going to lay low for awhile, or do you have any “freelance projects” that have to do with gold, women, and blue-water bays lined up?
BUCK: The money I earned on St. Barths has given me a little breathing room, but there’s a few interesting things on the horizon. As long as I have gas money, the Beast and I will be available for charter and salvage work. In fact, I need to hit the road now. I have a call with Harry Greenbaum to talk about some ideas he has to back Last Resort. Good talking to you, Ryan, and thanks for the rum. Please don’t share any of our discussion with anybody. Trying to keep under the radar. See you out there.
I’d like to thank Buck Reilly (John H. Cunningham) for taking the time to give us a deeper look in to the psyche of the Caribbean’s hardest working, part-time crime fighter.