“Remember, that of all the elements that comprise a human being, the most important, the most essential, the one that will sustain, transcend, overcome and vanquish obstacles is Spirit!
– Buddy Ebsen
Buddy Ebsen always looked toward the future. His spirit and light were present everywhere he went. A talented writer, painter, and actor, Buddy was always juggling multiple projects. He had many works-in-progress when he was taken from us at the age of 95. I was honored when asked to complete one of his works-in-progress; a manuscript that evolved into Sizzling Cold Case. Having been an avid Barnaby Jones fan, this project provided a wonderful trip down memory lane.
Working on Buddy’s work-in-progress was a rather different type of collaboration. Although Buddy had shared with me his intention to write a Barnaby Jones novel and asked for my input, I did not see his manuscript prior to his passing. Luckily, by having previous writing experiences with Buddy, I felt as though he was by my side as I completed this novel that meant so much to him.
While Buddy’s manuscript was quite short, the creation of The Legend of Lori London, which is the core story in Sizzling Cold Case, was all his. The Legend of Lori London is about a famous actress whom Barnaby and his son were extremely close to in her youth. She was reported to have committed suicide. Barnaby’s son, Hal, was obsessed with proving that her death was not suicide. Unfortunately, Hal had to place her case on his back burner to take care of his revenue producing cases. A new clue turns up and Barnaby is out to prove that Lori’s death was no suicide—that she was murdered by her much older, jealous lover, who had the money and connection to create an alibi for his whereabouts at the time of her death.
In order to turn this manuscript into a full-length novel, I had to add a few characters and a major subplot, but I do not consider this a ghost-written book since the core story came directly from Buddy’s pen. Keeping the book in the tone of a Barnaby Jones story took a bit of time and a great deal of research, but I am pleased with the way it became a perfect fit.
Another challenge I faced was that Barnaby Jones is a “real” fictional character with a fan club and an eight season TV series. I had to make sure to get it right! For example, there was a scene where Barnaby riffles through files in his office, except there was no description of what the office looked like. Buddy’s widow, Dorothy, was unable to get any videos of the show as they wouldn’t be released for years after we published Sizzling Cold Case. Just when I thought my only option was to begin the book with the office blowing up, Dorothy came into contact with a German fan who had taped every episode. Therefore, the office was saved!
After more than ten years, we decided to create an audiobook version of Sizzling Cold Case. As the voice of the narrator is crucial to the enjoyment of an audiobook, we auditioned a number of narrators until we found the perfect one for a Barnaby Jones novel. We are very pleased with our choice.
As I re-edited the book for the audiobook, I was happy to find very little change was required. What pleased me most was that I felt myself being drawn into the story all over again. I was amazed at the fact that I could no longer remember what words came from Buddy’s pen, and what ones came from my computer. As Sizzling Cold Case is written in quite a different voice from the Web Series, I am extremely proud of the end result. The writing of this book was a labor of love for a very dear friend. I feel Buddy would have approved.
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