WORTH, Texas ó Clive Cussler is a man with a wild
who has read his adventure novels ó in which
swashbuckling Dirk Pitt saves the world from
megalomaniac villains, recovers historic sunken ships,
finds fabulous lost treasures and romances beautiful
women ó knows there are no limits to how big he can
this wasnít always the case.
years ago, when Cusslerís debut thriller, "The
Mediterranean Caper," was released, he didnít
dare to imagine that he could one day become a
expected nothing like this," says the man with more
than 100 million copies in print and so many New York
Times bestsellers that he literally has lost count.
"When I started writing, I just hoped for a nice
little paperback series.
that time, I was thinking, ĎGosh, if I can make
$10,000 a year, we can live in some little mountain
community and really enjoy life.í"
Mediterranean Caper," re-released in July for the
first time in hardcover, didnít make much noise when
it initially landed on bookstore shelves, but fame and
fortune were just around the corner.
breakthrough came in 1976 with "Raise the
Titanic!" In it, Pitt not only found historyís
most famous sunken ship (nearly a decade before the
doomed vessel was found in real life), but he also
brought it back to the surface in one glorious piece.
book turned Cussler into a bestselling heavyweight
as ambitious and prescient as "Raise the
Titanic!" was, Cussler kept topping himself with
even more outrageous and inventive plots.
consider myself to be more of an entertainer than a
writer," he says. "My job is to entertain the
readers in such a manner that, when they reach the end
of the book, they feel like theyíve gotten their moneyís
at age 82, he is still cranking out over-the-top
adventures, as many as five a year with assists from a
team of co-authors (which includes his son Dirk Cussler,
who collaborates on the Dirk Pitt books).
canít retire," Cussler says. "My readers wonít
will have to wait until 2014, however, for the next
novel featuring Dirk Pitt, his sidekick, Al Giordino,
and the rest of the National Underwater and Marine
son Dirk (who was 3 years old when Cussler named his
character) is working on that one now," Cussler
says of the 23rd book in the series. "It has to do
with a treasure in the Kodiaks and artifacts from the
the meantime, think of "The Mediterranean
Caper" as a satisfying stop at a desert oasis for
readers who canít wait till next year.
book isnít as wild a rollicking roller-coaster ride as
some subsequent Cussler gems ó such as 1981ís
"Night Probe!" (which Cussler rates as his
best plot), 1992ís "Sahara" (skip the movie,
read the far superior book) and 1996ís "Shock
Wave" (with Pitt and Al lost at sea for weeks
aboard a battered sailboat).
"The Mediterranean Caper" is a solid start to
a great series, with Pitt and Giordino fully realized
from the get-go and other key NUMA members soundly
established as well.
book opens with a World War I-era German biplane laying
waste to an unprepared American Air Force base on the
Greek island of Thasos. Pitt, at the right place at the
right time, as is his way, saves the day, engaging in an
aerial dogfight from the controls of an unarmed World
War II flying boat.
thrill ride that follows includes Pitt meeting a
billionaire shipping magnate and international drug
smuggler, a battle to the death with an enormous killer
canine (while Pitt is armed only with a butter knife),
Pittís escape from an inescapable centuries-old Greek
labyrinth and NUMAís climactic assault on an
underwater cave that leads to the villainís secret
how this remarkable series was born.
was in advertising at the time, 15 years, when my wife
decided to go back to work," Cussler remembers.
"She found an interesting job with the local police
department, working nights as a secretary and
dispatcher. Meanwhile, Iíd feed the kids and put them
to bed and have nothing to do the rest of the night. So
one day I decided, ĎI think Iíll write a book.í
didnít have the great American novel burning inside
me, but I felt I could try my hand at popular fiction. I
spent three or four months studying all of the great
heroes: Edgar Allan Poeís Inspector Dupin, Sherlock
Holmes, James Bond, Travis McGee, Mike Hammer, all of
when I finished, I thought, ĎWhat can I do thatís
different?í Thatís when I decided to put my hero in
and around water. Thatís how Dirk Pitt was born."
though Cussler jokes that his fans might storm the
castle if he calls it quits, he doesnít need to keep
working, and he certainly has nothing left to prove as a
what else would I do?" he asks. "I canít
just go play golf every day. Iím not into that. And
this is something I know how to do, something I enjoy
doing, so I just keep it up.
be surprised if one day they come into my office and
find all thatís left of me are old bones, covered with
cobwebs, hunched over my desk at the computer. That
wouldnít be a bad way to go."
STORY CAN END HERE)
addition to his Dirk Pitt novels, which Clive Cussler
has been writing with his son, Dirk Cussler, since 2004ís
"Black Wind," the celebrated author is
juggling four other series.
11th Kurt Austin adventure, "Zero Hour,"
co-written with Graham Brown, was published in May; this
series features Austinís highly skilled special
assignments unit from NUMA.
next book, "The Mayan Secrets," written with
Thomas Perry, comes out Sept. 3; itís Cusslerís
fifth "Fargo Adventures" book, focusing on Sam
and Remi Fargo, a husband-and-wife team of treasure
ninth "Oregon Files" book, "Mirage,"
written with Jack De Brul, is due Nov. 5; this series
features the crew of a ship called the Oregon, which
looks like a run-down freighter but is in fact a
high-tech vessel from which the team fights
international crime and terrorism.
"The Bootlegger," the seventh of the
"Isaac Bell Adventures," written with Justin
Scott, comes out in March 2014; Bell is an
early-20th-century investigator who works for a
Pinkertons-style detective agency.
does Cussler manage to keep all of these balls in the
co-authors do most of the writing," Cussler
explains. "I usually come up with the plots. Then
we get together to hash out the plot details and the
characters. Then they go off and write. After about 50
pages, they send me their work and I sit down to do
rewrites and edits until we finish the book."