"When I first started writing, I was in advertising at the time, I was doing most of my writing on weekends. I had studied most of the other series heroes and I figured it would be fun for mine to be different and put him in and around water. So I dreamed up Dirk Pitt." -- Clive Cussler
Clive Eric Cussler (born July 15, 1931 in Aurora, Illinois) is an American adventure novelist and marine archaeologist. His thriller novels, mostly featuring the character Dirk Pitt, have reached The New York Times fiction best-seller list more than seventeen times. Cussler is also a member of the National Underwater and Marine Agency (NUMA), and has discovered more than sixty shipwreck sites.
"She had the kids during the day and I would have them at night. That way they were never alone. I would put the kids to bed, and then I had nothing to do and nobody to talk to, so I would write.""Sometimes my plot lines are so convoluted, I get calls from friends at 3 am saying; you SOB, you'll never pull this one off."
Clive Cussler was born in Aurora, Illinois, and grew up in Alhambra, California. He was awarded the rank of Eagle Scout when he was 14. He attended Pasadena City College for two years and then enlisted in the United States Air Force during the Korean War. During his service in the Air Force, he was promoted to Sergeant and worked as an aircraft mechanic and flight engineer for the Military Air Transport Service (MATS).
Clive Cussler married Barbara Knight in 1955, and they remained married for nearly fifty years until her death in 2003. Together they had three children, Teri, Dirk and Dayna who have given him four grandchildren.
After his discharge from the military, Cussler went to work in the advertising industry, first as a copywriter and later as a creative director for two of the nation's most successful advertising agencies. As part of his duties Cussler produced radio and television commercials, many of which won international awards including an award at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival.
Following the publication in 1996 of Cussler's first nonfiction work, The Sea Hunters, he was awarded a Doctor of Letters degree in 1997 by the Board of Governors of the State University of New York Maritime College who accepted the work in lieu of a Ph.D. thesis. This was the first time in the college's 123-year history that such a degree had been awarded.
Cussler is a fellow of the Explorers Club of New York, the Royal Geographic Society in London, and the American Society of Oceanographers.
Clive Cussler began writing in 1965 when his wife took a job working nights for the local police department where they lived in California. After making dinner for the kids and putting them to bed he had no one to talk to and nothing to do so he decided to start writing. His most famous creation is marine engineer, government agent and adventurer Dirk Pitt. The Dirk Pitt novels frequently take on an alternative history perspective, such as "what if Atlantis was real?", or "what if Abraham Lincoln wasn't assassinated, but was kidnapped?"
The first two Pitt novels, The Mediterranean Caper and Iceberg, were relatively conventional maritime thrillers. The third, Raise the Titanic!, made Cussler's reputation and established the pattern that subsequent Pitt novels would follow: a blend of high adventure and high technology, generally involving megalomaniacal villains, lost ships, beautiful women, and sunken treasure.
Cussler's novels, like those of Michael Crichton, are examples of techno-thrillers that do not use military plots and settings. Where Crichton strove for scrupulous realism, however, Cussler prefers fantastic spectacles and outlandish plot devices. The Pitt novels, in particular, have the anything-goes quality of the James Bond or Indiana Jones movies, while also sometimes borrowing from Alistair MacLean's novels. Pitt himself is a larger-than-life hero reminiscent of Doc Savage and other characters from pulp magazines.
Clive Cussler has had more than seventeen consecutive titles reach The New York Times fiction best-seller list.
Art imitating life
As an underwater explorer, Cussler has discovered more than sixty shipwreck sites and has written non-fiction books about his findings. He is also the founder of the National Underwater and Marine Agency (NUMA), a non-profit organization with the same name as the fictional government agency that employs Dirk Pitt. Cussler owns a large collection of classic cars, several of which (driven by Pitt) appear in his novels.
Cussler's web site claims that NUMA discovered, among other shipwrecks, the Confederate submarine Hunley. This claim is disputed by underwater archaeologist E. Lee Spence who first reported finding it in 1970 and there is a collection of evidence supporting Spence on www.ShipWrecks.com. However, both claims appear to have elements of truth. Spence described finding the partially exposed wreck of the Hunley in 1970, but claimed it had been reburied by shifting sands before he returned to photograph it. Spence claims he relocated it with a magnetometer at various times in the 1970s but it was always buried and without the proper permits was unable to do any excavation on the site. The first expedition to dig into the site and bring back videographic evidence was the 1994/1995 SCIAA/NUMA H.L. Hunley expedition, directed by underwater archaeologist Dr. Mark M. Newell. That was largely financed by Cussler, thus his claim to have discovered it. Based on sworn statements by Dr. Newell, that expedition relied, at least to some extent, on Spence's maps of his earlier work. The dive team that took the video was led by diver Ralph Wilbanks who is on NUMA's Board of Directors.
Important finds by Cussler's N.U.M.A. include
The Carpathia. The ship famed for being the first to come to the aid of Titanic survivors.
The Mary Celeste. The famed ghost ship that was found abandoned with cargo intact. (The identification of this wreck as the Mary Celeste has since been disputed.)
The Manassas. The first ironclad of the civil war, formerly the icebreaker Enoch Train.
Appearances as characters
In what started as a joke in the novel Dragon that Cussler expected his editor to remove, he now often writes himself into his books; at first as simple cameos, but later as something of a deus ex machina, providing the novel's protagonists with an essential bit of assistance or information.
A regular name in Cussler novels was Leigh Hunt. Seventeen books have had a character named Hunt appear in the opening prologues, usually dying. In the introduction to "Arctic Drift," Cussler says there was a real Leigh Hunt who died in 2007 and the novel is dedicated to him.
The first attempt to film one of Cussler's novels—Raise The Titanic! (1980)—was a critical and commercial failure.
Paramount Pictures released Sahara on April 8, 2005, starring Matthew McConaughey as Dirk Pitt, Steve Zahn as Al Giordino, William H. Macy as Admiral Sandecker, and PenÚlope Cruz as Eva Rojas. Again the film was a box-office failure. It grossed a very respectable $119 million in the box office, but that was not nearly enough to cover the $160 million budget. Cussler this blamed on the film not staying true to his storyline; Even before the film was completed, Cussler and Crusader Entertainment (the film's producers) filed lawsuits against each other in a dispute over the film departing too severely from the novel.
Cussler sued Crusader in 2004, claiming the company reneged on a contract that gave him approval rights over the film's screenplay, when, in fact, he only had those rights until a director was hired. Crusader, which is owned by billionaire Philip Anschutz, countersued, accusing Cussler of duping it into adapting his book into a film based on an inflated number of novels sold.
In May 2007, the trial jury delivered a mixed verdict, ordering Cussler to pay Crusader $5 million (they were seeking $115 million) for making derogatory comments about the film and encouraging his readers to boycott it. The jury suggested Crusader pay Cussler $8.5 million for second-picture rights to another book, but left that decision to Judge John Shook since the option was never exercised. Cussler's attorney indicated that he would end up with $3.5 million after paying Crusader the $5 million previously ordered if the Judge rules in his favor. If not, Cussler could be further sued by Crusader for lawyer fees. Some news accounts have suggested that both sides may have ended up spending more on legal costs than they were awarded, but each side would be liable for the other's fees depending on the Judge's ruling. On January 8, 2008, Judge John Shook denied Cussler's claim for the $8.5 million, making the author solely liable to Crusader for $5 million for breach of contract.
On 10 March 2009 Judge John P. Shook ordered Clive Cussler to pay $13.9 million in legal fees to the production company that turned his novel Sahara into a motion picture. In his ruling, Judge Shook agreed with lawyers for Crusader Entertainment that an original contract between the two parties called for an award of legal fees if either side breached. "The issue boils down to whether the fees requested are reasonable and necessary," Shook said. He concluded that they were. On July 27, 2009, Cussler issued a final check to Crusader bringing the total funds Cussler has paid back to the production company to $20 million, completing his court ordered reimbursement. Cussler said he has filed an appeal for reversal in the hopes that some of those funds may be refunded back to him. Crusader has also filed a suit against Cussler's publishers for willful fraud involving the inflated book sales.
The Mediterranean Caper (1973) Released in the United Kingdom as "MAYDAY!"
Raise the Titanic! (1976)
Vixen 03 (1978)
Night Probe! (1981)
Pacific Vortex! (1983) NB: was the first written, before The Mediterranean Caper.
Deep Six (1984)
Inca Gold (1994)
Shock Wave (1996)
Flood Tide (1997)
Atlantis Found (1999)
Valhalla Rising (2001)*
Trojan Odyssey (2003)*
Black Wind (2004)*
Treasure of Khan (2006)*
Arctic Drift (2008)*
Crescent Dawn (November 16, 2010)
(* Novels featuring Pitt's children, Dirk and Summer)
There is also a Dirk Pitt reference book:
Clive Cussler and Dirk Pitt Revealed (1998)
NUMA Files adventure novels
(co-authored with Paul Kemprecos)This series of books focuses on Kurt Austin, Team Leader of NUMA's Special Assignments division and his adventures. Some characters from the Pitt novels appear such as Sandecker, Rudi Gunn, Hiram Yaeger and St. Julien Perlmutter. Pitt makes brief appearances in the books "Serpent", "White Death" and "Polar Shift."
Blue Gold (2000)
Fire Ice (2002)
White Death (2003)
Lost City (2004)
Polar Shift (2005)
The Navigator (2007)
The Oregon Files
(co-authored with Craig Dirgo on first two, Jack DuBrul on the rest)The Oregon Files focuses on a ship named Oregon, introduced in Flood Tide. While appearing to be a decrepit freighter, it's actually a high-tech advanced ship used by the Corporation, under the leadership of Juan Cabrillo. The ship is run like a business, with its crew shareholders, taking jobs for the CIA and other agencies to help stop terrorism and other crimes. The crew is adept at disguises, combat, computer hacking and more to aid their missions. Both Kurt Austin and Dirk Pitt make a cameo in the fourth book, Skeleton Coast. Juan speaks to Pitt on the telephone, and Austin and Zavala appear at the end.
Golden Buddha (2003)
Sacred Stone (2004)
Dark Watch (2005)
Skeleton Coast (2006)
Plague Ship (2008)
The Silent Sea (2010)
The Jungle (March 8, 2011)
Isaac Bell tales
(co-authored with Justin Scott starting with The Wrecker) These books stand-alone from the other Cussler novels, set in the early part of the 20th century. They center around Isaac Bell, a brilliant investigator for the Van Dorn Detective agency, which appears to be modeled after the real-life Pinkerton Agency. Like Pitt, Bell has an affinity for automobiles and is a crack shot. The first book does reveal Bell survives into 1950 with a wife and grown children. Though the setting is a century ago, the books still qualify as technothrillers, since they feature the advanced technology of that time such as railroad tunnels, telegraphs, telephones, and dreadnought battleships.
The Chase (2007)
The Wrecker (2009)
The Spy (2010)
A new series, co-authored with Grant Blackwood, revolving around Sam and Remi Fargo, a couple who are professional treasure hunters.
Spartan Gold (2009)
Lost Empire (2010)
The Kingdom (June, 2011)
Crescent Dawn (November 16, 2010) Dirk Pitt Novel
The Jungle (March 8, 2011) The Oregon Files
The Kindom (June, 2011) Fargo Adventures
True Adventures With Famous Shipwrecks (1996)
Clive Cussler and Dirk Pitt Revealed (1998)
Diving the World's Seas for Famous Shipwrecks (2002)