Clive Cussler – The Underwater Adventurer

Best-selling author of up to 70 books (and counting), Clive Cussler is a writer with an insanely vivid imagination. Swashbuckling adventures, megalomaniac villains, the electricity of espionage, the excitement of discovering sunken ships…intrigue, action, a snippet of humour – there’s something for every reader in Cussler’s writing. The author of The Mediterranean Caper (1973), Sahara (1992), and his latest work, The Rising Sea (released March this year), the man has thrilled millions of readers around the globe with his naval adventures.

His books, featuring the main protagonist, Dirk Pitt, have reached the New York Times best-seller list up to 20 times. They seem to sizzle with the finesse of a man who’s seen and done it all. I mean, the writer is an avid adventure novelist come underwater explorer come marine archaeologist. The man has (excuse the pun) many fish in his tank. As well as writing, Cussler is also the founder and chairman of the real-life National Underwater and Marine Agency (NUMA), which has discovered more than 60 shipwreck sites and unearthed mysteries of the briney blue on America’s shores. He has also been honoured with the Lowell Thomas Award for outstanding underwater exploration and the Paradise Valley, Arizona native still scuba-dives at the tender age of 86!

Born in 1931 in Aurora, Illinois, Cussler grew up in Alhambra, California with adventure coursing through his veins. His parents were both very intrepid and allowed the young child to gain an education outside the classroom where he really found himself. He joined the Boy Scouts at age 8 with much enthusiasm from his father. His love for the outdoors earned him the title of Eagle Scout, the highest known rank in the Boy Scouts to date. As he grew in age, so did his knowledge of the world around him and he earned a spot at Pasadena City College in California where he yearned to extend his curiosity further. He graduated four years later with High Honours, and enlisted in the United States Air Force during the Korean War to really demonstrate the lessons he had learnt in Boy Scouts and partner it with his love for his country. He promoted to sergeant after his first year there and worked as an aircraft machinist.

Cussler’s career choices after leaving the army were vast. He worked for a brief while as an industry advertiser and then a creative director for two agencies where he produced television advertisements for which he won numerous international awards. He first picked up the pen in 1965, when his wife started working nights at a local police department. He wrote the character of Dirk Pitt (the name taken from his own son, Dirk) as a way to have someone to keep him company after his kids were put to bed.

Who is Dirk Pitt? Well, think of a mixture between James Bond and Indiana Jones and you’ve got your guy. Dark, wavy hair, a slightly craggy build, striking opaline eyes – Pitt is renowned for his quick, sly wit. The first two Pitt books, The Mediterranean Caper (1973) and Iceberg (1975) garnered much acclaim and success, slowly but surely spreading Clive Cussler’s name nationally. It was the third Pitt novel though, Raise the Titanic! (1976) that really got the critics talking and cemented Cussler as an American literary figure. Raise the Titanic tells of Pitt discovering that famous sunken ship and bringing it back up to the surface in one piece.

This book was even adapted into a film in 1980 directed by Jerry Jameson and starring Richard Jordan as Dirk Pitt. Sahara – another of Cussler’s works – was adapted into a 2005 screenplay, directed by Breck Eisner and starring Matthew McConaughey and Penelope Cruz. He has written several more book series, including The Oregon Files (10 books), the Isaac Bell Adventures (8 books), and Fargo Adventures (7 books).

His latest book, The Rising Sea, is a collaboration with fellow American writer Graham Brown. It follows the character of Kurt Austin and the rest of the NUMA team stumbling upon a shocking weapon on the bottom of the East China Sea. This novel is packed with excitement, gripping adventure and is set to fly off the shelves. A must-read for any Cussler reader.