Clive Cussler, 1931-2020

February 28, 2020 | Book Buzz

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Author Clive Cussler (right) shakes hands with an Airman at a book signing event that was part of the USO’s “Operation Thriller” visit at the Transit Center at Manas, Kyrgyzstan, Nov. 9, 2011. Cussler’s work includes The Dark Pitt Adventures and The Oregon Files series. Operation Thriller brought popular novel writers to deployed locations to meet and greet coalition forces. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Hank Hoegen)

Clive Cussler wrote best selling adventure novels that sometimes featured evil villains with nefarious schemes so it is somehow appropriate that his career began with deception. A college dropout, Cussler supported himself pumping gas and writing advertising copy but his love of stories and boredom in the evenings while his wife was at work led him to try writing fiction.

Frustrated with the rejection of his early work and unable to find an agent, Cussler turned to trickery. He wrote to literary agent Peter Lampack pretending to be a former colleague. Using the the letterhead of a fictitious writer's agency he said was retiring but thought Lampack might be interested in reading the manuscripts of an unknown author named Clive Cussler. The ploy worked, Lampack signed the author and Cussler's career took off. The Mediterranean Caper, the first book featuring marine engineer/government agent Dirk Pitt was published in 1973. 

Mediterranean caper

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Other books in the Dirk Pitt Series

Cussler was born in Aurora, Illinois on July 15, 1931 and spent his childhood in Alhambra, California where he developed a passion for adventure stories. He confessed to Publishers' Weekly in 1994 that he was a terrible student, daydreaming about more exciting things that algebra. He was briefly a student at Pasadena College but left to join the Air Force when the Korean War began. While stationed in Hawaii, he learned scuba diving and became passionate about exploring underwater shipwrecks. He continued to dive throughout his life and is credited with discovering 60 wrecks. He founded the non-profit organization National Underwater and Marine Agency (NUMA) to preserve "our maritime heritage through the discovery, archaeological survey and conservation of shipwreck artifacts”. The organization shares its name with the fictional government agency featured in Cussler's novels and is funded by profits from the author's books. 

Other Cussler series include:

The NUMA Files

Journey of the pharaohs

This series features Kurt Austin, head of NUMA's Special Assignments division. The latest book in the series is The Journey of the Pharaohs. It will be released in March, 2020. 

Fargo Adventures

Spartan gold

Married couple Sam and Remi Fargo are professional treasure hunters. In this adventure series the pair visits exotic places to search for missing artifacts often finding danger instead.  Spartan Gold is the first book in the series. 

The Oregon Files

Final option

This is a spin-off from the Dirk Pitt series. Juan Cabrillo heads a special government group of mercenaries who operate out of a weathered old ship called The Oregon. The most recent novel in the series is Final Option

Isaac Bell Adventures

The chase

This historical series is set in the early 20th century. Isaac Bell is an investigator for a detective agency similar to the Pinkertons. The Chase is the first book in the series. 

Cussler also wrote non-fiction about his passions for classic cars and of course, underwater exploration.

Clive Cussler died on February 24, 2020 at his home in Arizona. He was 88 years old.