CUSSLER, CLIVE [ERIC] (1931– ). As a boy Clive Cussler immersed
himself in the literature of the American Civil War and the writings of C. S.
Forester. Describing himself as “the kid that stared out the window,” he
entered the air force after two years at Pasadena City College.
While creative director for an advertising agency in the early 1960s, Cussler began writing fiction. His initial idea was to write a series of books that
continued the career of a single villain, but he had such success with his
protagonist Dirk Pitt that the original project was abandoned. Pitt, who first
appeared to the public in the Mediterranean Caper (pub. in 1973 as Mayday!), continued to appear as the central character in nearly a dozen more
novels, including a revision of Pacific Vortex! (1982), the first Pitt novel
actually written. Cussler’s breakthrough novel was Raise the Titanic!*
(1976), a work that in many ways anticipated the oceanographic discoveries
of Woods Hole, Massachusetts, scientist Robert Ballard and that was
adapted into film in 1980. The craftsmanship and tautness of this work were carried over into Vixen 03 (1978) and Night Probe! (1981), in which Dirk
Pitt confronts an aging James Bond.
In his more recent novels, Cussler himself appears as a character, and his
fictional agency NUMA (National Underwater & Marine Agency), of which
Dirk Pitt was the special projects director, has assumed reality as the name
of a group founded by Cussler to locate historical shipwrecks.* His efforts
in this area are chronicled in The Sea Hunters (with Craig Dirgo, 1996).
Dirgo and Cussler also collaborated on a handbook to the fiction, Clive
Cussler and Dirk Pitt Revealed (1998).