Clive Cussler (born July 15, 1931 in Alhambra, California) is an American adventure novelist.
His most famous creation is marine engineer, government agent, and adventurer Dirk Pitt.
Cussler is the father of Dirk Cussler, who co-wrote Black Wind (2004).
The first two Pitt novels, 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, 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 strives 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 two-dimensional, larger-than-life hero reminiscent of Doc Savage and other characters from pulp magazines.
Life Imitating Art
As an underwater explorer, Cussler has discovered more than 60 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.
In what started as a joke in the novel Dragon, and 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.
Art Imitating Death
His 2001 novel Valhalla Rising featured a sci-fi Viking mythology set in Tarrytown and other locations of the Hudson River Valley of Westchester County, New York. Valhalla, New York is famous for its sea of graveyards near Kensico where many famous personalities are buried. The name of the community came from a 19th Century fan of Richard Wagner and her own interest in Norse mythology. In 1994, Mark Guglielmo drew attention to the connection between Vikings and Valhalla, when he murdered his wife in Florida and then disposed of her bisected corpse twenty miles apart in the Hudson River and at a location near Bedford, while attempting to imitate portions of a Viking funeral.
The first attempt to film one of Cussler's novels — Raise The Titanic! (1980) — was a critical and commercial failure. Its failure was widely attributed to a weak script and the casting of Richard Jordan as Pitt.
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 Penelope Cruz as Eva Rojas. Cussler and the studio have filed lawsuits against each other in a disagreement over whether the film departs too severely from the novel