Born July 15, 1931, Clive Cussler was an American adventure novelist and underwater explorer. Cussler began writing novels in 1965 after his wife took a night job with the police department. He has over 85 credited to his name, including five non-fiction books and two children’s books. In all, his books have sold 100 million copies.
Cussler’s series starring Dirk Pitt began in 1973 with the publication of The Mediterranean Caper. The Mediterranean Caper was a maritime thriller published first in paperback and it was the first publication that starred his famous protagonist Dirk Pitt. The first book that starred Pitt was Pacific Vortex which was written in 1965 but not published until 1983. It was published more as a ‘historical curiosity’ since Cussler didn’t believe it lived up to his other writing. Pacific Vortex was also released in a limited hardcover edition in 2000 with a print run of just 2,500 and a jacket price of $45.00. This edition has a color wrap-around dust jacket and six black & white illustrations by David Monette.
Cussler’s second published book, Iceberg (1975), was the first released in hardcover. Cussler’s third book, Raise the Titanic! (1976), featured more of the high adventure and high technology that Cussler would later be known for and it quickly gained popularity. It was made into a film of the same name in 1980.
Cussler was also the founder and chairman of the National Underwater and Marine Agency (NUMA) which has found many notable underwater sites and over 60 shipwrecks. The agency led the expedition to find the H.L. Hunley, the first submarine to sink an enemy ship, which was found off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina. The agency also shares a name with the fictional government agency in Cussler’s Dirk Pitt novels.
In 1996 his first non-fiction book, The Sea Hunters, was published.
In the 2000s Cussler released many books alongside the Dirk Pitt series, including The NUMA Files, the Oregon Files, Isaac Bell Adventures, and the Fargo Adventures, which feature a husband and wife treasure-hunting team. He also wrote five non-fiction books and two children’s books.
An avid car collector, he founded The Cussler Museum in Arvada, Colorado, which is home to over 100 of Cussler’s rare and vintage automobiles from 1906 to 1965. Some of these cars are featured in his coffee table books Built for Adventure and Built to Thrill.
Cussler was also known for engaging with his fans on Twitter and was still tweeting just days before his death in February 2020 at the age of 88.
Amy C. Manikowski is a writer living in Asheville, NC.