Clive Cussler and son still turning out thrills with Dirk Pitt series
BY DAVID MARTINDALE Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Sunday, November 18, 2012
11/18/12 at 4:04 AM
Dirk Cussler was 12 years old in 1973 when he read the first Dirk Pitt adventure novel.
He has been a die-hard fan ever since.
"Like a lot of people my age," he says, "I literally grew up on the books."
There was one big difference between young Cussler and all the other fans, though: His father, master storyteller Clive Cussler who has been a best-selling heavyweight for the past four decades, was the author.
"A couple of times as a kid I can remember getting to sneak-read Dad's manuscripts early before they actually made it to press," Dirk Cussler says.
Today, nearly 40 years later, he's still privy to inside information about Pitt's exploits - but now it's because Dirk actually writes these books with his father.
Their latest Dirk Pitt thriller, "Poseidon's Arrow" (Putnam, $28.95), is their fifth collaboration.
It still boggles Dirk Cussler's mind that he gets to write these books.
He has always loved them - and not just because of his personal connection to the author. And not just because he and Dirk Pitt, an adventurer once described as "oceanography's answer to Indiana Jones," share the same first name.
"I love them because my dad is a great storyteller," he says.
Their first book as co-authors was "Black Wind" in 2004.
"It wasn't anything that I had planned on or lobbied for," he says. "But I suppose there was some serendipity to the timing. I had worked in the corporate world for Motorola for about 15 years. I kind of reached the burnout stage on that and took a buyout when they were downsizing.
"Then I started kicking around for something new to do. I teamed up with a fellow named Craig Dirgo, who wrote the first two books in the 'Oregon Files' series with my father. We started doing some research on an aviation history book, but that ended up not going anywhere.
"Then one day my dad called me up and said, 'Well, if that's not going to work out, why don't you take a crack at writing a Pitt book?' After I gathered myself up off the floor, I thought, 'Well, why not?' "
Clive Cussler has four other bestselling adventure series ("Fargo," "NUMA Files," "Oregon Files" and "Isaac Bell"), but the 81-year-old is mostly involved now in a supervisory capacity - as he is with the Dirk Pitt books - while other writers do the day-to-day writing.
"Most of the collaboration is done on the front end," Dirk Cussler says. "We'll sit down and kick some ideas around together, then formulate an outline. After that, I'll pretty much go off and do the actual writing. I'll give him 100 pages or so at a time, and he'll edit and make changes.
"We'll proceed that way until we get to the end."
Working together so closely has given Dirk an even deeper appreciation for his father's talent.
Dirk says he never really had to train himself to copy the writing style. That just came naturally.
"Maybe, from having grown up on his books, it was a little ingrained in me," he says. "People seem to say that these books follow suit pretty well, so I'm not going to question it."
There's one thing that Dirk Cussler vows he will not be copying - his dad's tradition of giving himself cameo appearances in his books.
It's an inside joke that Cussler fans have enjoyed for years, the same way that moviegoers always liked it when director Alfred Hitchcock popped up on screen in his movies.
But Dirk the co-author says he plans to stay off the pages.
"We've already got Dirk Pitt and Dirk Jr.," he says. "There are enough Dirks in the books already. Any more and I think it would be way too confusing."
Original Print Headline: Cusslers still turning out thrills
Latest thriller has Pitt in a race for missing secret plans
"Poseidon's Arrow," the latest novel featuring Dirk Pitt, is by no means his greatest outing. But if you're a longtime Clive Cussler reader, that almost doesn't matter.
So much good will has been established over the years, so many fond memories created by the daring cliffhanger adventures, it's just good fun to check back in with Pitt and his buddy Al Giordino every now and then.
The new book involves the prototype of an attack submarine equipped with technology that's decades ahead of anything in the water today.
When the man who invented it turns up dead, Pitt and his colleagues at the National Underwater and Marine Agency get sucked into the race to recover the plans before they fall into the wrong hands.
Pitt's best moment comes when he must find his way out of the Panamanian jungle. It's reminiscent of his endurance test of a journey across the desert in "Sahara" and of being lost at sea in "Shock Wave."
After all these years, the guy's still indestructible.
- David Martindale
The father-and-son team of thriller writers Clive and Dirk Cussler have collaborated on five novels about adventurer Dirk Pitt. Courtesy