During my freshman year of high school, I ran across a movie on TV that would end up having a profound influence on my life’s path. It was called Raise the Titanic and although as movies go it’s really not that good, it led me to the novels of Clive Cussler, who passed away last week at 88.
Not long after seeing the movie, I ran across a copy of Cussler’s original novel in the school library. It was far superior to the movie, as most books usually are, and was the first true ‘thriller’ I’d read.
Jump a head a couple of years. I went into a bookstore one day and saw a different Cussler novel on display among the new releases, called Deep Six. Only then did I realize that Raise the Titanic was part of a larger series. The book looked interesting but I didn’t buy it, not for some time at least. Money was tight, after all.
Jump ahead again, though I don’t remember exactly how far, to a book sale event held at the local public library. I ran across a paperback of Deep Six and decided to pick it up. The book was an amazing thrill ride and left me hungry for more. Back to the library, this time to check out more Cussler novels.
It did not take me long to devour his available works and by the time his novel Treasure came out in 1988 I was ready to shell out for a hardcover copy. After that, I was ready every two years or so for a new Dirk Pitt adventure came out and none of them disappointed.
I’ll be the first to admit that Cussler’s adventure novels were not the stuff of high literary value. What they were was great fun, pure escapist entertainment. Great heroes in Dirk Pitt and the ever-reliable Al Giordino, nasty villains you couldn’t wait for Pitt to put in their place, and a strong grounding in underwater science and technology that I also found appealing.
But the effects of Cussler’s work ran deeper with me. I’d long wanted to be a writer but his work made me realize that what I wanted to write was adventure novels. And, of course, get rich and famous doing it. As I spent the next several years developing my own hero, Steve Bennett, I even dreamed of him somehow teaming up with Dirk Pitt. A crazy notion, to be sure, but there’s nothing wrong with dreaming.
I’ve been influenced by other authors, of course, and there are several thriller writers whose books I enjoy. Cussler, though, was the first and the one who inspired what eventually became my Port Mason series of self-published novels (yes, I worked a shameless plug in there).
One of my now-unfulfillable dreams was to meet him, have him sign a book for me, and thank him for the inspiration. In lieu of that, this blog post is the next best thing.
Thank you for the adventures, Mr. Cussler, and the inspiration. Rest in peace.