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Clive Cussler

Clive Cussler

American novelist
Clive Cussler
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro American novelist
A.K.A. Clive Eric Cussler
Was Writer Screenwriter Novelist Science fiction writer
From United States of America
Type Film, TV, Stage & Radio Literature
Gender male
Birth 15 July 1931, Aurora, USA
Death 24 February 2020 (aged 88 years)
Star sign Cancer
Residence Aurora, USA
Children: Dayna CusslerDirk Cussler
Peoplepill ID clive-cussler
The details (from wikipedia)


Clive Eric Cussler (July 15, 1931 – February 24, 2020) was an American adventure novelist and underwater explorer. His thriller novels, many featuring the character Dirk Pitt, have reached The New York Times fiction best-seller list more than 20 times. Cussler was the founder and chairman of the National Underwater and Marine Agency (NUMA), which has discovered more than 60 shipwreck sites and numerous other notable underwater wrecks. He was the sole author or lead author of more than 80 books.

His novels have inspired various other works of fiction in the form of films, TV, other novels and even video games.

Early life

Clive Cussler was born in Aurora, Illinois, and grew up in Alhambra, California. His mother Amy's ancestors were from England and his father Eric was from Germany. He was awarded the rank of Eagle Scout when he was 14. He attended Pasadena City College for two years and then enlisted in the United States Air Force during the Korean War. During his service in the Air Force, he was promoted to sergeant and worked as an aircraft mechanic and flight engineer for the Military Air Transport Service (MATS).


After his discharge from the military, Cussler went to work in the advertising industry, first as a copywriter and later as a creative director for two of the nation's most successful advertising agencies. As part of his duties, Cussler produced radio and television commercials, many of which won international awards including an award at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival.

Following the publication in 1996 of Cussler's first nonfiction work, The Sea Hunters, he was awarded a Doctor of Letters degree in 1997 by the Board of Governors of the State University of New York Maritime College who accepted the work in lieu of a Ph.D. thesis. This was the first time in the college's 123-year history that such a degree had been awarded.

In 2002 Cussler was awarded the Naval Heritage Award from the U.S. Navy Memorial Foundation for his efforts in the area of marine exploration.

Cussler was a fellow of the Explorers Club of New York, the Royal Geographical Society in London, and the American Society of Oceanographers.

Literary career

Clive Cussler began writing in 1965 when his wife took a job working nights for the local police department where they lived in California. After making dinner for the children and putting them to bed, he had no one to talk to and nothing to do, so he decided to start writing. His most famous creation is marine engineer, government agent and adventurer Dirk Pitt. The Dirk Pitt novels frequently take on an alternative history perspective, such as "what if Atlantis were real?" or "what if Abraham Lincoln wasn't assassinated, but was kidnapped?"

The first two Pitt novels, The Mediterranean Caper and Iceberg, were relatively conventional maritime thrillers. The third, 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, beautiful women, and sunken treasure.

Cussler's novels almost always begin with a chapter taking place in the past. These contain none of the novel's main characters and often seem disconnected from the plot until the main characters discover a mystery or secret connecting the events in the first chapter to the rest of the story. This almost always comes in the form of a long-lost artifact which holds the key to the villain's or hero's objectives. Often in the first chapter, a ship or plane carrying a top-secret, important, or dangerous cargo is lost and never found, until it is recovered by a modern character later in the book.

Cussler's novels, like those of Michael Crichton, are examples of techno-thrillers that do not use military plots and settings. Where Crichton strove 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 larger-than-life hero reminiscent of Doc Savage and other characters from pulp magazines.

Cussler had more than 17 consecutive titles reach The New York Times fiction best seller list.


As an underwater explorer, Cussler discovered more than 60 shipwreck sites and wrote non-fiction books about his findings. He was 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.

Important finds by NUMA include:

  • RMS Carpathia, the ship famed for being the first to come to the aid of RMS Titanic survivors.
  • CSS Manassas, the first ironclad of the civil war, formerly the icebreaker Enoch Train.
  • H. L. Hunley, the first submarine to successfully sink an enemy vessel - during the American Civil War.

A visual and interactive depiction of Cussler's NUMA Foundation Expeditions has been made available as an extension of NUMA's original website.

Finds formerly believed to be important include:

  • Mary Celeste, the famed ghost ship that was found abandoned with cargo intact (the identification of this wreck as the Mary Celeste has since been placed into a state of question after one researcher disputed the claim's authenticity).

Media appearances

In what started as a joke in the novel Dragon that Cussler expected his editor to remove, he would often write himself into his books. At first he wrote himself simple cameos, but later as something of a deus ex machina, providing the novel's protagonists with an essential bit of assistance or information. Often, the character is given an alias and not revealed as Cussler until his exit with the characters remarking on his odd name. The cameos include the Dirk Pitt Adventures, as well as the Fargo Adventures books Lost Empire, Spartan Gold, Kingdom, and The Tombs. The Tombs also includes his wife, Barbara.

There are at least two other types of recurring in-jokes that are less obvious to a casual reader. One is the frequent reuse of the name Leigh Hunt for different characters in different novels. Seventeen books have had a character with this name, frequently in the opening prologues, frequently a sailor, usually dying; a notable exception is the first (in chronological order) Dirk Pitt adventure, Pacific Vortex!, in which Admiral Leigh Hunter is a major character, commander of the 101st Recovery Fleet in Hawaii. In the introduction to Arctic Drift, Cussler says there was a real Leigh Hunt who died in 2007 and the novel is dedicated to him. Another is that significant events in several novels occur on July 15 (Cussler's birthday). He also used the name "Periwinkle" in his works. In The Adventures of Vin Fiz (and in other works as well) there appears a donkey named Periwinkle. In Valhalla Rising, the Periwinkle is the name of a catamaran in which Pitt, Giordino, and Misty Graham are rescued by none other than Cussler himself. Cussler's friend Craig Dirgo is mentioned in several books.


  • The first film of a Clive Cussler novel was Raise the Titanic! (1980), starring Richard Jordan as Dirk Pitt, Jason Robards as Admiral James Sandecker, David Selby as Gene Seagram, Anne Archer as Dana Seagram.
  • 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 Penélope Cruz as Eva Rojas. It grossed $122 million with $241 million in production and distribution expenses.


  • In 2014 McFarland Publishing released The Clive Cussler Adventures: A Critical Review by Steven Philip Jones, the first critical review textbook of Cussler's novels.

Personal life

Clive Cussler married Barbara Knight in 1955, and they remained married for nearly 50 years until her death in 2003. Together they had three children — Teri, Dirk, and Dayna — who have given him four grandchildren. Cussler's daughter Teri is the creator and manager of the Cussler Museum in Arvada, Colorado, where Cussler's collection of classic automobiles is on display. Clive Cussler was a part-time resident of both Arizona and Colorado.

Recurring characters


Name Information
Dirk Pitt Main character of the Dirk Pitt Adventures series, head of NUMA and previously Special Projects Director of NUMA
Al Giordino Dirk Pitt's sidekick
Admiral James Sandecker Retired Admiral, original director of NUMA, now the Vice President of the United States
Rudi Gunn Second in command of NUMA
Dirk Pitt, Jr. Son of Dirk Pitt
Summer Pitt Daughter of Dirk Pitt
Jack Dahlgren Dirk Pitt, Jr.'s sidekick
Kurt Austin Main character of the NUMA Files series and Special Assignments Team leader
Joe Zavala Kurt Austin's sidekick and member of the Special Assignments Team
Paul Trout Member of the Special Assignments Team; husband of Gamay Trout
Gamay Trout Member of the Special Assignments Team; wife of Paul Trout

Fargo Adventures

Name Information
Sam Fargo Main character of the Fargo Adventures series
Remi Fargo Main character of the Fargo Adventures series
Selma Wondrash The Fargos' chief researcher
Wendy Corden Assistant researcher under Selma
Pete Jeffcoat Assistant researcher under Selma
Rube Hayward The Fargos' CIA contact
Lazlo Kemp Professor

The Oregon Files

Name Information
Juan Cabrillo Chairman of the Corporation
Max Hanley President of the Corporation
Richard Truitt Vice President of Operations for the Corporation
George Adams Helicopter Pilot / Operative
Rick Barrett Assistant Chef / Operative
Monica Crabtree Supply and Logistics Coordinator / Operative
Carl Gannon General Operations / Operative
Chuck "Tiny" Gunderson Chief Pilot / Operative
Michael Halpert Finance and Accounting / Operative
Cliff Hornsby General Operations / Operative
Julia Huxley Medical Officer / Operative
Pete Jones General Operations / Operative
Hali Kasim Communications Expert / Operatives
Larry King Sniper / Operative
Marion "MacD" MacDougall Lawless III General Operations / Operative
Franklin Lincoln General Operations / Operative
Bob Meadows General Operations / Operative
Mark Murphy Weapons Specialist / Operative
Kevin Nixon Magic Shop Specialist / Operative
Langston Overholt IV The Corporation's CIA contact
Sam Pryor Propulsion Engineer / Operative
Gunther Reinholt Propulsion Engineer / Operative
Tom Reyes General Operations / Operative
Linda Ross Security and Surveillance / Operative
Eddie Seng Director of Shore Operations / Operative
Eric Stone Control Room Operations / Operative
Mike Trono General Operations / Operative

Isaac Bell Adventures

Name Information
Isaac Bell Main character of the Isaac Bell Adventures series and Chief Investigator of the Van Dorn Detective Agency
Marion Morgan Isaac Bell's fiancée, and later, wife
Joseph Van Dorn Owner of the Van Dorn Detective Agency
Archie Abbott (actual name, Archibald Angel Abbott) College friend and fellow detective to Isaac Bell at the Van Dorn Detective Agency
Judge James Comden Powerful and corrupt political antagonist, contemporary to Isaac Bell
Aloysius "Wish" Clarke Detective of the Van Dorn Detective Agency, senior to and casual mentor to a younger Isaac Bell, besot by alcoholism

Other co-authors

Cussler co-authored books with other writers, such as Russell Blake.

The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article on 27 Feb 2020. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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