Clive Cussler

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Clive Cussler
Thriller author Clive Cussler, foreground right, speaks with U.S. Soldiers during a USO tour called Operation Thriller II at Forward Operating Base Gamberi, Afghanistan, Nov. 5, 2011 111105-A-LI672-029.jpg
Born Clive Eric Cussler
(1931-07-15) July 15, 1931 (age 84)
Aurora, Illinois,
United States
Occupation Novelist
Nationality American
Period 1973–
Genre Adventure

Clive Eric Cussler (born July 15, 1931) is 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 is the founder and chairman[1] of the real-life National Underwater and Marine Agency (NUMA), which has discovered more than sixty shipwreck sites and numerous other notable underwater wrecks. He is the sole author or lead author of more than 60 books.


Clive Cussler was born in Aurora, Illinois, and grew up in Alhambra, California. He was awarded the rank of Eagle Scout when he was 14.[2] He attended Pasadena City College[1] 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).

Clive Cussler married Barbara Knight in 1955, and they remained married for nearly fifty years until her death in 2003.[3] Together they had three children — Teri, Dirk, and Dayna — who have given him four grandchildren.

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.[1] 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.[1] This was the first time in the college's 123-year history that such a degree had been awarded.[1]

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 is a fellow of the Explorers Club of New York, the Royal Geographic Society in London, and the American Society of Oceanographers.[4]

Literary career[edit]

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.[5] 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, 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 has had more than seventeen consecutive titles reach The New York Times fiction best-seller list.

Life imitating Art[edit]


As an underwater explorer, Cussler has discovered more than sixty shipwreck sites[6] 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,[6] several of which (driven by Pitt) appear in his novels.

Important finds by Cussler's N.U.M.A. include

  • The 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.)[7]
  • The Manassas. The first ironclad of the civil war, formerly the icebreaker Enoch Train.

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

Appearances as characters[edit]

In what started as a joke in the novel Dragon 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 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 are usually restricted to the Pitt adventures, although the Fargo Files books Lost Empire, Spartan Gold, Kingdom, and The Tombs had Cussler making an appearance. The Tombs also includes his wife, Janet.

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 Hunt 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 uses 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, Periwinkle is the name of a catamaran that Pitt, Giordino and Misty Graham are rescued in by none other than Mr. Cussler himself.



Dirk Pitt Adventures[edit]

 #  Title Publication Date
1 Pacific Vortex!1 1983
2 The Mediterranean Caper2 1973
3 Iceberg 1975
4 Raise the Titanic! 1976
5 Vixen 03 1978
6 Night Probe! 1981
7 Deep Six 1984
8 Cyclops 1986
9 Treasure 1988
10 Dragon 1990
11 Sahara 1992
12 Inca Gold 1994
13 Shock Wave 1996
14 Flood Tide 1997
15 Atlantis Found 1999
16 Valhalla Rising3 2001
17 Trojan Odyssey3 2003
18 Black Wind3, 4 2004
19 Treasure of Khan3, 4 2006
20 Arctic Drift3, 4 2008
21 Crescent Dawn3, 4 2010
22 Poseidon's Arrow3, 4 2012
23 Havana Storm3, 4 2014

1) Although published in 1983, Pacific Vortex! was written and takes place before The Mediterranean Caper.
2) Also published as Mayday!
3) Novels featuring Dirk Pitt, and his children, Dirk Pitt Jr. and Summer Pitt.
4) Novels co-authored with Clive Cussler's son, Dirk.

The NUMA Files[edit]

This series of books focuses on Kurt Austin, Team Leader of NUMA's Special Assignments division and his adventures. Some characters from the Pitt novels appear such as Sandecker, Rudi Gunn, Hiram Yaeger and St. Julien Perlmutter. Pitt makes brief appearances in the books Serpent, White Death, Polar Shift, Devil's Gate, The Storm, Zero Hour, and Ghost Ship.

 #  Title Publication Date
1 Serpent * 1999
2 Blue Gold * 2000
3 Fire Ice * 2002
4 White Death * 2003
5 Lost City * 2004
6 Polar Shift * 2005
7 The Navigator *   2007
8 Medusa * 2009
9 Devil's Gate 2011
10 The Storm 2012
11 Zero Hour 2013
12 Ghost Ship 2014
13 The Pharaoh's Secret 2015[10]

The Oregon Files[edit]

The Oregon Files features a ship named the Oregon which Cussler introduced in the Dirk Pitt Adventure Flood Tide (1997). While appearing to be a decrepit freighter, it's actually a high-tech advanced ship used by an unnamed and mysterious "Corporation" under the leadership of Juan Cabrillo. The ship is run like a business, with its crew being shareholders, taking jobs for the CIA and other agencies to help stop crime and terrorism. The crew is adept at disguises, combat, computer hacking, and more, to aid their missions. Kurt Austin, Joe Zavala, and Dirk Pitt all make cameo appearances in the fourth volume, Skeleton Coast (Cabrillo speaks to Pitt on the telephone; and Austin and Zavala appear at the end).

 #  Title Publication Date
1 Golden Buddha 2003
2 Sacred Stone 2004
3 Dark Watch § 2005
4 Skeleton Coast §   2006
5 Plague Ship § 2008
6 Corsair § 2009
7 The Silent Sea § 2010
8 The Jungle § 2011
9 Mirage § 2013
10 Piranha 2015[11]
11 The Emperor's Revenge June 23, 2016[12]

Isaac Bell Adventures[edit]

These books are set mostly in the U.S. in the early part of the 20th century. They center around Isaac Bell, a brilliant investigator for the Van Dorn Detective agency, which appears to be modeled after the real-life Pinkerton Agency. Like Pitt, Bell has an affinity for automobiles and is a crack shot. The first book reveals that Bell survives into 1950 with a wife and grown children. Though the setting is a century ago, the books still qualify as techno-thrillers, since they feature the advanced technology of that time such as private express trains, telegraphs, telephones, dreadnought battleships and early airplanes.

 #  Title Publication Date
1 The Chase 2007
2 The Wrecker 2009
3 The Spy 2010
4 The Race 2011
5 The Thief 2012
6 The Striker 2013
7 The Bootlegger 2014
8 The Assassin 2015[13]
9 The Gangster March 1, 2016

Fargo Adventures[edit]

The series focuses on Sam and Remi Fargo, a couple who are professional treasure hunters.

 #  Title Publication Date
1 Spartan Gold ^   2009
2 Lost Empire ^ 2010
3 The Kingdom ^ 2011
4 The Tombs 2012
5 The Mayan Secrets 2013
6 The Eye of Heaven × 2014
7 The Solomon Curse × 2015


Title Publication Date
The Sea Hunters: True Adventures With Famous Shipwrecks 1996
Clive Cussler and Dirk Pitt Revealed 1998
The Sea Hunters II: Diving the World's Seas for Famous Shipwrecks 2002
Built for Adventure: The Classic Automobiles of Clive Cussler and Dirk Pitt 2011

Children's Books[edit]

Title Publication Date
The Adventures of Vin Fiz 2006
The Adventures of Hotsy Totsy 2010

(*) indicates books co-authored with Paul Kemprecos.
(†) indicates books co-authored with Graham Brown.
(‡) indicates books co-authored with Craig Dirgo.
(§) indicates books co-authored with Jack DuBrul.
(‖) indicates books co-authored with Justin Scott.
(^) indicates books co-authored with Grant Blackwood.
(⚡) indicates books co-authored with Thomas Perry.
(×) indicates books co-authored with Russell Blake.
(≠) indicates books co-authored with Boyd Morrison.

Recurring characters[edit]


Name Information
Dirk Pitt Main character of the Dirk Pitt adventure series, and Special Projects Director of NUMA
Al Giordino Dirk Pitt's sidekick
Admiral James Sandecker Retired Admiral, Original Director of NUMA, now the Vice President
Rudi Gunn 2nd in command 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 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
Gamay Trout Member of the Special Assignments Team

Friends, etc.[edit]

Name Information
Loren Smith Congresswoman, and wife of Dirk Pitt
St. Julien Perlmutter Nautical Historian
Hala Kamil Secretary General of the U.N.
Clive Cussler Old Guy who always shows up to save the day

The Corporation[edit]

Name Job Title Information
Juan Cabrillo Chairman Main Character of The Oregon Files
Max Hanley President
Linda Ross Vice President after Truitt retires
Eddie Seng Director of Ground Affairs
Richard "Dick" Truitt Vice president until book 3
Hali Kasim Communications Specialist
Bob Meadows Gundog
Carl Gannon Procurement Specialist
Mark Murphy Weapons Specialist/IT Partner-In-Crime to Eric Stone
Eric Stone Helmsman/IT Partner-In-Crime to Mark Murphy
Chuck "Tiny" Gunderson Pilot
George "Gomez" Adams Helicopter Pilot
Julia Huxley Doctor
Franklin Lincoln Lead Gundog, Sniper Former Navy SEAL
Mike Trono Gundog
Jerry Pulaski Killed on mission in Argentina/ gun dog
Larry King Sniper
Kevin Nixon Manages "The Magic Shop" (Wardrobe & Disguise) Oscar-nominated makeup artist
MacD Gundog
Maurice Chief Steward Royal Navy Retired

Van Dorn Detective Agency[edit]

  • Joseph Van Dorn
  • Isaac Bell
  • Glenn Irvine
  • Arthur Curtis
  • Horace Bronson
  • Harry Warren
  • Larry Saunders
  • Nicholas Alexander
  • Mack Fulton
  • Wally Kisley
  • Eddie Edwards
  • "Texas" Walt Hatfield
  • Archibald Angell "Archie" Abbott IV
  • John Scully
  • James Dashwood (from the San Francisco office.)
  • Pauline Grandzau (Chief of the Berlin/Germany office)
  • Asa Somers


  • Marion Morgan (whom he married in The Thief)

Other co-authors[edit]

Cussler has co-authored books with other writers, such as Russell Blake.[14]


  1. ^ a b c d e "NUMA.Net Clive Cussler Biography" (Web Article). Retrieved 2007-10-06. 
  2. ^ Cussler, Clive; Dirgo, Craig. Clive Cussler and Dirk Pitt Revealed. New York: Pocket Books. ISBN 0-671-02622-4. 
  3. ^ "TV.Com Clive Cussler Biography" (Web Article). Retrieved 2007-02-22. 
  4. ^ "Simon Clive Cussler Biography". Archived from the original (Web Article) on June 29, 2006. Retrieved 2007-02-22. 
  5. ^ " Clive Cussler Biography" (Web Article). Retrieved 2007-02-22. 
  6. ^ a b Cussler, Clive (2004-10-26). Valhalla Rising. Berkley Trade. Inside dust jacket flap. ISBN 978-0-425-20404-7. 039914787X. 
  7. ^ Jonathan Thompson (2005-01-23). "Dating of wreck's timbers puts wind in sails of the 'Mary Celeste' mystery". The Independent. Retrieved 2009-07-22. 
  8. ^ "Raise the Titanic". Retrieved 2008-06-14. 
  9. ^ Glenn F. Bunting, $78 million of red ink?, Los Angeles Times, April 15, 2007.
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ "The Assassin". 
  14. ^ Rivera, Jeff (January 18, 2014). "Indie Author Russell Blake on Working with the Great Clive Cussler". Huffington Post The Blog. 

External links[edit]