Clive Cussler is turning 40, but that is not his age, it’s the number of years writing novels. He is currently writing five New York Times best selling series: the original Dirk Pitt series, the NUMA Files that feature Kurt Austin, the Isaac Bell adventures, the Oregon Files novels, and the Fargo adventures.
He is kept busy, which is not bad for someone who will be turning 82 years old. His latest books, Zero Hour, The Striker, and the re-release of The Mediterranean Caper are fast paced and captivating novels. Blackfive.net had the privilege of interviewing this legendary writer.
Zero Hour has the NUMA team, the national underwater and marine agency, spearheaded by Kurt Austin, delving into the theory of zero-point energy that is an unlimited energy source. This book includes new technology capabilities, historical facts, and interesting characters. Cussler wants his readers to understand, “I don’t like to get too much into the detail and technology because it slows down the story. For this book I did have to learn about physics. I enjoyed learning about the competition between Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison. I touch on it in the book, how Tesla invented the alternative current, which is what we use in our houses, while Edison invented the direct current, which is only useful in areas like automobiles.”
The Striker has the main character, Isaac Bell, an inexperienced detective working for the Van Dorn Detective Agency, investigating a coal miner accident that occurred in 1902. This novel shows why unions were necessary in the early 20th Century and has many action packed scenes. Cussler wanted to write about this time period because, “I always wanted to do a western, but everyone does a western setting. I decided to write a series about the early 1900s since no one has done that before. I put in the story early automobiles, motorcycles, airplanes, and pictures that I drew to make it interesting. This particular story is about strikers and strikebreakers. I tried to show that the coal miners were paid zilch with very poor working conditions. Just a thought, if the ownership was not so cheap there would probably not be unions today. With this series I find it fascinating to learn about these times. I am enjoying doing the research for the next book, The Bootlegger, which is about prohibition. For example, the bootlegger boats had multiple engines that allowed them to go as fast as fifty knots.”
Due to be re-released in mid-July will be his book, The Mediterranean Caper, whose hero and main character is Dirk Pitt. The plot has a WWI fighter plane attacking a US Air Force base on a Greek Island. Dirk Pitt and his team investigates how this is related to mysterious acts of sabotage against a scientific expedition, an international smuggling ring, and an exotic woman. Cussler told blackfive, “Dirk will always have a soft spot in my heart because he started if off. I hope readers see Pitt as a normal, average guy who is down to earth. He likes the Air Force, tequila, and an occasional cigar. I used myself as a model for Dirk. We are both 6’3”, have green eyes, and at that time were the same weight and the same age. The only differences are that he is better with the girls and he has aged about ten years while I have aged about fifty. In an earlier Dirk Pitt novel, Dragon, as a joke, I wrote myself into the book. I now do it in all the Dirk Pitt novels, offering advice and information.”
There is also something else Dirk and Clive have in common: they both work with their sons. Dirk Cussler Jr. is the co-author of this series and at the time he started writing with his dad, with the novel Valhalla Rising, Dirk Pitt Jr. and his twin sister were introduced.
Clive Cussler is a multi-talented person. Not only is he an author and artist, but he is also a huge car collector and an underwater explorer. He discussed with blackfive about his interests, including how he started out as a writer.
Before he decided to write he worked in advertising. After his wife found a night job, working at a police department he became somewhat of a Mr. Mom. “I would come home and feed the kids as well as my wife who would come home on her dinner break. After a week or so, and having nothing to do once the kids were asleep, I thought about writing a book. I read Sherlock Holmes, James Bond, and Edgar Allen Poe to name a few. Three months later I decided to do a paperback series, which was quite popular then, in the 1970s. Wanting to write something different I put my hero around water. In all my series I always use the same formulas. I don’t think my writing style has changed very much over the years other than perhaps the improvement of my vocabulary. Since I have five series I have a separate co-author for each. We get together after I work out the plot. Then that particular co-author will go off and start writing. After about a hundred pages I get the book back and sit down to edit and re-write. This process gets repeated until the book is done. Then I will again go through the whole book and make necessary changes.”
In his Pitt and Austin series he writes about NUMA, but has also incorporated this organization into his real life. He founded the National Underwater and Marine Agency (NUMA), a non-profit organization that searches for shipwrecks. He talked about some of his finds. “Overall, through the years we have been very privileged. Unfortunately sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. We still have not found the John Paul Jones ship the Bonhomme Richard. However, we did find the Confederate submarine, Hunley. The crew buried inside was in pretty good condition. They were able to get DNA and trace back the descendants of some of the crew. Captain Dixon and his $20 gold piece were also found. This piece was given to him by his fiancé and stopped a bullet from entering him during the Battle of Shiloh. The coin was found with the embedded bullet. I have a lot of fun finding all these shipwrecks including The Carpathia, the first ship to come to the aid of the Titanic survivors.”
In all of his novels he tries to write about his other interest, classic automobiles. He will describe one of the cars he has collected over the years that are now in a museum set up by his daughter. In Zero Hour he has his characters using the hovercraft. He commented, “I have followed it for several years. It is called an air car. It goes up a couple of hundred feet and works just like a car. Hopefully it will come around, but probably not for another thirty years because it cost a lot to make.”
He also wants those serving to know he supports them. He does not just do the talk he also did the walk, traveling to Afghanistan in November 2011 on a weeklong USO/Armed Forces Entertainment tour called “Operation Thriller II.” He is hoping this lifted the spirits of the deployed troops as he and four other authors traveled from base to base. He noted, “I was impressed with how much the troops love to read. It was quite an experience. We arrived in a C-31 aircraft, flying in the dark with absolutely no lights. After that we were transported in Blackhawk helicopters. One night the Taliban fired four mortar shells onto a base, and everyone was talking about it as well as the fact that I slept through it.”
He wants people to understand, “My job is an entertainer and I hope when the readers finish the book they get their money’s worth, including learning about the history.” Not only does he do this, but he writes incredible stories that are action packed as well as informative.
Happy Anniversary Clive!!!