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Author Interview
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Clive Cussler

Clive Cussler

Clive Cussler grew up in Alhambra, California. He attended Pasadena City College for two years, then enlisted in the Air Force during the Korean War and served as an aircraft mechanic and flight engineer in the Military Air Transport Service. Upon discharge he became a copywriter and later creative director at two of the nation's leading ad agencies. He wrote and produced radio and television commercials in Hollywood that won numerous international honors including an award at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival.

Cussler began writing novels in 1965 and published his first work featuring his continuous series hero, Dirk Pitt, in 1973. His first non-fiction book, The Sea Hunters, was released in 1996. The Board of Governors of the Maritime College, State University of New York, considered The Sea Hunters in lieu of a Ph.D. thesis and awarded Cussler a Doctor of Letters degree in May, 1997. It was the first time since the College was founded in 1874 that such a degree was bestowed.

Cussler is an internationally recognized authority on shipwrecks and the founder of the National Underwater and Marine Agency, (NUMA) a 501C3 non-profit organization (named after the fictional Federal agency in his novels) that dedicates itself to preserving American maritime and naval history. He and his crew of marine experts and NUMA volunteers have discovered more than 60 historically significant underwater wreck sites including the first submarine to sink a ship in battle, the Confederacy's Hunley, and its victim, the Union's Housatonic; the U-20, the U-boat that sank the Lusitania; the Cumberland, which was sunk by the famous ironclad, Merrimack; the renowned Confederate raider Florida; the Navy airship, Akron, the Republic of Texas Navy warship, Zavala, found under a parking lot in Galveston, and the Carpathia, which sank almost six years to-the-day after plucking Titanic's survivors from the sea.

In September, 1998, NUMA - which turns over all artifacts to state and Federal authorities, or donates them to museums and universities - launched its own web site for those wishing more information about maritime history or wishing to make donations to the organization. (

In addition to being the Chairman of NUMA, Cussler is also a fellow in both the Explorers Club of New York and the Royal Geographic Society in London. He has been honored with the Lowell Thomas Award for outstanding underwater exploration.

Cussler's books have been published in more than 40 languages in more than 100 countries and have a readership of more than 90 million avid fans. His past international bestsellers include Pacific Vortex, Mediterranean Caper, Iceberg, Raise the Titanic, Vixen 03, Night Probe, Deep Six, Cyclops, Treasure, Dragon, Sahara, Inca Gold, Shock Wave, The Sea Hunters (non-fiction), Flood Tide, and Clive Cussler Dirk Pitt® Revealed. Cussler is also the author, with Paul Kemprecos, of a new Dirk Pitt spinoff series - The NUMA files.

Cussler has been married to his wife, Barbara Knight, for more than 44 years. They have three children, two grandchildren, and divide their time between the mountains of Colorado and the deserts of Arizona.

When were you born? 
July 15th 1931, Aurora Illinois                                 

What’s your favourite book? 
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain

What’s your favourite film? 

What’s your favourite song? 
Hymme a l’amour sung by Edith Paif  

What’s your most treasured possession? 
1969 orange dial Doxa dive watch

When did you start writing?     
I began writing in 1966 when I was 35 years old                                 

Where do your ideas and inspirations come from?   
Ideas and inspiration can come from anywhere, out of the blue, a newspaper article or a movie

My three tips for becoming a successful author:
• Perseverance
• Write to your reader, try to imagine what he would like to see in his mind as he reads your book
• Always have a climactic ending you can work towards and leave them hanging at the end of every chapter

What’s your favourite place in the world and why? 
My home in the desert of Arizona. I consider it an exceptional place to live that is simply a frame for an exceptional life

What are your hobbies? 
Searching for shipwrecks and collecting vintage and classic cars                                        

If you hadn’t been an author, what do you think you would have been? 
If not an author I would have loved to be an actor even though I had no talent and couldn’t remember lines

The Grandmaster

An appreciation of Clive Cussler by Penguin Commissioning Editor, Alex Clarke

If you’re reading this, you may well have read a couple of Clive Cussler adventures already, and you will know what I mean when I say that the anticipation of reading a new Cussler is similar to waiting for Christmas day as a kid. For those of you who are new to Cussler this may sound like an exaggeration. But in all honesty, having worked at Penguin for several years, and having had to wait eagerly for the manuscript of the next Cussler to arrive on my desk – I cannot begin to overstate how much of a buzz comes with turning the first page over of each new book. What’s more, these high expectations are always fulfilled – usually read in one thoroughly satisfying sitting.

Here at Penguin, we proudly state across the top of Clive Cussler’s book jackets that he is “The Grandmaster of Adventure”. Again, this is no exaggeration – Clive Cussler began his career in 1973 with his first Dirk Pitt novel, and has for over 30 years topped the best-seller lists year after year. Indeed his last novel, Black Wind, reached the number one spot in the UK in paperback at the end of 2005. He is published in 40 different languages, in 100 different countries. We’d like to think that these facts and figures alone qualify him for the title of Grandmaster – but the real heart of the matter is his writing itself. 

Clive’s unique talent is in crafting an action-packed high concept plot. His novels are always fantastically fast-paced and razor-edged – each chapter delivers a new cliff-hanger and a new set-piece. No one else writing in this genre has such mastery of the adventure narrative – and all this is superbly inlaid with a healthy dose of wry banter and outright fun. No one else has such an encyclopaedic knowledge of technology and natural sciences – from U-boats to fusion powered cruise ships, from rouge super-viruses to global warming. All of this is combined with intriguing references to historical and mythical events – from the Titanic to the lost city of Atlantis. Admittedly, I’ve always been a sucker for action adventure novels – but without a doubt, Cussler really is the man.  

Clive now writes three separate series – each delivering adrenaline-filled adventures on the high-seas.

First and foremost is the continuing Dirk Pitt series – Dirk is Clive’s original hero – the main man of NUMA (the National Underwater and Marine Agency). Dirk is a charismatic and maverick hero – he had reached the rank of Major in the Air Force and was quickly signed up by Admiral Sandecker to head up the Special Projects team at NUMA. His special projects for the most part involve unravelling the world-threatening plots of power-hungry madmen.

One can always rely on Dirk to shoot straight, punch hard, drive fast, and above all to do the right thing – finishing off with a snappy one-liner and a dinner date with the girl. He has always been ably assisted by his partner in crime, Al Giordino, a stocky bull of a man who always stands shoulder to shoulder with Dirk whatever fate throws at them. Of late he has been joined by his long lost son and daughter, Dirk junior and Summer, who are following in their father’s footsteps at NUMA. Any fans of James Bond or Indiana Jones will find that the Dirk Pitt novels immediately hit the mark – delivering scene after scene of thrills and action. Our next novel in the Dirk Pitt series is called The Treasure of Khan, co written with Clive’s own son Dirk Cussler, which will be published in the Autumn of 2006. Watch this space!

Next up are the NUMA File Adventures, featuring the hero Kurt Austin, which Clive started writing with Paul Kemprecos about 5 years ago – Kurt is Head of the NUMA Special Assignments Team (which handles jobs outside the realm of NUMA's ordinary remit and without government oversight). Kurt cut his teeth working with his father’s marine salvage company – where he learns all there is to know about boats and the sea. He then joined the CIA, where he specialised in underwater intelligence gathering – until his department is folded with the end of the Cold War, when Admiral Sandecker calls him up to NUMA. His passion is racing boats – from kayaks to hydroplanes. Kurt also has his sidekick – in the formidable ex-boxer / marine engineer Joe Savala. In the tradition of Clive’s Dirk Pitt novels, the Kurt Austin adventures are crammed with white-knuckle action and danger.

The latest paperback is Lost City which publishes in March 2006 – in which Kurt is called in to investigate the mysterious destruction of the deep Atlantic seabed. As bodies turn up in the remote Scottish Isles, and near secret laboratories in Greece it becomes clear that the stakes are higher than they’ve ever been for Kurt and his team. This is one of the fasted-paced novels Cussler has written, full of high-speed chases in the air, at sea and on four wheels – I particularly enjoyed First World War Aviatik bi-planes taking on the high-tech attack helos – real edge of the seat stuff.

Also in March 2006, we’re publishing the next hardback instalment in the Kurt Austin Series, Polar Shift. Doomsday seems to be inevitable when a terrorist anti-globalisation movement uncovers the long lost writings of a Second World War Hungarian scientist who discovered how to artificially shift the polar axis of the planet. Kurt and his NUMA Special Assignments team find themselves in a race against the clock to stop the obliteration of the world as we know it. It’s a novel that takes us around the globe in a high-tension battle of wits and wills.

Finally, we’re delighted to have recently introduced a new Cussler series – the Oregon Files. Which features the charismatic Juan Cabrillo and his Corporation – they are modern day privateers, sailing the high seas taking on ultra-covert and ultra-dangerous missions for the right cause, and the right price. Their vessel, the Oregon, is a state-of-the-art warship disguised as a rusting heap of junk – woe betides anyone who underestimates the Corporation. The Oregon actually features in a past Dirk Pitt novel called Flood Tide – Clive has hinted that Dirk and the Oregon may tread the same path again soon. Sacred Stone and Golden Buddha were the first instalments in the series – and we will be publishing the next, Dark Watch, in 2007. Fans of Cussler will love this series – it delivers just what one expects from the Grandmaster of Adventure – and gives one another reason to look forward to the next Cussler!

I’ve been a Cussler fan for a long time now – and to be now publishing his books with Penguin is an absolute thrill. Rarely does an author, any author, deliver such consistently well-written, well-researched and brilliantly readable books – so it’s a pleasure to be one of the first to read each new manuscript, knowing that in a few months tens of thousands of people will be enjoying it just as much as I do.

I hope this has given long-standing fans a glimpse of what’s to come in the near future – and I really hope that those of you who haven’t read Clive Cussler before will be just a little bit curious as to what you might be missing.

You won’t be disappointed.