2020欧洲杯足球即时比分

Clive Cussler, bestselling novelist, maritime wreck explorer and creator of Dirk Pitt, undersea investigator – obituary

American novelist's fearless hero Dirk Pitt was described as ‘James Bond in a wetsuit’

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Clive Cussler: apart from his vast car collection he lived simply
Clive Cussler: apart from his vast car collection he lived simply Credit: PETER PARSONS/AP

Clive Cussler, the American novelist who has died aged 88, became the adventure genre’s most successful exponent of maritime derring-do in his books about the underwater explorer Dirk Pitt, a square-jawed hero often described as James Bond in a wet suit.

Cussler’s tales of quests for lost ships and sunken treasure sold in tens of millions. Although his experiences of marine exploration were initially as vicarious as those of his readers, his success enabled him to set up a real-life version of the National Underwater and Marine Agency, the organisation featured in his novels, and he went on to take part in several undersea expeditions.

The typical Pitt novel, observed the Telegraph critic Jeremy Jehu, had the hero “trading cut-price Woosterish quips with his trusty sidekick [Al Giordino] … while unravelling the plot in Cussler’s trademark torrent of fights, chases, implausible escapes and shamelessly cinematic pyrotechnics”.

Over the years Pitt and Giordino’s expeditions led them to discover the location of Atlantis (Atlantis Found), the Library of Alexandria (Treasure), the lost gold of the Incas (Inca Gold) and the truth about the real fate of Abraham Lincoln (Sahara).

Clive Cussler, 1981 Credit: Denver Post via Getty Images

Cussler acknowledged that he was rarely well-received by critics, recalling the verdict of his “only review from The New York Times” that “if good books received roses and bad books skunks, Cussler would get four skunks”.

2020欧洲杯足球即时比分He was satisfied, however, if his stories gave readers a few thrills and an authentic sense of what marine exploration was like; his proudest moment came when a young fan told him that he had avoided drowning in a riptide after recalling how Pitt had used a sidestroke to swim out of danger in one of the novels.

2020欧洲杯足球即时比分Character and creator had much in common: both were 6 ft 3 in with “opaline green eyes”, and when Cussler gave up cigarettes and took to favouring gin instead of Scotch, Pitt did the same.

Both men had served in the US Air Force (Pitt winning a chestful of medals) and both owned vast collections of classic cars, although Pitt kept his in a 1930s aircraft hangar, while Cussler’s were housed in a museum in Arvada, Colorado. The author photograph on the back cover of his novels invariably showed Cussler with one of his cars.

Clive Eric Cussler was born in Aurora, Illinois, on July 15 1931. His father Eric was a German who had fought at Verdun and later emigrated to Illinois, where he met and married Amy Hunnewell. The family moved to California when Clive, the only child, was young.

Cussler's fictional hero Dirk Pitt shared many features with the author

2020欧洲杯足球即时比分He revelled in being a Boy Scout but took little interest in his studies, preferring to stare out of the window and daydream about great American naval battles.

He dropped out of Pasadena City College to join the Air Force after the outbreak of the Korean War; stationed in Hawaii, he became a mechanic and flew supply missions in the Pacific while learning to scuba dive and take an interest in shipwrecks.

2020欧洲杯足球即时比分Thereafter he worked as a petrol station attendant and an encyclopedia salesman, before setting up his own advertising agency and working in a liquor store in the evening to make ends meet.

2020欧洲杯足球即时比分He went on to work for a number of advertising companies, winning several awards. But with his wife’s encouragement he gave this up to work in a diving shop at Newport Beach, giving him time and inspiration for his early Dirk Pitt thrillers.

2020欧洲杯足球即时比分He had trouble mustering any interest in his manuscripts, so invented a literary agency run by a veteran on the point of retirement: having printed off stationery and envelopes bearing a bogus logo, he warmly recommended himself to other agents. Thus he secured his long-serving agent, Peter Lampack.

2020欧洲杯足球即时比分The first two Pitt novels, Mediterranean Caper (1973) and Iceberg (1975), made little impact, and Cussler returned to advertising. But despite his success in the job he was sacked because of his penchant for two-martini lunches.

He rapidly wrote the third Pitt book, Raise the Titanic! (1976), which became a huge bestseller, despite caustic reviews, and made his name. The 1980 film became a byword for disaster, making a loss of more than $30 million dollars and ending Lew Grade’s career in film production. Grade was famously alleged to have quipped that “it would have been cheaper to lower the Atlantic”.

The film flop based on Clive Cussler's novel about efforts to recover the wreck of the Titanic gave birth to a witticism that passed into legend  

The experience made Cussler wary of Hollywood, and the 2005 film version of Sahara, starring Matthew McConaughey as Pitt, resulted in an interminable legal wrangle, Cussler accusing the producers of denying him the level of script control his contract stipulated. He was counter-sued for trying to sabotage the film with his public complaints, and also for having exaggerated his book sales when he sold the film rights.

He wrote or co-wrote some two dozen Dirk Pitt novels and more than 50 other books; his work rate increased in recent years after he agreed to take on co-writers. Latterly his collaborator on the Pitt books was his son Dirk, in whose honour the character had been named.

2020欧洲杯足球即时比分Cussler’s greatest achievement in the field of maritime exploration was probably the expedition in 2000 that found RMS Carpathia, which had been the first ship to reach Titanic and was later torpedoed off southern Ireland by a German submarine. Cussler was, however, accused of making false claims about discovering wrecks that were found by other undersea explorers.

Apart from spending a month every year at sea, he lived quietly in the Arizona desert, with few indulgences apart from his cars.

Clive Cussler married, in 1955, Barbara Knight, who died in 2003. Their son and two daughters survive him with his second wife, Janet Horvath.

Clive Cussler, born July 15 1931, died February 24 2020

Clive Cussler, bestselling novelist, maritime wreck explorer and creator of Dirk Pitt, undersea investigator – obituary