Monday, January 12, 2009

Jan. 12, 2009 - Clive Cussler

I've just finished yet another Clive Cussler novel. What Tom Clansey is to war, Clive is to the sea. His Dirk Pitt adventure series are a startling mix of discovery channel information reminiscent of the research that James Michener and later Michael Creighton were famous for. coupled with plots and villains as imaginative as Ian Flemming 007 series. Dirk Pitt the underwater researcher is also Schwartzenager and Bruce Lee all wrapped into the American boy next door who always finds lovely intelligent ladies to rescue or fall in love with. The side kick character Giordino is more 'real' and not ironically European in style. Coupled with these two is a whole National Underwater and Marine Agency (NUMA) research team that plays various secondary leads in each of the series. Admiral Standecker is the wise leader who parents this madcap crew interfacing routinely with Navy and president in one global crisis after another. I always swear I'll not not go on another seven seas romp with Clive Cussler until his next novel surfaces. They're terribly distracting and extremely hard to put down!
Shockwave published in 1996 is the one I just finished. I'll think it's the best until the next. Normally I'm reading them at sea or on planes but this one helped me through a Greyhound bus ride in a blizzard.
Arctic Drift is his 2008 offering. Reading them I'm reminded of those first adventure novels we kids read with flashlights in tents, parents shouting, "you'd better be sleeping in that tent". We'd shout back 'we are' with eyes racing dying batteries just as the hero..... And that's the feeling I get reading a Clive Cussler. Boyish excitement and freedom but of course far more complex plots and adult romance.
Clive Cussler was an Eagle Scout, an Air Force Sergeant in the Korean War and later a marine archeologist exploring ship wrecks that sometimes appear in his books. One imagines his fond characters are based on himself and the friends that surround him all made just that much larger than life as to satisfy Mark Twains dictum that the facts shouldn't get too much in the way of a good story. There's always an appealling bit of the sea yarn and camp fire tale.
Having sailed Pacific coasts and islands, made ocean crossings and scuba dived wrecks myself, I probably appreciate more the truths in Cussler's descriptions of sea and ships. But he's sold close to a hundred million books so his appeal is far beyond the common mariner. And something about his bright and competent female characters has made him more appealing to women than so many of the other male dominated adventure series. Now I really must go to sleep even if I don't have to worry about flashlight batteries or parents calling.
They that go down to the sea in ships; and occupy their business in great waters. Bible
No man will be a sailor who has contrivance enough to get himself into a jail, for being in a ship is being in a jail, with the chance of being drowned....A man in a jail has more room, better food, and commonly better company. Samuel Johnson 1709-1784
The sea hates a coward. Eugene O'Neil 1888-1953
The sea has such extraordinary moods that sometimes you feel this is the only sort of life -- and 10 minutes later you're praying for death. Prince Phillip 1921 -

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