For Clive Cussler and son, writing is a family affair

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Clive Cussler has turned his novels about adventurer Dirk Pitt into a family business, so it’s little surprise that for a fourth book co-authored with his son, Pitt brought his own family along for the ride.

Authors Clive Cussler (L) and his son Dirk are shown in this July 2010 publicity photograph released to Reuters November 30, 2010. REUTERS/Ronnie Bramhall/Handout

“Crescent Dawn,” the 21st installment in the series of Dirk Pitt thrillers, hit bookshelves in mid-November and quickly reached No. 4 on the New York Times fiction best-seller list.

The novel finds Pitt, his long-time love Loren Smith and twin adult children Dirk Jr. and Summer, battling a villain who is attempting to restore the Ottoman Empire in a way that could bring the Middle East into a new and bloody war.

Created by Clive Cussler in the 1970s, the Pitt novels have been among the most successful series in modern times for publishers G.P. Putnam’s Sons, an imprint of the Penguin Group. They have amassed more than 100 million in sales, worldwide.

Ocean adventurer Pitt predates Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan and Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon, and as the 79-year-old Cussler grew older, he brought in son Dirk to keep cranking out the novels. And Dirk Cussler, for one, is determined to keep them coming.

“I don’t want it to be going away,” Dirk Cussler told Reuters of the Pitt adventures. “As long as the fans keep reading them. There are no plans for his demise.”

If there is one thing the younger Cussler knows when he sees it, it is a growing business. He holds an advance business degree from the University of California-Berkeley, and he worked in finance at Motorola before joining his dad.

His first Pitt book with his father, 2004’s “Black Wind”, told of an attempted attack on the United States with poisonous gas, and Dirk Cussler is quick to admit there was some trepidation on the part of father and son before it was submitted to their publisher. Yet, it went on to prove successful enough for a second collaboration and more.

“I think somewhere in the back of my mind I figured I would try to write a book, but certainly I never had sights on doing the Pitt stuff,” Dirk Cussler said.


Still, he hasn’t strayed from his father’s successful formula of adventure and intrigue. In “Crescent Dawn,” Cussler fans find long-time characters Al Giordino, Rudi Gunn, computer specialist Hiram Yaeger, as well as rotund historian St. Julien Perlmutter.

As in many Cussler books. “Crescent Dawn” also incorporates real-life events into the fictional plot, including the 1916 sinking of British cruiser HMS Hampshire that carried British Commander-in-Chief Lord Kitchener on a mission to Russia.

While history books suggest a German mine sank the ship, “Crescent Dawn” follows a conspiracy theory that a bomb was secretly stowed on board.

“That is a true mystery,” Dirk Cussler said of the Hampshire sinking. “There was a lot of speculation at the time, ‘Was there a bomb on board’?”

Dirk Cussler performs many of the writing duties on the Cussler novels. His father still reviews themes and helps formulate plots, as well as works with co-writers for adventure books outside the Pitt series.

When not writing books, the Cusslers are famous for finding shipwrecks via their non-profit National Underwater and Marine Agency, which also serves as Dirk Pitt’s fictional employer in the novels.

Those searches have recovered dozens of a famous wrecks, including the Civil War submarine Hunley in 1995 and the ocean liner Carpathia in 2000, which rescued Titanic survivors. The group currently is searching for John Paul’s Jones’ Bonhomme Richard, which sank in 1779 off the coast of England after a bloody battle with the British ship, HMS Serapis.

“NUMA is basically trying to preserve our maritime heritage by finding lost shipwrecks of historical significance before they are gone,” the elder Cussler told Reuters.

Reporting by Bob Burgdorfer; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte