Our good ole friend Clive Cussler is a man of great ambition, fortune and success. As proven by countless others, from Hitler to Paris Hilton, ambition, fortune and success are not always your friends, they have side effects like Prozac has. Sometimes they make you feel a military genius, a diva, or, in this case, a writer. Even as a look in the mirror tells otherwise.
Why do we read Mr. Cussler’s books? We like to think of him as the modern Ian Fleming. He had all the spices to make the stew taste less like crap – which the likes of John le Carré deliberately left out of the recipe. This is why the life of le Carré’s „master spies” after some pages begins to taste dull, crappy, because it is realistic. Real life cloak-and-dagger is crappy for all those involved, if less so for the head people in plush offices sipping vodka mar… sorry, scotch, from crystal glasses. One needs the heavy, hot spices to make the crap palatable: the cool cars, guns, girls who stepped down from Playboy centerfolds into elaborate underground labs, the vodka martini for Eru Iluvatar’s sake. Or add a few pinches of underwater adventure, some gunslinging, a few lost historical artifacts, a dash of masterful aircraft-ballet to put von Richthofen to shame. Salt it with a bit of computer science more like Dexter’s Laboratory in late 1980s* than any real life data center in the late 2000s.
The wave of cool swamps you from the first page of Mr. Cussler’s books, picks you up and carry you like on a surfboard. Which may be behind the fact the most likely place in the world to find someone with a Clive Cussler book in hand is the beach.
Our hero Dirk Pitt and his pals are sometimes treated as spoofs of James Bond, Q and M (or, as an experienced consumer of Pitt adventures put it, somewhere between James Bond and Jacques-Yves Cousteau). The unpleasant truth is they are not even that. The logic behind their stories is different. Not the logic of a master spy sent to save the world, because even that may sound a bit realistic from time to time, as long as we know master spies do exist. They are more like spoofs of the Marvel Comics Universe, where everything is so cool that people never need to put their drinks into the fridge and should walk only in fur coats. Everything is grandiose, every minor artifact is a Nobel Prize discovery, it’s enough to drop a few words to our immortal and ageless Admiral Sandecker and you get a fleet at your disposal, the Titanic is raised by the flick of a switch, century old secrets are unearthed in the middle of Sahara, KGB Generals and rogue agents road-race each other through freakin’ damn’ Cuba, from all possible places, worldwide mafias are blown away like sand, Japan takes over the world and then says it wasn’t worth the effort, flying assassins on the Moon is just as simple as flying them by plane to World Tr… (better drop this one). They run on „comic book logic”. On the fantasies of a 12-year old kid who dreams to find out something, from a lost superweapon to a pirate treasure cache, use it to save the world in the morning, eat his lunch mid-day in the school cafeteria and get into his classic car in the evening. Which purpose does the classic car serve, we can only guess, but it may be the fastest way to get to U.S. Rep. Loren Smith, who looks like a MILF fantasy, dresses herself in red like a 1940s diva, kicks ass like a Bond Girl and got elected into an American rural district. Which is not far from getting the Pussy Riot girls elected to the Russian State Duma.
So our dear friend Clive Cussler writes something which is not quite literature and looks suspiciously close to a Marvel Comic transposed into words, down to the description-porn he does to the heroes’ cars, computers, homes, aircraft, guns (we can thank Allah he never got the idea to write actual history, otherwise we would be bored to death by accurate description of Napoleon’s underwear stitches and Rasputin’s co…better leave details aside).
You’re not a writer, dear sir, and your 56 novels are solid proof of that.
* – Yep, I know, Dexter’s Laboratory first aired in 1996. NUMA chief programmer Hiram Yeager was supposed to have a similar datacenter in 1988. When the fastest state-of-the-art Cray supercomputer had less computing power compared even to the modern smartphone in my pocket.