Monday, August 24, 2009

Interlude - Whatever happened to Clive Cussler?

In lieu of a regular book review, I decided instead to ask a simple question: What happened to you, Clive Cussler? You used to be so cool, now your books are better used as sun protection on the beach then as beach reads. It did not always go like this; as I posted a little while ago, you've written some of the most fantastically entertaining novels around. Sahara is a personal favourite of mine and has been for a long time. Most of your Dirk Pitt books have been thrilling, adventurous reads that I have torn through with reckless abandon. However, times have certainly changed my old friend. Take for example your most recent "Clive Cussler" Dirk Pitt novel. Most of it, is, in fact written by your son Dirk whom I am sure is a nice fellow. He is not, on the other hand, a novelist of your caliber. The book will go along at a tight pace, then hit a patch which appears to have been written by a slightly imaginative fourth grader. I know you want your son to carry on your legacy Clive, and for sure it is easy money, but your readers deserve better.
Another problem has become the recycling of plots which is not surprising given the fact you are writing five or six ongoing series. All written with collaborators who do not share your prosaic gifts. Clive you used to make the incredible possible and somewhat plausible. Now, you've just given up trying to write semi-three dimensional characters. Let's compare your villians from a couple of books shall we? In Shock Wave (one of your better efforts) the bad guy is played by Arthur Dorsett, a man shrewdly intent on collapsing the diamond industry to propagate his fortune with rare gems. The murderous effects of his mining technology are unintentional but he ultimately views them as necessary to make his profits. In another of your efforts, the first with your son, Black Wind, the villain is named Kang - a man who intends to fire biological weapons at Los Angeles and blame Japan. In order to unify Korea. Okay...
I used to look forward to a new Cussler like I looked forward to Christmas. It was always my favourite book of the year. I tore through them and re-read each with eager anticipation of discovering a new avenue of thought I had previously missed. Now, I glance at them in the bestseller section and wonder who is still putting them there.
The essential Cussler begins at Raise the Titanic and ends with Atlantis Found (barely squeaks through). These 12 books are Cussler writing with imaginative history woven with action. These 12 books are about a man who saves the world...a lot. These 12 books take place before Dirk Pitt's grown children show up, which was a very regrettable plot point.
I read my first Cussler in some time, The Chase and halfway through I realized why I was enjoying it so much: he wrote it solo. No interruptions from other authors. When it ended I was happy he wrote a solid one - off book. Alas, I saw on that he intends to continue working with the character in new adventures, and with a writing partner.
Clive, when did you become the James Patterson of adventure fiction? Please Clive, come back to writing good books that actually make sense. Here's an idea, very hot, very edgy: start at the beginning. Look at all the reinventions of old characters that have breathed life into dying series: Bond, Star Trek, Batman... Dirk Pitt and Al Giordino still have life left in them, and adventures to endure with stoic humor. Maybe you cut back to one book a year and trim some unecessary characters, but at least it will be one book worth reading. Quality Clive, not quantity. I know the money is crazy, but give the fans who wait breathlessly for your work a treat: a Dirk Pitt book just written by Clive Cussler and set in the early 90's. Otherwise you may as well just kill off the character and start over, but please, do it on your own.

1 comment:

Brittany said...

So true and so sad. Great article!