Before his success with RTT, he previously had written Pacific Vortex, which wasn’t published until after the his success, The Mediterranean Caper and Iceberg.
Originally in advertising, first as an award-winning copy writer, and then as creative director for two of the nation’s largest agencies.
He started his writing career when his wife, Barbara, got a night job for the local police station as a clerk. At night after putting his kids to bed, he had hardly anything to do and no one to talk to. So out of solitude he decided to write a book.
After a few nights of thinking of an idea on what to write about he thought it would be fun to produce a little paperback series. The thought of a best-seller never crossed his mind.
Thanks to his marketing experience, he began researching and analyzing all the series heroes, beginning with Edgar Allan Poe’s Inspector Dumas. Next came Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes and all the other fiction detectives and spies. Like the likes of Bulldog Drummond, Sam Spade, Phillip Marlowe, Mike Hammer, Matt Helm, James Bond. What ever he could find and he studied them all.
With his experience in creative advertising under his belt, he started to wonder what he could conceive that was totally different. He didn’t want to compete with already-famous authors. He was determined not to write about a detective, secret agent or undercover investigator or deal in murder mysteries. He then decided his hero’s adventure would be based on and under water. And thus, the basic concept for Dirk Pitt the marine engineer with the National Underwater and Marine Agency (NUMA) was born.
He found it interesting that almost no authors were writing pure, old-fashioned adventure. It seemed to him, a lost genre. After taking a refresher course in English, he launched his first book that introduced Pitt and most all of his characters who appeared in the upcoming novels to follow afterwards. The first book was named Pacific Vortex.
Dr. Cussler, leaned heavily on Alistair McLean on his first two books and was quite flattered when critics told him they were quite similar. But by his third book, he began to drift into his own style with a myriad of subplots. And because of that, Iceberg, to this day, has and always will be a sentimental favorite of his because it never ended where it began.
After completing Pacific Vortex, he was about to launch a second book when he was offered a position at a large advertising agency. It would have been a wonderful opportunity with a well paid salary, but his wife challenged him. She knew that if he wanted to write sea stories, why didn’t he take a job as a clerk at the local dive shop who at the time was hiring.
He wasted little time and in 1968 he started working for the Aquatic Center Dive ship in Newport Beach as a behind-the-counter-salesman. Never being a certified diver, it took him just a few weeks. Once he was certified, Dr. Cussler started bringing in his typewriter in the morning and wrote at a card table behind the counter when business was slow which was usually in the afternoons. A little over a year later, Dr. Cussler finished his second novel, Mediterranean Caper. That’s when he decided to leave the shop and return to advertising.
With constant rejection letters on his first novel, Pacific Vortex, Dr. Cussler had decided that it would be a smart decision to find himself a literary agent. With a little cunning and ingenuity, he soon met Peter Lampack, who was with the William Morris Agency in Manhattan. With Peter liking his second novel, Mediterranean Caper, Dr. Cussler now had a contract. With the contract promptly signed and mailed, he started working on his third novel, Iceberg.
Now that he had an agent and with renewed inspiration, Dr. Cussler left the advertising agency, and decided to write full time. Fed up with Southern California and wanting to change his family’s lifestyle, he sold his boat, house and car. Bought a new family sedan and a tent trailer. After a wonderful summer, he and his family relocated to Estes Park, Colorado. Once settled in, he started to work on his third novel, Iceberg.
After a year he finished Iceberg and with his agent having no success finding an editor to take Mediterranean Caper and now, Iceberg and with his savings about depleted, Dr. Cussler went back to advertising.
Once he got himself a job with a very small agency and started to prove to them his value, Dr. Cussler moved his family to the suburb of Arvada just outside of Denver.
It wouldn’t be long before he is given the pink slip again. Taking a once broken down and small firm and making it into multi-million company, Dr. Cussler vowed to never work in the advertising agency again.
It turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Because that’s when he started to work on Raise The Titanic! in one corner of his unfinished basement. By then his agent, Peter Lampack, had found a small publisher to take Mediterranean Caper. Printing fifty-thousand copies and selling thirty-two thousand, Pyramid Publishing paid him five thousand dollars and sold the novel for seventy-five cents a piece.
Less then a year later, Dr. Cussler sold his novel, Iceberg to Dodd Mead Publishing for five-thousand dollars. The novel sold thirty-two thousand copies with an initial intent of only printing five thousand. Once he finished Raise The Titanic, Dr. Cussler sent it off to his agent. Once approved, it was relayed to Dodd Mead. It was rejected within ten days.
His agent decided to sent the renounced manuscript to Putnam but they wanted a massive rewrite which Dr. Cussler refused to do. And what Dr. Cussler would later say, “Out of the blue, Viking Press bought it, asked for very few changes and paid me seventy-five hundred dollars.” And that’s when “strange forces” went to work.
A London editor from Macmillan Publishing was visiting a friend at Viking and heard about Dr. Cussler manuscript. Since the Titanic was a British ship, he asked for a copy of the manuscript to read on his plane back to England. He ended up wanting to buy it. But his agent had already sold Iceberg to Sphere Publishing, a small publishing house in London, for four hundred dollars. Since Sphere had the first option, they put in a bid for the manuscript that was promptly topped by Macmillan. Once the dust settled from the bidding war, Sphere owned the book, paying twenty-two thousand dollars, a high price for England in those days.
Getting the feeling that things were suddenly falling into place, Dr. Cussler called his agent and got his writes back for Mediterranean Caper. At the same time, Dodd Mead Publishing notified his agent that Playboy Publications had offered four thousand dollars for the paperback right so Iceberg. Still with that “gut” feeling, Dr. Cussler told his agent that he would buy back Mediterranean Caper from Dodd Mead Publishing for five thousand dollars. The deal was done two weeks later.
With the buzz and interest about Raise The Titanic over in Britain, it didn’t take long for American paperback publishers to take notice. It soon went to auction with Viking Press winning the rights for $840,000. Once the auction was over and finding out that “Raise The Titanic was the third Dirk Pitt novel, Viking Press bought them both for forty thousand dollar a piece.
Raise The Titanic! was the first novel to have several plots going on at the same time and to have them all converge at the end.
Since then, Dr. Cussler has sold over 100 million copies of his Dirk Pitt Adventures. He continues to write Dirk Pitt adventures while living a life that nearly parallels that of his action hero. Like Pitt, Dr. Cussler enjoys discovering and collecting things of historical significance. With NUMA (National Underwater & Marine Agency, a non profit group begun by Cussler) he has had an amazing record of finding over 60 shipwrecks, one of which was the long-lost Confederate submarine Hunley. And recently discovered the rescue ship Carpathia who picked up the Titanic survivors. Dr.. Cussler also has a renowned and extensive classic car collection, which features over 80 examples of custom coachwork.
Along with being Chairman of NUMA, he is also a fellow of the Explorers Club (which honored him with the Lowell Thomas Award for outstanding underwater exploration), the Royal Geographical Society and the American Society of Oceanographers. Married to Barbara Knight for 40 years, with three children and two grandchildren, he divides his time between the mountains of Colorado and the deserts of Arizona. He is represented by Pitch Productions.
|Dirk Pitt Adventures|
|1973||The Mediterranean Caper|
|1976||Raise the Titanic!|
|Kurt Austin Adventure-Numa Files|
|1998||Clive Cussler & Dirk Pitt Revealed|
|2002||Sea Hunters II|