Confessions of a reader and writer of adventure stories: I always found Dirk Pitt insufferable.
And while I always liked Clive Cussler for his no-frills attitude to writing and his honest commercialism (and his aloha shirts), every single time I tried to settle down with a Dirk Pitt novel I wasn’t able to go beyond the third chapter.
In part I blame the Italian translations, in part the lasting effects of Raise the Titanic, that sort of cast a lugubrious shadow over what was supposed to be a high-adventure yarn, spoiling my fun for the following decades.
And much as I appreciated the opening titles sequence and the soundtrack for Sahara (see below), it did not actually help the defense of Dirk Pitt’s case as far as I am concerned.
Granted, I loved both the Sea Hunters non-fiction books, and in the last few years I greatly appreciated the Oregon novels by Cussler and collaborators – the stories are so absolutely over-the-top that sometimes they feel like a mercenary, tough-guy version of The Thunderbirds, and it is absolutely all right with me.
Plausibility is overrated anyway,when this kind of stories are concerned.
And yes, the Oregon books – and all the other Cussler books – are written by him and someone else, and so maybe Clive Cussler only wrote an outline and edited the first draft, but I like those books.
And right now I am having a hell of a ball with the Fargo books, which so far are to me the best thing ever done by Cussler.
In case you missed them, the Fargo stories deal with husband and wife team of treasure hunters, Sam and Remi Fargo, as they travel the globe and get involved in all sorts of capers while finding and salvaging treasures, shipwrecks and other historical stuff.
Quite typically, Sam and Remi Fargo are classic ultra-competent heroes, the sort that love to relax having a fine dinner but can, in a pinch, face all sorts of technical problems by using engineering and ingenuity and contacts.
Contacts are fundamental – the Fargo stories are a thriller celebration of networking and of the sometimes boring but essential work of archival research.
And as I said, this is fine with me.
The stories are just a wee tad more plausible than the Oregon novels – but there’s still a fair share of megalomaniac bad guys, political intrigue, danger and narrow escapes. The stuff of good pulpy adventure yarns, in other words.
Another thing I am appreciating is how lightweight and efficient the characterization of the main characters is. Basically, Sam is the engineer and man of action while Remi is the skeptic punching holes in his plans to make them tighter. There is not much by way of descriptions, and all the rest is carried by dialogue – which is quite fun.
Also, this is a series about a couple working as a team – which is my sort of thing, and I like the way in which the relationship is presented.
So, I am slowly stocking up Fargo and Oregon titles, that are exactly what I need when I get the blues, and it happens with disquieting frequency these days.
Then I think I’ll take a chance with the Isaac Bell historical thrillers – of which I heard god things.
Looks like, as long as Dirk Pitt stays out of the way, I am quite fine with mister Cussler’s novels.
And now as promised, the title sequence from Sahara, featuring Dr John.