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Cussler draws island’s fans to Author’s Luncheon and library

By Staff | Jan 19, 2010

Last Thursday night at the Sanibel Public Library, Clive Cussler, left, signed hundreds of books for his island fans.

If an avid book reader were asked to create their own hero in a best-selling fiction title, they might think that a novelist who writes classic American adventure books who also collects vintage automobiles and is the founder of a non-profit marine agency dedicated to finding long-lost shipwrecks would make a pretty interesting character.

And they would be right: Clive Cussler is a pretty interesting character.

Cussler, who during a 45-year writing career has penned has written more than 40 fiction, non-fiction and children’s books, stopped by the island last week for a pair of appearances to promote his latest novel, “The Wrecker.” He was the special guest at an Author’s Luncheon held at The Sanctuary Golf Club on Thursday afternoon and the main attraction at a lecture staged at the Sanibel Public Library that same evening. Both events were completely sold-out.

“I’ve has kind of a charmed career as a writer,” Cussler said. “I thought it would be kind of a big thing to get published.”

But success did not come “overnight” for the now-popular and prolific author, whose books have been read by more than 125 million readers worldwide.

Clive Cussler, who has written 20 books in the Dirk Pitt Adventure Series, recently released "The Wrecker," sequel to 2007's "The Chase."

Cussler started writing in 1965 and published his first novel featuring Dirk Pitt – his best-known character – in 1973’s “The Mediterranean Caper.” His second novel, “Iceberg,” was released in 1975, but the following year he released “Raise The Titanic!” to rave reviews and popularity.

“People were coming up to me and saying ‘Congratulations on your overnight success,'” the author recalled with a chuckle. “I’d say ‘Yeah… 11 years overnight!'”

Since then, Cussler has published 17 additional Dirk Pitt titles, along with six releases in the series dubbed The Oregon Files and seven releases in The NUMA Files series. NUMA, the National Underwater & Marine Agency founded by the writer, is a volunteer foundation dedicated to preserving our maritime heritage through the discovery, archaeological survey and conservation of shipwreck artifacts.

“Everybody is surprised when they walk into my office and they don’t see any artifacts,” Cussler told the crowd. “I’ve never kept anything we’ve found on any dives. Some people have said that I belong in a rubber room because I don’t search for treasure. I don’t go looking for treasure… I go looking for history.”

During the question-and-answer portion of the Author’s Luncheon, island resident Rosemary O’Daniel told Cussler that she was involved with reading “Skeleton Coast,” a 2006 release.

Clive Cussler poses for a photo with Sanibel Public Library director Margaret Mohundro.

“I just wanted to tell you that I think it’s just wonderful,” she said.

“Have you finished it yet?” asked Cussler.

“No, I haven’t,” O’Daniel responded.

Smiling, Cussler announced, “The butler did it!” and the entire audience laughed.

Asked by another guest if he visits the locations he sets his novels in, and the author stated, “If I’ve been there, I’ll over-write it. Nowadays I’ll use the Internet, but I used to read a lot of travel guides.”

Susie Holly, left, and Samantha Serrao from MacIntosh Books sold several of Cussler's titles to fans attending Thursday's lecture.

Cussler also confessed that unlike his characters, he is not a gourmet cook in real life.

“I cut out recipes and give them to my wife,” he added. “I’m a gourmet eater.”

According to Cussler, last week’s visit was his second to Sanibel.

“I came here about 10 years ago with my wife for four or five days,” he said. “It’s such a laid back community that is kind of isolated. I like it. It’s a very nice place to stay.”

Currently, he is “about one-third of the way through” his next title, a children’s book called “Hotsie Totsie,” about a twin brother and sister. After so many decades and dozens of books, Cussler admits that it isn’t always easy to come up with new ideas.

“It’s getting harder after 40-something books to come up with something new… but I try,” he said. “I still enjoy the work and the process. I’ve always said that if it’s not fun, don’t do it.”