9:35 PM 30 APRIL 2017
There was a time when Dirk Pitt was one of my favourite fictional heroes and Clive Cussler the master at placing his creation in the most intriguing of plot-lines. Who can forget, “Raise the Titanic” (1976), which brought the world’s attention to the ‘National Underwater & Marine Agency’ (NUMA), led by the phlegmatic Admiral Sandecker and his resourceful, but unruly director of operations. The echoes of James Bond are unmistakable, yet the brand of Dirk Pitt novels has also been synonymous with raucous adventure, just without the accompanying blockbuster movie franchise (a couple of spin-off movies have not remotely done justice to the original Cussler books). Not that comparative failure at the box office should diminish the written word, wherein the author has retained a solid readership.In fact, “Iceberg” (1975) preceded Mr Cussler’s seminal novel and clearly Dirk Pitt and his crew received further polish, but the familiar format is established here.
Based on an unlikely, though plausibly fascinating premise, Cussler nurtures the reader’s curiosity, suspends incredulity and weaves a spectacular tale of against-the-odds triumph of good over evil. The Bond-esque one-liners, the steely-eyed propensity for violence, Pitt’s gritty good looks and predictable womanizing gives a rather dated feel to the macho hero. Still, the OTT, unreal nature of the characters and the plot are perhaps just necessary components of the genre’s worship of unadulterated escapism. Whatever the flaws, it’s a fast-moving yarn that in the past might have been described as ‘swashbuckling’ and the protagonists get the appropriate comeuppance!
Sadly the thrill I experienced following Dirk Pitt as a teenage reader, isn’t so vivid today, but perhaps, just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, emotional grip is very much in the mind of the reader. Unlike DP, I have got older!