Noted underwater explorer, Air Force Veteran, and novelist, Clive Eric Cussler, died this week at age 88, leaving a hole on book racks and in the hearts of his fans.
“It is with a heavy heart that I want to share the sad news that my husband, Clive passed away on Monday,” noted his wife Janet on the author’s social media account on Wednesday. “It has been a privilege and a great honor to share in his life. I want to thank you, his fans and friends for all the support, for all the good times and all the adventures you have shared with him.”
Cussler, born in Aurora, Illinois in 1931, was an Eagle Scout who went on to serve in the military during the Korean War. While working in advertising in the 1960s, he took up writing fiction on the side and found success in thriller novels featuring the swaggering Dirk Pitt, a decorated Air Force pilot on loan to a fictional maritime agency who often finds himself a human monkey wrench thrust into the center of international intrigue and buried treasure.
Importantly, Pitt was legendary when it comes to stoking modern gun culture. Just about any firearm that you could think of has graced the pages of a Clive Cussler novel.
The guns of Dirk Pitt
Between 1973 and 2018, Pitt appeared in at least 25 high-octane adventure novels– two of which were made into movies— all featuring a lot of serious hardware in addition to a range of classic cars, damsels in distress, and international thugs of all sorts with which to engage. As such, he predated today’s “American James Bond” figures such as Robert Ludlum’s Jason Bourne and Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan.
Pitt’s go-to firearms were often classics: an M1911 carried by his father in World War II “from Normandy to the Elbe River,” an early M1921 Thompson submachine gun with 50-round drums, and a Mauser .32ACP pocket pistol taped behind a bottle of gin in Pitt’s refrigerator. He was also sometimes a fan of having “car guns” as shown off when a well-placed select-fire Model 712 Schnellfeuer came in handy on a drive.
While Pitt’s loyal sidekicks, Rudi Gunn and Al Giordino, were typically armed with a variety of wholesome American iron like Smith & Wesson revolvers, Vest Pocket .25s and Remington 1100 shotguns, bad guys were just as typically armed with any variety of bad guy guns such as Makarov pistols, Broomhandle Mausers, and Lugers. There are also heavy sprinklings of popular firearms like the HK MP5, Ruger P-85 pistols, and Benelli Super 90 shotguns. For good measure and when the going got really tough, RPGs, anti-tank guns and even black-powder cannons could be found and put to good use, as one does.
Exotic pieces such as a Colt Woodsman .22LR with a “four-inch suppressor,” a Glisenti pistol, an Aserma (Protecta) Bulldog shotgun, Patchett submachine guns, and a LeMat revolver make guest appearances.
Several fictional guns existed only in Cussler’s supercharged imagination. These included the Mosby underwater rifle, the Israeli-South African Felo gun that fires “swarms of razor-sharp disks capable of severing an eight-inch tree trunk with one burst” and the 20-shot Hocker-Rodine suppressed pistol in .27-caliber. One book includes a Holland & Holland shotgun named “Lucifer” while another has a Vulcan cannon by the name of “Madeline.”
Still, Cussler pulled his punches a tad when it came to firearms at least. In Cyclops, where (spoiler alert) part of the action involves U.S. moon colonists defending their secret base against pesky Soviet cosmonauts, it is not a laser gun but a straight-shooting National Match M-14 that helps save the day.
A manufacturer of heroes, Cussler’s other series such as the more recent Issac Bell books, which are set in the early 20th Century, see period guns of that era put to good use against bootleggers, gangsters, and cutthroats– with the occasional dirty Bolshevik thrown in for good measure. Then there are the NUMA files books, which feature a very Pitt-like Kurt Austin as the hero, and the spin-off Oregon files series with the tough Juan Cabrillo.
In all, Cussler had a hand in more than 80 published novels, as well as several non-fiction and children’s’ books.
As a hobby, he founded the NUMA shipwreck hunting non-profit organization which discovered some of the most important shipwrecks in history including the Civil War submarine Hunley.
“He was the kindest, most gentle man I ever met. I have always loved him and always will,” said Janet Cussler, “I know his adventures will continue.”