An author’s racket: Clive Cussler

Do you know any bestselling authors whose names appear on their book covers but they didn’t write their books?

We were at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe on Friday evening, looking for a way to pass the time. Clive Cussler and his son Dirk were scheduled to appear at 7 p.m. I’ve always enjoyed listening to authors, and have set up many author events when I owned Oz Books.

Maybe I’ll learn something about writing, I mistakenly thought.

The two Cusslers hopped onto the small stage, launching into the obligatory writer stories. First some repetitive and boring blabber from Dirk about getting his dad to begin work on their latest adventure saga, “Crescent Dawn.”

Each instance of approaching the older Cussler ended with “I skulked away with my head down…” But the Cusslers had their adoring fans, carrying shopping bags laden with hardcovers waiting to be signed, which wasn’t lost on Clive.

I don’t even remember his writer’s story, but I was surprised that he so quickly asked the audience, “Are you ready to have some books signed?”

A treasure hunter and diver, the 79-year-old Cussler didn’t look his age. His bronzed face made him look like an adventurer.  Hearing him talk briefly about diving down into the ancient Alexandria, Egypt library confirmed that indeed he was.

Dressed in a big sweatshirt and casual pants, Cussler appeared ready to hightail it back to the Biltmore for a few gin and tonics. But his die-hard fans had some questions. Someone asked about the collaboration between father and son, “How much do you each write?”

“Oh, Dirk wrote about 99 and 44 [/100] of the last four books”  (like the old Ivory soap ad), Clive told the audience. Father and son have a formula that sells books. Many readers like to know what they’re getting into. A little mystery, some history, tension, perhaps a battle or conflict, more tension, and denouement. I guess they deliver.

I looked at the first page of “Crescent Dawn,” and was bored with the overblown descriptions. I prefer more subtle fiction with lots of introspection, complex characters, language that won’t let me go.

Clive had been in advertising before writing his first novel. His son Dirk was a financial planner. Do they know how to make money? You betcha.

What a racket they’ve got going!

I like the sound effects on Clive’s website, tingly ship bells, ocean swooshes. I clicked on a listing of his books. Canned music played that you’d hear when your dentist puts you on hold.

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