A cover blurb on another Dirk Pitt novel compares the hero of Clive Cussler’s novels to James Bond. The comparison is an apt one, especially when it comes to the first two novels in the series, The Mediterranean Caper and Iceberg.
In the same way that Fleming used Bond as a way to comment on the ways in which masculinity could and should be defined, Cussler defines what is masculine through the opinions, actions and attitudes of one Dirk Pitt. For example, in Caper, Pitt meets a women who has been mourning the passing of her husband for a number of years and decides the thing she needs to help her get over his death is to find someone new to make love to. Within moments, Pitt and the woman are having a little sex on the beach (not the alcoholic kind mind you) and the woman is soon totally over her depression and grief and now devoted to Pitt. (In many ways, the scene reminds me of the “cure” put forward in Kevin Smith’s Chasing Amy. If you’ve seen it, you’ll know what I’m talking about).
But the attitude doesn’t just extend to women. Pitt is the alpha male of alpha males in the novel, including wandering around naked at one point while being debriefed by his superior officer. Pitt is also one of the few people in the world to ever navigate his way out of a deadly maze trap, all while wounded and losing blood.
In many ways, Pitt is Jack Bauer and Chuck Norris of his day and age. He lives hard, loves hard and gets the job done. Like Bond or Bauer, Pitt is generally right about his assumptions, while others higher up in authority are wrong. And he’s not afraid to say it or act on his assumptions.
These thoughts occurred to at about the mid-point of Caper and they really helped me to not worry so much about the details of the story and just go along for the ride. I doubt any one will mistake this book for fine literature but as a popcorn, escapist thriller, it’s kind of a fun ride and it certainly does keep the pages turning. Pitt is called in to investigate an aerial attack on a local airbase from a World War II era plane. Is it a ghost come back or could the timing of the attack be tied into the discovery of a wreck just off the coast? Pitt soon finds himself facing a hiding Nazi war criminal, who just happens to be the uncle to his new female love interest. It’s a battle of wits and a race against time for the two.
Again, the less you think about the story and just kind of let it wash over you like a big-budget Hollywood thriller, the happier you’ll probably be. It’s interesting to read the novel thirty plus years after its initial publication and to take note of the multiple references to smoking that litter the novel. Moving forward it will be interesting to see if and how Pitt’s (and to the same extent Cussler’s)attitude toward the use of tobacco changes. I can’t imagine that Pitt would be the smoker in the latest installments that he is here.
So turn the brain off and just enjoy. You may be glad you did.