I remember being completely captivated as a kid by Indiana Jones. Who wasn’t? I mean the melty face thing was scary but, other than that, it sparked an archeology obsession and a love of history. Pretty sure Indiana Jones did more for archeology in the ’80’s than actual archeology did.
In 2004, National Treasure came out and we got our US history mixed with Knights Templar mixed with Free Masons conspiracy theory crazy on.
Was it as good as Indiana Jones? Nope. Was it still pretty fun? Yup.
And then the following summer, we got another big screen treasure hunter — Dirk Pitt. The movie, Sahara, had a lot more swagger than National Treasure, courtesy of Matthew McConaughey, and was supposed to be the first of multiple movies. It was based on a long-running book series by Clive Cussler and with the charm of McConaughey and sidekick Steve Zahn, it seemed like a pretty entertaining bit of fun.
When I went to see Sahara, I didn’t have any grand expectations beyond wacky, madcap action adventure hijinks. Here’s the thing folks… while I consider myself a film snob, I’m not so snobbish I don’t see a time and a place for wacky, madcap action adventure hijinks that involve Steve Zahn….because any kind of wacky, madcap hijinks with Steve Zahn are… awesome. (seriously – watch Happy, Texas). Add in Rainn Wilson, William H. Macy, and Penelope Cruz and this was one enjoyable trip to the Moroccan desert.
I’m not going to get into the controversy that swarmed the movie. I’ll mention that there was at least one lawsuit filed by Clive Cussler (maybe more) against the film studio and I’m pretty sure there were some counter-suits. Coupled with lackluster box office numbers and reviews, what could have been a long running series of fun summer movies died out with just that first installment.
What I did walk away with back in 2005 was a smile on my face and a piqued interest in the books. Dirk Pitt, the rakish oceanographer, is pretty much exactly what I’d picture for Matthew McConaughey in an action adventure hero flick. Steve Zahn is in his sweet spot as Dirk Pitt’s partner-in-cracking-wise-and-crime, Al Giordano (though decidedly lacking an Italian look about him). It only took me 8 more years to dive into the books but I have made it a summertime reading mission.
Pacific Vortex! is technically the first in the Dirk Pitt Adventure series though it came out a few books into the series.
In a forward by Clive Cussler, he mentions that this book isn’t as tight or detailed as later books so he wasn’t sure he wanted it out there. After encouragement, he went ahead and had it published.
Dirk is kickin’ back in Hawaii on a beach when he spots something floating in the water. Rip currents be damned, he heads out into dicey waters to claim his prize because that’s the kind of guy Dirk Pitt is. He’s rewarded with a US Navy canister full of papers from a submarine that was lost at sea 6 months prior. He takes it to the local naval base and thus begins our hero’s adventure.
There’s a James Bond-esque moment when a random woman attempts to pick up Dirk in a bar only to nail him with a swift and mighty kick to the groin rather than just… well… nail him. Good times for Dirk Pitt.
No surprise here, the book really shines when Dirk hits the ocean on the hunt for the missing submarine, Starbuck, and heads into the “Pacific Vortex.” The Vortex is supposedly a spot in the Pacific akin to the Bermuda Triangle. It wouldn’t be much of an adventure if they didn’t find both the Vortex and the submarine… and they do… and that’s just the beginning of the crazy.
There’s a 6’8″ bad guy with gold eyes, a sexy woman, underwater lairs, and some surprisingly graphic violence but when Dirk is joined by his pal, Al Giordano, the mood is lightened considerably. These two characters fly off the page with witty banter and I’m looking forward to continuing with the books just for these two guys slinging insults and sarcastic encouragement at each other amidst improbable situations.
This is fun summer reading and action adventure good times for anyone who gets a kick out of the genre. I imagine these would also make for enjoyable audio book listens, something I’m not usually into.
The first published Dirk Pitt adventure, The Mediterranean Caper, should be arriving in my hands any day now. It should be interesting to discover the differences between the novel that ended up being the first published versus the first written book that was clearly the inspiration.