C is for Continuous Catastrophe (Cussler)

What I read: Raise the Titanic! by Clive Cussler.

"C" was hard. I've read and skimmed lots of lots of "Cs"--Cabot, Card, Caudwell, Cherryh, Christie, Clancy, Clarke (Arthur C.), Conrad.

I decided to read Raise the Titanic! by Cussler. I got through two chapters and gave up.

To be fair, I wasn't just put off by the bad writing. Clive Cussler writes a type of story that I just can't wrap my mind around entertainment-wise. This could, admittedly, be a gal thing.

Cussler writes the type of adventure story in which an Alpha male runs around saving people and bedding women. The adventures are usually international/political/military in scope. They are almost exclusively plot-oriented rather than character or narrative-oriented. Instead of the story being the result of the characters' internal or external choices OR the result of a narrative arc, such as a mystery or romance (dead body, detective work, confrontation, everybody goes home; romantic meeting, separation, union, everybody gets married), the plot is a series of events: this happens, then this happens, then this happens, then this happens.

I never have been able to read The Da Vinci Code, not because it offends me (although I think silly history is, well, silly history) but because it is this type of novel. This reaction is normal for me. In general, the opening action sequence for this type of novel never hooks me. I don't care about the characters; I don't care if the world is ending; I don't care if there's a conspiracy going on somewhere. (I can usually watch this type of movie, by the way; I just can't read the books.)

I'm also not a big fan of the James Bond type of Alpha male. I'm not opposed to action Alpha males in general. I quite like Bruce Willis in Die Hard and in Shymalan's movies. I'm a huge fan of Jason Bourne. I like Batman, that introverted Alpha male, and Superman, that extroverted Alpha male. But then--it's got to be a gal thing--all the Alpha males I've listed are one-woman guys . . . except for Batman who is a kind of collective misanthrope.

But the "love 'em and leave 'em" stuff leaves me cold. To be fair, I don't especially like women action figures who are all about "my tough lonely life where I pick up people and drop them but still manage to remain attractive even though I'm a complete jerk."

So Cussler was possibly not the best choice for me (although I do like all things Titanic!). However, for those of you who ARE into Cussler's type of action writing, I recommend Clancy or Cornwell or even Fleming himself. Cussler--at least in Raise the Titanic!--is a pretty horrible writer. He actually has a main character give one of those monologues that are usually held up as "never do this" examples to beginning writers:
Nancy, I know you are depressed due to losing your baby last year after three years in the mental institution where you went after I put your brother behind bars for a drug deal in which you were partially implicated . . . (Not from Cussler's book, but you get the idea.)
On the other hand, editors keep telling me (about my stories), "Well-written, but I'm not sure what's going on," so maybe Cussler has the right idea.


Joe said...

How about Jon Cleary? He's a mixed bag, but has some good books.

John Creasy has some good books. (I vaguely recall reading a few good books by him, but being bored by the rest.)

I suppose you've read Michael Crichton (another mixed bag.)

Raymond Chandler?

Kate Woodbury said...

Michael Crichton does the heavy exposition stuff too, but it's interesting heavy exposition: research made light but not totally boring or devoid of content. The Jeff Goldblum character has WAY more to say in the novel version of Jurassic Park, and I got a kick out of reading his monologues.

I guess explanatory exposition is like moralizing when it comes to writing--it works as long as the author has something to say!