But Cussler’s prose is uniformly and relentlessly awful. Not just in the occasional howler ("You have an annoying proclivity for survival, Mr. Pitt, which is exceeded only by your irritating penchant for intrusion"), but sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, it’s hurried, sloppy, ungrammatical, clichéd.
We finish "Black Wind" with profound relief — that the world has been saved once again, and that we don’t have to read more.
I haven’t read a Dirk Pitt novel in years, but the following story point is enough to keep me from ever reading this one:
Cussler, assisted by his real son Dirk, is a good mechanical plotter. Every few chapters, he puts the Pitts or other good guys in seemingly hopeless predicaments — shot out of the sky in a helicopter, trapped in deep-sea wreckage with air running out, imprisoned in a sinking ship, tied to a platform under a rocket about to be launched — and dares us to guess how they’ll escape. Once, for the fun of it, he cheats. Dirk Junior and Summer, swimming a five-mile-wide river, chased by thugs in a speedboat, are rescued by a restored Chinese junk piloted by … Clive Cussler himself.
I hate it when real-life authors literally insert themselves into their fictional stories as characters… it’s very, very rare when an author can actually pull it off without making the reader cringe (I understand Stephen King manages to make it work in his latest book).
But this review also points out a pet peeve of mine… the rampant use of cliches in bestselling novels. Aren’t editors editing any more? I found the following cliches on just one page of a recent, bestselling thriller:
Let’s rock and roll.
They had all the bells and whistles.
He took one look at her and wanted to head for the hills.
We got down to the nitty-gritty.
Close but no cigar.
He entered the picture and swept me off my feet. He was my knight in shining armor.
How could any author write that last line, in particular, and not hit the delete key? One writer I know defends using cliches like those above by arguing "That’s how people talk."
To me, it’s just bad writing… and more and more of the most successful writers in the mystery-suspense field are doing it and that saddens me, particularly when it’s one of my favorite authors. Perhaps its the pressure of turning out a book a year that’s making them sloppy… or perhaps it’s hubris, getting so big they think they’re "beyond" editing any more. I don’t know. What’s your take?