Author Clive Cussler, whose adventure novels have landed on the New York Times bestseller list more than 20 times, and who made Dirk Pitt a thriller series legend, will accept the Colorado Authors’ League Lifetime Achievement Award at its annual awards banquet on Friday, May 8. Winners in 10 writing categories will be named in CAL’s 67th contest climax. Guest speaker for the gala at the Courtyard Marriott-Denver Cherry Creek will be Sandra Dallas, author , storyteller, and one of Colorado’s literary treasures.
Tickets for $50 will be available soon and will be closed at 160, capacity in the Skyline Ballroom. Social hour starts at 6 p.m., dinner at 7 p.m. Please visit this page and click on the PayPal button to reserve your spot.
Cussler, a CAL member since 1975 and a past president of the organization, is the second recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award. Lois Beebe Hayna, a prolific Colorado poet, was honored with the inaugural award last year.
Cussler sits among the pantheon of modern thriller writers that includes Clancy, Follett, DeMille, Clavell, Forsyth, Smith and more. After starting to write novels in 1965, Cussler published his first book, the Dirk Pitt thriller Mediterranean Caper, in 1973. Since then he has added some 60 books of fiction and non-fiction, and even a children’s adventure series.
“I have never considered myself as much a writer as an entertainer,” Cussler writes at his web site. “I’ve sincerely felt that my job was to entertain you the reader in such a manner that when you reached the end of the book you felt that you had got your money’s worth.”
At least two of his series, the Dirk Pitt Adventures and the NUMA Files, probably contributed to making scuba diving the obsessive pastime that it is today. Pitt is the modern-day swashbuckler and classic car collector who Raised The Titanic; NUMA, or the National Underwater Marine Agency, plays a fictional role in Cussler’s books, but also is a very real non-profit research team dedicated to American naval and maritime history.
Cussler and his crew of marine experts and NUMA volunteers have discovered over sixty historically significant underwater wreck sites. After verifying their finds, NUMA turns the rights to the artifacts over to non-profits, universities or government entities all over the world. Some of these finds include the C.S.S. Hunley, best known as the first submarine to sink a ship in battle, and the U-20, the German U-boat that sank the Lusitania. In addition to serving as chairman of NUMA, Cussler is a fellow in both the Explorers Club of New York and the Royal Geographic Society in London.
In creating Pitt, one other thing about Cussler’s hero is real—the classic cars. Cussler, in addition to his writing and underwater expeditions, has become world-renowned for his collection of more than 100 exotic and expensive automobiles. Ranging in years from 1906 to 1965, they fill a gleaming museum he still keeps in Arvada, Colo.
Cussler grew up in Alhambra, California. He enlisted in the Air Force during the Korean War where he served as an aircraft mechanic and flight engineer in the Military Air Transport Service. Upon his discharge, he became a copywriter and later creative director for two leading advertising agencies. At that time, he wrote and produced radio and television commercials that won numerous international awards—one at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival.
Even as his Dirk Pitt adventures gained popularity, Cussler published his first non-fiction work, The Sea Hunters, in 1996. One year later, the Board of Governors of the Maritime College-State University of New York accepted The Sea Hunters in lieu of a Ph.D. thesis and awarded Cussler a Doctor of Letters degree—the first time that the college, founded in 1874, bestowed such a degree.
Adding still more star power to the awards banquet, Sandra Dallas is the author of 13 novels, two young reader books and ten works of non-fiction. She is a three-time winner of the Women Writing the West Willa Award. She has won both the National Cowboy Museum’s Wrangler Award and the Western Writers of America Spur Award twice, and in 2014 she was the recipient of the Eleanor Gheres Award from the Denver Public Library and the Frank Waters Award from the Pikes Peak Library District.
A second special award, CAL’s Authors’ Advocate Award, will also be presented to two local literary women, Margaret “Maggie” Coval, executive director of Colorado Humanities, and Josephine Jones, director of programs and the Center for the Book for Colorado Humanities.
The Authors’ Advocate Award, also established last year, isn’t necessarily an annual award. It is presented only when the CAL Board of Directors believes there are deserving selections. The criteria are to recognize individuals and organizations that have done so much work behind the scenes to promote and support the craft of writing and the lives of writers. Colorado Humanities probably only exists today thanks to Coval’s leadership, and under Jones’ direction the Center for the Book and the Colorado Books Awards have flourished.