14 May 2007

Clive Cussler. Iceberg, 1975.

We've done Proust, we've done Tolkien but this guy outsells them both. 'Iceberg' is what we call in the trade 'underpinned', that is having a large customer base, if one guy doesn't want it another one will. A very cool book...

'Just seventy-two hours ago Dirk Pitt was lying in the hot California sun with a beautiful woman, a Scotch on the rocks in one hand, but an urgent call from Admiral James Sandecker, his commander at the National Underwater and Marine Agency (NUMA), has brought Pitt out of the warm Pacific breezes and straight into a North Atlantic deep freeze. The reason: the discovery of a long-missing luxury yacht, en route to a secret White House rendezvous, frozen solid in a million-ton tombstone of ice..."

Clive Cussler. ICEBERG. Dodd, Mead, NY 1975.

Current Prices $1500-$2000 / £750-£1000

Cussler's second novel and the first in hardback. An ocean adventure thriller featuring Major Dirk Pitt. An ebay special and with 5000 printed there is usually one on there, although it is said that many went to libraries. He has a customer base most authors would die for and there are 70 wants for this book at ABE alone, mostly people hoping for that elusive fine copy at a bearable price in which case they have to be fast to the draw. CC is so popular that one website proudly proclaims that it is the 'number one Clive Cussler website in the world.' This is the 'Society of Cusslermen' -- you don't mess with them.

VALUE? These days it is hard to find a nice first in d/w for less than $1500 and signed fine ones can be double that. Book appears to be rising in value, an indication of collecting trends. An ebay shop featured a fairly decent one at $1565 summer of 06. This sold or vanished. People even charge serious money for Large Print copies, Young Person's editions decimated ex libs and there are some, imho deluded souls, wanting $1000 for the 1996 edition. The 1996 Simon and Schuster re-issue edition can go for $300+ and should have the 10987654321 line to be right, the Book Club edition can make over $200.

I first did an entry on Cussler 6 months ago and his prices have risen about 10% since then. I dare say that eventually they will flatten out and then gently fall, Dirk Pitt is not Sherlock Holmes or even Bond and there are no cult movies yet. Cussler is, in fact, suing - so lousy and forgettable was the last Dirk movie 'Sahara'. As one report has it, Cussler considers that:
'Sahara’s flop did near-fatal damage to his career — which is possible, I suppose, only if you factor in the hypothetical millions Cussler might have made if Sahara had spawned a Dirk Pitt franchise. (Pitt’s the hero of most of Cussler’s novels — now that he’s been irreparably McConaughey'ed, he’s unlikely to find his way back to the screen.)'

Thorstein Veblen put forward the creditable notion that men are at their height as consumers and collectors in their 40s and, possibly these days,their 50s. Presumably these are the ones buying Cussler and driving the market. As they age the price will fall unless, as was the case with Bond, a new generation come along waving credit cards. I can't see the ringtone generation going for Major Dirk Pitt when they are at the height of their collecting powers.

The author's prose described on one site as 'not just wooden but petrified' is not relevant to action fans, and great prose and great adventure seldom go together (Buchan, Household, Stevenson, Ambler - maybe?) The NY Times said of 'Raise the Titanic' (1976) '...seldom has a book with such an exciting idea been so poorly written. Cussler is the cliché expert nonpareil.' The 'wooden' critic goes on to say '...the Pitt series is the closest thing going to that highwater mark of cartoonish derring-do, Ian Fleming's James Bond novels, and the rollicking rough-and-tumble here should satisfy most action fans just fine.' 

Vanitas vanitatis et omnia vanitas. I was talking of the vanity of writers the other day and nothing surpasses the arrogance of world masters of schlock (weltschlockmeisters?). If you measure literary success by money these guys are the world's greatest writers, leaving the likes of Martin Amis and Don DeLillo crying in their beer. A friend on Jersey said that he ran into best selling novelist Jack Higgins, whom he vaguely knows, and Higgins was complaining loudly and bitterly about how he keeps getting recognised and bothered by people. As he walked away he couldn't help notice that the back of the great writer's sweatshirt was emblazoned with a name - Jack Higgins.[ W/Q **** ]

No comments: