His death was announced by his wife, Janet Horvath, on the author’s official Twitter page. No cause of death was given.
“It is with a heavy heart that I share the sad news that my husband Clive passed away Mon.,” Horvath wrote. “It has been a privilege to share in his life. I want to thank you his fans & friends for all the support. He was the kindest most gentle man I ever met.I know, his adventures will continue.”
Although he wrote more than 80 books — with a specialty in action, adventure and undersea stories — Cussler is best known in Hollywood for the two novels that didn’t make particularly good movies. The 2005 film Sahara starring Matthew McConaughey and Penelope Cruz so angered the author that he sued Philip Anschutz’s Crusader Entertainment for changing the 1992 novel’s storyline and dialogue, and for not including the author in the film’s development.
After filing a lawsuit in 2004, even before the movie bombed at the box office the following year, Cussler continued his multimillion-dollar legal battle — and fought a countersuit — for nearly a decade. Neither side was a clear victor, with the Second Appellate District for California’s Appeals Court writing in 2012 that “both sides recovered nothing — not one dime of damages and no declaratory relief.”
His breakthrough novel, 1976’s Raise the Titanic!, was a bestseller in what would become a lifetime roster of about 85 novels reflecting sales in excess of 100 million copies, “with vast numbers,” as The New York Times has put it, “sold in paperback at airports.”
Raise the Titanic! was adapted into a 1980 feature film, directed by Jerry Jameson and starring Jason Robards, Richard Jordan, David Selby, Anne Archer and Sir Alec Guinness. Like Sahara after it, the film was a box office disaster, grossing a fraction of its estimated $40 million budget. The film’s producer, Lew Grade, famously remarked “it would have been cheaper to lower the Atlantic.”
Director Breck Eisner’s Sahara, which starred McConaughey as Cussler’s frequent fictional hero, the explorer Dirk Pitt, often is listed among Hollywood’s worst flops, grossing only $119 million worldwide against a budget in excess of $130 million. A potential Dirk Pitt film franchise was abandoned.
Cussler called the film “awful.”
In addition to writing, Cussler was an avid explorer of shipwrecks and sunken treasures and founded the National Underwater & Marine Agency, a nonprofit organization dedicated to American maritime and naval history. He also collected and restored vintage cars.
The writer’s 48-year marriage to Barbara Knight ended with her death in 2003. His wife Janet Horvath survives him, as do children Teri, Dirk and Dayna; four grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.