Dirk Pitt. Seriously. If this book hadn't been written 30 years ago - and ten years before it was finally published - I would swear that Clive Cussler's name of his lead character Dirk Pitt was an obvious wink to Dirk Diggler (Mark Wahlberg in "Boogie Nights") and Brad Pitt (in anything). I can't think of another "Dirk" or "Pitt" that comes anywhere close. He's suave, he's cool, he's - updated for the 80s - wearing "brief white bathing trunks" when first we meet him. And he's sunbathing, no less.
Mr. Pitt - Dirk, not Brad - has starred in 17 of Cussler's swashbuckling adventure thrillers. (Cussler wrote "Pacific Vortex!" first, though it was not published until 1982 when Dirk Pitt was a fixture on the best seller's list. According to "Dirk Pitt Revealed," Cussler's 1998 concordance/encyclopedia of all things Dirk Pitt, "Pacific Vortex!" was initially deemed a weak first effort.) I was tempted to start with "Flood Tide" (1997) or "Atlantis Found" (1999), recent best sellers that are plentiful in paperback and in the remainder bins, but I like my genre novels to unfold in the order the author intended.
But enough exposition: Dirk Pitt is a star in "Pacific Vortex!," and a star for reasons Cussler never intended. He's rugged, debonair and likes the ladies, to be sure, but he screams 80s louder than a Boy George t-shirt. In the picturesque opening scene, Dirk Pitt is sunbathing in those brief white bathing trunks on a Hawaiian beach. As he naps, "[t]he hairy barrel chest that rose slightly with each intake of air, bore specks of sweat that rolled downward in snaillike trails and mingled with the sand." Oh, my. While I read, I alternately imagined him as Tom Selleck circa "Magnum, P.I." and Ben Stiller in "Starsky & Hutch," the real and the surreal - the yin and yang - versions of the 80s man.
The obvious comparison is James Bond, and it's a fair one. Dirk Pitt is comfortable schmoozing over cocktails. In the most unintentionally hilarious scene of the book, two women are literally fighting over Dirk while he suavely sips scotch. "The bruise beneath her right eye had begun the transformation from red to purple, and a small cut on her lower lip unleashed a few drops of blood that trickled down her chin, falling with precise accuracy down the cleavage between her breasts. Pitt still thought she was the most desirably woman he'd ever seen." Enough said. Oddly, there are no bow-chick-a-wow-wow scenes, but you know Dirk's gettin' some. The "sexy" scenes are usually of the slow-motion-body-shimmering-in-the-moonlight variety. Most are hysterical.