Dirk Pitt and Al Giordino: Friendships for Adventure

My next post with examples of friendships from literature has a local flare. I live in the western suburbs of Chicago, so the death of Aurora-born author Clive Cussler gave me the opportunity to include his characters Dirk Pitt and his childhood best friend, Al Giordino, as part of this subset of adventure literature. In my earlier posts, Discovering My Wild Heart and Men Need Get-Aways and Retreats, I wrote that every man needs adventure in their life. The friendship between Pitt and Giorino exemplifies this sense of adventure, even if it is based on fictional characters. 

About Clive Cussler

Clive Eric Cussler (July 15, 1931 – February 24, 2020) was an American adventure novelist and underwater explorer. He was the founder and chairman of the National Underwater and Marine Agency (NUMA), which has discovered more than 60 shipwreck sites and numerous other notable underwater wrecks. Cussler was the sole author or lead author of more than 80 books. His thriller novels, many based on the adventures of Dirk Pitt, have reached The New York Times fiction best-seller list more than 20 times. His novels have inspired various other works of fiction. 

Born in Aurora, Illinois, Clive achieved the rank of Eagle Scout when he was 14. After attending Pasadena City College for two years, he enlisted in the United States Air Force. During the Korean War, he worked as an aircraft mechanic and flight engineer for the Military Air Transport Service (MATS), before becoming a sergeant. After his discharge from the military, Cussler went to work in the advertising industry, first as a copywriter and later as a creative director for two successful advertising agencies. This background likely fueled his sense of adventure. 

Clive and his wife, Barbara Knight remained married for nearly 50 years until her death in 2003. They had three children—Teri, his son, Dirk — the namesake of the Pitt character, and another daughter, Dayna. Teri created and manages the Cussler Museum in Arvada, Colorado, where Cussler’s collection of classic automobiles is on display. After Barbara’s death, Clive later married Janet Horvath, who survived him. Clive was a part-time resident of both Arizona and Colorado. He died at his home in Paradise Valley, Arizona at age 88 of undisclosed causes.

About Dirk Pitt

If you’re a fan of adventure novels, then you’ve probably read about Dirk Pitt, the dashing and adventurous hero featured in Cussler’s novels from 1976 to 2021. 

Dirk is a larger-than-life hero with a commanding presence, a quick wit, and a considerable collection of classic cars. He is 6′ 3″ tall with craggy looks, dark wavy hair, and a rangy build. Cussler refers often to Dirk’s “opaline green eyes”, which can be both alluring or intimidating, as need be. Pitt has a commanding presence which, combined with a quick, sly wit, often infuriates his adversaries and superiors. Dirk’s comical banter, especially during stressful situations, leaves little doubt that he is confident in his abilities.

His weapon of choice is a Colt .45-caliber M1911 semi-automatic pistol that he received from his father. His drink of choice is blue agave Tequila. Dirk believes that quality tequila should be drunk straight with salt and lime, preferring to use cheaper tequila in margaritas. He wears an orange-faced Doxa Sub 300T Professional dive watch.

Dirk is the son of Senator George Pitt of California. He graduated from the United States Air Force Academy and served as a pilot during the Vietnam War. An accomplished pilot qualified to fly both fixed-wing and rotary aircraft, Dirk attained the rank of major in the Air Force. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, a Silver Star, and a Purple Heart

Dirk’s Sense of Adventure

After leaving the Air Force, Dirk worked as a marine engineer for the National Underwater and Marine Agency (NUMA), an oceanographic research organization headed by the fictional character, Admiral James Sandecker. In his career at NUMA, Dirk made numerous shipwreck discoveries and thwarted countless plans by villains intent on global catastrophe or world domination.

In later novels, Dirk becomes head of NUMA after Sandecker is appointed Vice President of the United States due to the sudden death of his predecessor. Despite his promotion, Pitt is uncomfortable with a desk job, and still heads numerous projects in the field. Throughout the novels, Dirk becomes entangled in villainous plots just as easily as before his promotion. Somehow, Dirk manages to find adventure, despite his desk-bound role. 

Dirk was brought to life twice on the big screen. In the 1980 movie adaptation of Raise the Titanic, Richard Jordan played Dirk Pitt. In 2005’s Sahara, Matthew McConaughey plays Dirk with Steve Zahn as Dirk’s best friend, Al Giordino (shown in the feature image for this post). 

About Al Giordino

Albert Cassius Giordino is Dirk Pitt’s childhood friend. He first appears in The Mediterranean Caper, Cussler’s first book published in 1973. According to this post, Al’s character is based on Cussler’s real-life Air Force buddy, Al Giordano. Years later when Cussler was writing Pacific Vortex, he thought the hero should have a sidekick. He included Giordino with all the elements of the original man (but changed the spelling of his last name). 

Al Giordino is just 5’4″ in height and 175 lbs. Cussler often describes Al as the ‘burly Italian’ with dark curly hair, swarthy skin, dark Etruscan eyes, and a Roman nose. Without an ounce of fat on his body, Al is stocky and strong. He lost his pinky finger on his right hand when he jammed it into the barrel of a gun held by the villain, Delphi Moran.

Al Giordino attended elementary school with Dirk, and the two are friends since their first kindergarten fight. Giordino played tackle on his high school football team quarterbacked by Pitt. Giordino and Pitt both attended the United States Air Force Academy and served together in the last days of the Vietnam War. Afterward, Giordino joined NUMA with Pitt at the request of Admiral James Sandecker. As “Assistant Special Projects Director,” Al retains his rank of Captain from the Air Force.

Al is the first person Dirk calls if he is in a bind. He is extremely protective of Dirk and will call him out if he thought that Dirk takes an unnecessary risk. Al and Dirk’s comical banter is especially evident during stressful situations, leaving readers little doubt that both are confident in their abilities.

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GodBuddy Focus

One of my GodBuddies, Tim is a big fan of the Clive Cussler books. It’s probably because Tim lived in Aurora, Illinois for many years and was also an Eagle Scout. He was my camping buddy during our younger days in Scouting. We took two of our sons to Philmont Scout Ranch. Like Dirk and Al, Tim and I were adventure buddies. 

In my introductory post to Examples of Real-life Friendships, I described the five archetypes of friends that every man needs in his “inner circle.” These include the Mentor, the Wingman/Bachelor, the Handyman, the Fitness Buff, the Work Pal, and my personal favorite, the GodBuddy. Adventure can come through one or more of these archetypes.

John Eldredge, the author of the best-selling book, Wild at Heart, writes that God hard-wired adventure, risk-taking, and passion into our souls to keep us from succumbing to temptation and sin.  The reality is that every man needs adventure in their life.

Every man also needs a GodBuddy. If you do not have either of these among your inner circle of friends, go find them. Your God Buddy can help you win the battle against The Biggest Challenges Men Face: Resisting Temptations. He can also rekindle any lost sense of adventure because Eldridge also writes, “Life is not a problem to be solved, it is an adventure to be lived.”

My next post is examples of friendships from the comics.

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