From a novelist's standpoint, just how damning is it--faint-praise-wise--to have yourself described as one who "knows what makes commercial fiction tick?" That's what Publishers Weekly did to poor Mollie Gregory whose latest work, "Triplets," is one selection discussed here. Along with suggestions of a great deal of money descending on such a novelist, the phrase commercial fiction, also connotes, alas, a certain shallowness marked by the four "S's"-- sexy, slick, searing and shocking. Just how fair is it? A little slick, searing, shocking sex never hurt any best- seller, of course, but, fortunately, most (not all, but most) of them offer a bit more in terms of plot, characterization, and setting, either geographically or historically.
Still and all, novelist Clive Cussler ("Cyclops" and "Raise the Titanic!" among others) is no fool in building his latest global adventure, Treasure, around Dirk Pitt, in tacit acknowledgment of the following that his sexy, green-eyed, do-anything protagonist Pitt has attracted in earlier works. Here's a hero who can stir the libido of a shapely, female, secretary general of the United Nations, even as he is rescuing her in frigid, hip-deep, Arctic waters from a sabotaged airliner. Now that's sexy. The "treasure" here is the great library and museum of Alexandria, Egypt, spirited to safety in AD 391 to keep it from the clutches of Emperor Theodosius. And we're off and running in a race to see which superpower uncovers its hiding place first. You name it, you've got it in "Treasure," 1,600 years after the contents of the library disappeared. In addition to the race for the recovery of the archeological find of many centuries, we've got hostile terrorists from both Egypt and Mexico slaughtering innocents with gay abandon, a cruise ship hijacked with the presidents of Egypt and Mexico aboard, and a knock-down, drag-out finale on a remote island in Tierra del Fuego. Believability survives with fewer dents in its tough hide than you would suspect in this slam-bang rouser. "Treasure" is a Literary Guild Main Selection, and paperback rights have been sold to Pocket Books.