Arguably the very first “cheap thriller” I read was Fire Ice, in Clive Cussler’s NUMA Files. By this point (unbeknownst to me at the time), he had already entered his “Tom Clancy’s” phase, farming out a lot of spinoffs to different authors. One of my favorite and most enduring books of this time is Skeleton Coast.
The Oregon Files involves the titular super-ship disguised as a tramp freighter and its commander, Juan Cabrillo. Here it battles African rebels and a plot by an evil environmentalist to cause an environmental crisis (Trust me-do not expect the plots of Cussler books to make sense). There’s also the classic Cussler “Historical Flashback To The Present MacGuffin” scenes, which I was never the fondest of.
What makes Skeleton Coast succeed is its climactic battle. In many other books, the Oregon hasn’t really faced threats that are worthy of its armament and abilities. Here, it fights an army with all its firepower, and the result is very well done by cheap thriller standards. It feels a little more natural and a little less gimmicky than other Cussler books. For someone wanting to experience the huge “Cussler Franchise”, this book is one of the better entries.