Recently author Tom Clancy passed away at the age of 66. Clancy’s military fiction was a big part of my teenage years and I thought I would rate my personal top 5 Clancy novels and following those is a reprint of the obituary I published on the day of his passing.
1. Without Remorse
Author Tom Clancy has passed away at the age of 66, according to the New York Times. Clancy died last night in a hospital in Baltimore.
Clancy was one of the definitive military/espionage writers of the late-Cold War to post-9/11 era. His books were cutting edge in their vision of global politics and threat assessment. In his book Debt of Honor, published in 1994, terrorists from Japan fly a hijacked airliner into the US Capitol during a joint session of Congress, killing most of the government. At the time it seemed wildly fictional. Seven years later, it proved eerily prophetic.
Clancy’s most enduring creation was the character of Jack Ryan, a history professor reluctantly pulled into a career with the CIA. Ryan rises through the books until he’s Vice-President when the Debt of Honor plane crash elevates him to President of the United States. Later books would also feature Ryan’s son, Jack Jr., following in his father’s footsteps in the current war on terror.
Most of Clancy’s novels feature Ryan in some capacity or another and four of Hollywood’s biggest actors have portrayed him onscreen. Alec Baldwin in The Hunt for Red October; Harrison Ford in Patriot Games and Clear & Present Danger; Ben Affleck in The Sum of All Fears; and the series is rebooting with the self-titled Jack Ryan starring Chris Pine set to release this Christmas.
I devoured Clancy’s novels during high school. I’ve never really had a fear of page count where books were concerned and you can probably credit Clancy for that as some of his could be used as effective blunt force weapons in hardback (I think Executive Orders is in the 1300 page range). I read them because my grandfather read them and it gave us something to talk about, but I really ended up getting into them and a lot of what I know about military, intelligence, and geo-political worldview came from reading Clancy’s books.
He wasn’t Twain or Steinbeck, but he never pretended to be. He wrote what he knew and meticulously researched. He wrote compelling, intelligent, complex fiction. His grasp of global and military trends was uncanny and there’s no one else writing the genre he dominated that’s even worth mentioning. Literature is poorer for his departure. I’ll paste the AP obit below.
In a career that spanned three decades, Clancy became one of the most successful figures in publishing. His name above a title was a calling card that conferred best-seller status on his espionage and military thrillers and inspired a dizzying array of tie-ins ranging from movies to video games. His books reveled in the technological details of spy-craft and weaponry, spending paragraphs recounting the various features of a nuclear submarine or a fighter plane, for instance.
His most enduring creation may have been Jack Ryan, the patriotic and morally upright CIA analyst turned politician at the center of more than a dozen novels including “The Sum of All Fears” and “The Cardinal of the Kremlin.” The character was notable because his life and ascent mirrored the tectonic changes taking place in American foreign policy throughout Clancy’s writing career, as the country moved away from Cold War brinksmanship and turned its gaze to terrorist threats in the Middle East.
The character will appear once again in “Command Authority,” an upcoming novel scheduled for release on Dec. 3 that finds Ryan returning to the hot spot where it all started and grappling with a new threat in Russia.
The printed page could not hold Ryan. His literary exploits inspired four big-screen adventures, with Harrison Ford, Alec Baldwin and Ben Affleck all portraying the intelligence expert in commercially successful films like “Clear and Present Danger” and “The Sum of All Fears.” “Jack Ryan: Shadow One,” a fifth Ryan film starring Chris Pine and directed by Kenneth Branagh, opens in theaters this December.
In addition to films, Clancy lent his name to a series of popular video games such as “Splinter Cell” from game maker UbiSoft. He was also a part-time owner of the Baltimore Orioles.
A political conservative and prominent supporter of the National Rifle Association, Clancy made headlines when he blamed liberal lawmakers for gutting the CIA and indirectly causing the attacks on September 11.
“The CIA was gutted by people on the political left who don’t like Intelligence operations … and as a result of that, as an indirect result of that, we lost 5,000 citizens,” the author told Bill O’Reilly during a FOX News appearance shortly after the attacks.