Tom Clancy at home on the range (courtesy chron.com)

“Spy thriller writer Tom Clancy, whose best-selling books became blockbuster films, has died, his publisher said Wednesday. He was 66.” CNN and the other news orgs are highlighting Clancy’s relatively firearm-free thriller The Hunt for Red October [excluding the shoot-out in the missile silo]. Most of his 28 novels were far more gun-intensive—to say the least. [Click here for imfdb.org’s database of films and video games based on Clancy’s books.] The deeply conservative author’s work was a trifle turgid; his style certainly didn’t improve with age. But Clancy was meticulous about accurately portraying his characters’ firearms. When the author starting making the big bucks, he spent countless hours firing exotic weaponry in his private, underground gun range. Yup, full-auto (Clancy’s go-to home defense weapon was an HK machine gun). Clancy was one of us.

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87 Responses to BREAKING: Tom Clancy Dead at 66

      • Granted. It would have taken a 10 hour miniseries to cover all the events in the book, and it would have been horrendously expensive if it were done right.

        It would be somewhat easier today with modern computer graphics, but good luck selling it to a tv network.

        “In a nutshell: It’s World War Three, but it’s almost all conventional, NATO vs. the Warsaw Pact”.

        “But…there is no more Warsaw Pact. It disbanded over 20 years ago.”

        “it’s set in the ’80s”.

        “But WW3 didn’t happen.”

        “Think of it as an alternate past.”

        “Um…huh?”

      • +1, I’ve read and reread that book many times. I think I’ve read all of Clancy’s books (not many of the coauthored ones though), he will be missed.

  1. Wow, what a shame. He was younger than I imagined. He always has been and remains one of my favorite authors. Red Storm Rising is still one of the best things I’ve ever read.

    • I really loved his early and mid-career hard-core novels. Too bad he kind of went off the rails with his franchised and ghost-written novels in his later career. Even the stuff he did with Steve Perry (who, on his own, is one of my favorite authors) didn’t quite measure up to his heavy-duty novels.

      It seemed to me that the end of the Cold War and the subsequent muddled, confusing geopolitics of the 2000’s kind of took the wind out of his sails. Much easier to write good mil/tech thrillers when you have well defined nation-state opponents. Good luck making a clear-cut case for all-out war with China, when they make half of our consumer goods.

      • I think I’ve read one, maybe two of his “co-authored” or “in name only” books, and I think they were both from the “Op-Center” series. I haven’t read any of the Jack Ryan, Jr. or “The Campus” books after Teeth of the Tiger, because by then the storylines just weren’t that interesting to me, and everything after Teeth was co-written. Basically, for me, Teeth of the Tiger was one book too far in that series, as Jack Ryan’s story arc had basically ended, and continuing it with his son held zero interest for me.

      • “Heather blames our marriege problems on the collapse of the Berlin wall.”

        “Well Burt, you did take that kinda hard.”

  2. Favorite Tom Clancy movie/game/book. GO!!

    Movie: Red October
    Game: Rainbow Six Vegas
    Book: Rainbow Six (note: VERY long)

      • Rainbow Six the book and game were great.I also liked Ghost recon a few years later. The Rainbow Six games was challenging and one of the first “one shot you are dead” games I can remember. 66 is too young to go these days.

    • Movie: Patriot Games

      Ryanverse book: Clear and Present Danger

      Non-Ryanverse: RSR

      Game: Rainbow Six: Rogue Spear (the best era of gaming!)

      RIP Tom, you will be missed!

  3. Grew up reading and playing Rainbow Six and Ghost Recon. No bueno, I wonder if they will license his name out like crazy now?

    • Too late. He started doing “franchise novels” with his name in big letters, and the actual author’s name in much smaller ones, in the latter stages of his career.

  4. Definitely agree with RF’s comment that Clancy’s “style certainly didn’t improve with age.”

    His early stuff was amazing: Hunt for Red October, Red Storm Rising, Patriot Games, etc.

    • Clancy’s divorce, and the attendant legal wranglings (which locked up the “Jack Ryan” brand for quite a while), really messed up his writing, and his finances. And them of course 9/11, when the world because stranger than Clancy fiction.

      Great – Hunt for Red October, Red Storm Rising, Patriot Games, Cardinal of the Kremlin, Clear and Present Danger and Sum of All Fears.

      Almost Great – Without Remorse and Rainbow Six.

      Good – Debt of Honor, Executive Order, the Bear and the Dragon.

      Amost Good – Red Rabbit and Dead or Alive.

      Not So Good – Teeth of the Tiger (ok, f’n awful), Against All Enemies and Threat Vector

      • I sorta forgot about Cardinal of the Kremlin, but I’d put that right up there at the top of my list with RSR. I’ve probably read it a half dozen times, but the scene at the top of the hill at Camp David still gives me chills.

      • I didn’t know about the divorce. That explains a lot.

        Love your list, too. My minor quibble is I would move “Without Remorse” into the “Great” category.

        • Yeah, Clancy’s divorce is right up there with Heinlein’s stroke in terms of being a legendary career-interrupter for a tier-1 writer. Ditto for Stephen King’s near-fatal encounter with a hit-and-run driver.

      • I didn’t find “Teeth of the Tiger” to be so much “awful” as much as “unsatisfying”. It just kind of… stops. I read the last page and immediately flipped it up to inspect the binding thinking some pages had fallen out of the back. Quite a contrast to the hellfire ending of “Patriot Games”.

  5. One of my favorite authors. BTW, Red October wasn’t exactly firearm-free, you forgot the shootout among the missile silos in the Red October.

    • Yeah, everybody loves origin stories, and combine that with righteous revenge, you’ve got an unbeatable combination.

  6. Red Storm Rising was probably one of the best Cold War what-if novels ever written, but my favorite Clancy work was Without Remorse, the origin story of John Clark. I think it would make a great movie, but Hollywood would never touch it for reasons that will be clear on reading it.

    RIP, Tom Clancy .. only the good die young.

  7. TO: Robert Farago
    RE: Turgid?

    Hardly ‘turgid’ if you had a mind to learn how things work.

    For instance, how to go about ‘craft work’ being a ‘spy’, or rather, as John Clark/Kelly put it in Executive Orders a ‘field officer’. Then there’s learning about how to make ebola into a REAL Weapon of Mass Destruction (WMD).

    All the other novels in the Jack Ryan series tell/teach you other important aspects of ‘Life’ in the world of shadows.

    I’m gonna miss him.

    Regards,

    Chuck(le)
    [Education: Replacing an empty mind with an open one.]

    • Uhm, no. He frequently relied on easy concidences, had irrelevant side plots and tangents that distracted from the main story (see: Eliot’s vendetta with Ryan). He simply wasn’t a great writer at the end of his career. His early stuff was much better. I’d imagine that was when editors had greater control.

      And he never wrote a really good spy thriller; his works were military fantasy/action. If you want a good spy story read “Man Who Came in From the Cold”

      • That may have been because he wasn’t trying to write a ‘spy thriller’. He invented a new (and admittedly short-lived) genre, the ‘techno-thriller’, based on anally-detailed explanations of more conventional warfare. Some of us like that kind of thing. You seem to be calling it bad writing because it wasn’t the kind of writing you personally prefer.

  8. TO: All
    RE: Other Works of Note

    My favorite, outside of the Jack Ryan series, is Red Storm Rising.

    Truly excellent in consideration of a war in Europe with the Soviets.

    Regards,

    Chuck(le)
    [Science fiction writers foresee the inevitable, and although problems and catastrophes may be inevitable, solutions are not. — Isaac Asimov]

  9. I haven’t read any Clancy novels. I always get him confused with Ludlum. Tried to read one of the Bourne novels once, and gave up; turgid doesn’t even begin to describe it. The movie was better.

    Technical spy thrillers aren’t usually my thing, but maybe I’ll give Clancy (may he rest in peace) a try.

  10. Damn that’s a shame, I loved his work. Im not sure a lot of it was actually his but its under his name so ill give credit where due. From what I understand games like Ghost Recon had little to do with the man himself, but that doesn’t excuse his fine work. He will be missed.

  11. I agree, Red Storm Rising is probably my overall favorite book. I have read it about 10 times in the span of 5 or 6 years.
    The Jack Ryan series of novels have their ups and downs too; but I loved the book Without Remorse.

  12. I grew up reading Tom Clancy’s books, today is a sad day. He was such an amazing author, the world will be a little more sad without him.

    +1 to everyone saying Red Storm Rising is one of the greatest books ever.

  13. The last one of his books I’ve read (and re-read every so often) was Rainbow Six, which I enjoyed immensely.

    It was apparant at that time, however, that his drooling hatred of all things “liberal” was going to become an increasingly virulent effect on my enjoyment of his books. His cartoonish villains in the weird Earth First vein was just too silly.

    Still, I loved ’em all up to and including that one. RSR is still tops, and inspired the most interesting naval warfare game I’ve ever played in the game of the same name on my old Commie 64.

  14. Mr. Clancy was a great author, and he was one of the precious few artists/public figures who supported the Second Amendment & the shooting sports. May God rest his soul.

  15. This is a pretty damn big blow for the People of the Gun in the entertainment sphere. Everyone knew about him and very few actively hated him. His books and most notably game series have long been many people’s gateways into gun culture.

    A heavy loss for all those involved. RIP.

    • Ditto, except one of my friends, a CC instructor no less, tried breaking me of that stance. Didn’t help my aim when he tried.

    • Same. No big deal for rifles – I just run them left-handed, but it does mess up pistols.

      Every try shooting a Carl Gustav?

      • Nope, no Gustavs. I have no problems shooting a pistol, but I do have a bit of a cross stance and head turn. I still shoot rifles right handed, but since I shoot with both eyes open, its not really an issue. It did take a while to learn to transition my focus from my left eye to my right without effort.

        • I made myself a pirate-style eye patch for the Gustav – you just can’t put it on the left shoulder. LAWs are fine on either sholder.

    • Wish I had seen this before I inserted my comment above. Glad others noticed it.

      I’ve noticed the cross-dominant problem with several handgun students. The simplest solution is to start with the eyes level, not tilting the head left or right (no “cheek-welding”). Push the handgun straight out so that your stance forms a triangle Δ elbows unbent. Push the handgun just slightly to the left or right to bring it in line with the dominant eye. Lean into the handgun so that your center is over the balls of you feet, knees slightly bent. This works well for right or left dominance, cross-dominant or not.

  16. RIP. Avid gun owner and shooter died “after a brief illness at the Johns Hopkins Hospital.”. At Johns Hopkins Hospital, you, know the Bloomberg pwned one. On the day Maryland’s new gun laws took effect.

    An ironic twist worthy of one of his novels.

  17. He had a great imagination while picking up on the days events and latest technology. He knew how to keep you interested. RIP TC.

  18. Man, I’m gonna miss his work. I haven’t quite got around to reading his newer stuff, but through Executive Orders I’ve loved them all (Rainbow Six is on hold at the library for me). I’ll agree, Red Storm Rising and Without Remorse are the best.

    When I lived in MD (perish the thought nowadays) and worked in the Annapolis Whole Foods Market, I met his personal chef and we became pretty good acquaintences. Hoped to one day parlay that relationship into meeting Clancy himself, alas that never happened.

  19. I picked up Red October in an airport bookstore on my way back to college. Couldn’t put it down. RedStorm Rising was as good.

    RIP Sir. Thank you for all of the great stories and countless hours of reading enjoyment.

    Jack Ryan for President!

  20. Damn, that’s a shame. Add me to the list that put Red Storm Rising at the top of their personal list, with most of the other Jack Ryan books, save the last few. I also love the work being done with the spin offs, like Splinter Cell, and hope that continues to be as good in print as it is in games, even without his oversight.

  21. See if you can find a first edition of “Red October” printed by the United States Naval Institute Press. No other publisher would have it, but Clancy had friends at USNI. That’s the true first edition. Reagan read it and plugged it, and the rest is history.

    Mint in dust jacket the USNI first edition costs over a grand. Talk about Crazy Ivan!

    • I’m not sure I’d want to own a book which has a tendency to turn 180 degrees and attack me. Even a Clancy first edition.

  22. I enjoyed Cardinal in the Kremlin the most, probably because I read it in my Russian flat, just two blocks from the local KGB headquarters locals referred to as The Tower of Death.

  23. I’ve been told that he was a pretty heavy smoker and he really didn’t look too healthy in his later photos. So my guess is a heart attack.

    I’ll agree that the early stuff was his best – Red October and Red Storm Rising were excellent books. I corresponded with Tom about the USS Newport News as I was on board her when the incident in Without Remorse (if I remember correctly without going through the book) occurred in the late summer of 72. Toward the end of his career he got the “John Grisham disease” that affects lots of prominent writers where he was simply writing for money with the knowledge that the public would buy anything that had his name on the cover.

    My other gripe about Tom Clancy is that he always assumed that technology would work. I’ve worked with fairly high tech stuff most of my life – first in the military, then with sophisticated HVAC equipment built by respected companies like Carrier, York and Honeywell, and then with mail sorting equipment built by Pitney Bowes, Siemens, and Northrop Grumman. The truth is that most new technology doesn’t work until its massaged and re-engineered by the grunts and the junior NCO’s down in the trenches – and even then it probably works at about 50% of the capacity promised by the contractors.

    Even with those minor gripes I’m sorry that the military and the believers in the 2nd amendment have lost a good friend.

  24. Favorite Clancy Novel: Without Remorse (John Clark is bad-ass, supposed to have been made into a move a while back…I think it died)

    Clancy movie: Patriot Games

    Clancy game: Anything from the Splinter Cell series.

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