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Tom Clancy: RIP

The Hunt for Red October author, gone at 66.

by
Stephen Green

Bio

October 2, 2013 - 8:57 am
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Clancy

Say what you will about Tom Clancy, but the man knew how to tell a story. Of his self-written novels — leaving aside the Clancy “branded” books and his current crop of co-authored works — there was only one real misfire. Reading 2002′s Red Rabbit, you might find yourself thinking, “I liked this better when it was called Day of the Jackal.” Not bad for a former insurance salesman who had hoped to sell his first novel, The Hunt for Red October, to a few hundred Navy officers — until it got blurbed by President Reagan.

People talk about how Clancy made high-tech weaponry understandable to the layman, but that wasn’t his ace — it was his ability to keep countless story threads going, all over the globe, without the reader ever getting lost or tangled up in them. Most people can’t just drive to the corner store without swerving out of their lane a few times. And when Clancy dug deep, as he did with 1993′s Without Remorse, he could really affect you. He wrote that one after losing a childhood friend to cancer, and I think Clancy used that experience to show he could do more than simply quicken the reader’s pulse.

Clancy quit writing for years after 2003′s mostly-OK-but-not-great The Teeth of the Tiger. I don’t know if he stopped because his last two books hadn’t been all that great, or — as I’m starting to suspect — for health reasons. He did come back three years ago, with a series of books co-written with different co-authors. Against All Enemies (with Peter Telep) remains the only Clancy book I couldn’t get through — and quickly. There was just something missing from that one, but the others since 2010 have all read like “classic” Clancy of the ’80s and ’90s. Just a few days ago I pre-ordered Command Authority, due out in December. I suppose it will be his last.

Clancy was never afraid, in print or in person, to call out lefties. Appearing on Larry King to promote some novel or other, King asked one stupidly ignorant question after another, and an exasperated Clancy finally barked something like, “Read the damn book, Larry.” I hope I’ve remembered the quote exactly. It was for sure my favorite moment of the old Larry King show.

Is it really possible that Larry King, who’s looked like day-old scrambled eggs for thirty years, outlived Tom Clancy? Stranger things have happened, but this one I’m taking a little personally.

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Top Rated Comments   
All of the posters here have missed one thing, although some have touched on it - he made you believe that somehow, somewhere, there were people in government who would actually defend their country, believed in it, and would do the right thing.

I'm sure there are many of those out there now, but the current "leadership" does not inspire this, nor do they appear to value that attitude. We are lessened because of that.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
Bought Red Storm Rising and let it sit around the house for a couple of weeks. My wife picked it up and essentially read it straight through; barely ate and probably didn't sleep more than an hour or two, and sure as heck didn't do a lick of housework. I made fun of her mercilessly. A couple of weeks later I picked it up and did EXACTLY the same thing. Most engrossing book I've ever read. Godspeed, Tom.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
RIP. His last few books (Locked On, Threat Vector) had gotten interesting again.

I recently reread "Red Storm Rising", his statnd-alone WWIII book he wrote with Larry Bond. It was as good as I remembered and would make a fine mini-series if not for Hollywood's tendancy to water Clancy down.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (34)
All Comments   (34)
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I can't quite drop this topic I will post (below) an email reply from him dated June 2009. I re-read Red Rabbit back then, and noticed some allusions to other material I had read. I first asked him about one of the minor characters, Anthony Prince--if he was the real life Michael Dobbs (http://tinyurl.com/q5elbud). The literary Prince was a newspaper reporter for the NYT in Moscow, so was Mr. Dobbs. Mr. Clancy replied: "Anthony (not plain "Tony") Prince is just for me a generic New York Times reporter, arrogant and left-wing. I am not fond of the Times, which does not have a decent sports page. I call it Pravda, which may be an insult to the Russian publication. Just a fictional character.

Michael Dobbs. Sorry, never heard of him."

My second question was about an incident alluded to in Red Rabbit. I asked if he had read the book "Inside the Acquarium" (http://tinyurl.com/opdcypk) and if this incident was based on the book. His reply: "Victor Suvorov, on the other hand, is a pal. That's his pen-name. I call him Sasha, and he's a former GRU spook who defected and now lives in England. I met him on my first trip to UK back in 1986, and we hit it off. Good guy, and actually a pretty good historian who doesn't get the respect he deserves. Seriously anti-Communist. He's a little guy (all Red Army motorized infantrymen are little, so that they can fit in the infantry carriers, which is munchkin land) like a hand grenade around which are so many rubber bands that it can't quite go off. Also pretty smart.

TC"

Mr. Clancy lived a life well-lived. Good on ye, Mr. Clancy. May God bring you to His eternal rest.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Patriot Games" was his first book, but he couldn't sell it at the time. "Red October" was his second attempt.

Cheers
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
I have corresponded with Mr. Clancy in the past and his passing brought a sincere tear to my eye. A few years ago he wrote on a usenet forum that he had a 'heart attack' in New York, and that his wife was not pleased with the medical attention he received there. She hired a private ambulance to take him to Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, where he had funded a Chair of Pediatric Oncology. He commented that he got REAL GOOD treatment after that. I suspect that this time, not even Johns Hopkins could save him God bless him, he was not merely a great author but a good man. The world will be a sadder place without his optimism and dedication to goodness.

His heart was dedicated to his wife and children, but also to the children of Cancer. That, more than any of his books, his his gift to the future.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
All of the posters here have missed one thing, although some have touched on it - he made you believe that somehow, somewhere, there were people in government who would actually defend their country, believed in it, and would do the right thing.

I'm sure there are many of those out there now, but the current "leadership" does not inspire this, nor do they appear to value that attitude. We are lessened because of that.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
Alan, you got that right. If Clancy had ever written a novel featuring a POS
POTUS like we have now, the book would have bombed big time. Nobody would ever believe the character, his stunts, his demeanor and complete lack of respect for the American nation. Readers would also be shocked that the man would have been permitted to remain in power for this long without having been the target of an assassin's bullet or a military coup. They say the truth is stranger than fiction.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
I've read many of Tom Clancy's books—all were superior. I remember laying in bed, down with a unusually persistent strain of food poisoning reading Executive Orders, a book about terrorists infecting America with an ebola pandemic. Reading detailed accounts of people dying from ebola while feeling barely alive myself helped me to empathize with the characters so much more.

Requiem aeternum dona heis, Domine.
Vyechnaya pamyat!
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
Bloody hell, Vince Flynn passing away at only 43 and now Tom Clancy at 66. We should all pray for Ralph Peters and Brad Thor...

Seriously, may Mr. Clancy have the reward of all the pleasure he gave his readers!
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Clancy will never be remembered as a great writer — by the people officially in charge of determining such things." Oh, I don't know - the books that people read and remember from the Soviet era are not the books by the apologists (e.g., John Reed and his "Ten Days the Shook the World") but by the dissidents and "refuseniks": Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Andrei Sakarhov. I guess only time will tell for certain.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
Do you remember when he was interviewed right after the twin towers fell? I could see the talking head thinking "oh, crap - now how do I get my ignorant self out of this mess?" (Must go see if this is on YouTube anywhere....)

Godspeed, Mr. Clancy, and rest in peace. You will be missed!
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
I can still remember the publishing furor that Hunt for Red October caused in the book world. It sat on the bestseller list for a year (#1 for most of that) because the publisher could turn out 5,000 copies a week, or something, and there were several hundred thousand or a million copies on order. Everyone was curious, and so was I, but I was (and remain) cheap enough to wait for the paperback. Bantam got it to the stores early, and most of them sold it before they were supposed to, to satisfy demand. There actually was a lawsuit over this (and over Clancy taking Jack Ryan to another publisher after this fiasco). Whole thing was a mess.

Clancy, however, is a pretty unique literary figure. In one way he was no kind of writer at all really. His dialog was sometimes awkward and stilted, though I thought he got better as time went on. His prose style was always at best pedestrian, workmanlike and clear without being in any serious way literary. His strength was plotting, something that most literary critics value little if at all.

And for all that his influence in the publishing world is immense. He essentially created a genre--modern military thrillers--where none had existed before. Ralph Peters, Dale Brown, Harold Coyle, David Poyer: all these guys wouldn't have careers if Clancy hadn't come first, and essentially paved the way.

It was amusing that his politics turned out to be Republican. His understanding of Washington life and the way things work there was pretty perceptive.

His books had gotten, as far as I was concerned, less good over the last few years. Several people here thought the later ones were improving, getting back to the standard of his early stuff, but I have to say I disagree. The co-authored stuff was pretty pedestrian and I had little interest. He's not the only author to employ "sharecroppers" as I call them, co-authors who write most of a book for a "star" author who will put his name on the cover.

It's a shame, one way or the other.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
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