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Tom Clancy, 1947-2013

Tom Clancy was an author before he was a brand. You would be forgiven for forgetting that, considering that by the time he passed away Tuesday in Baltimore at the age of 66, “Tom Clancy” had become the label on books, movies, video games, and Lord knows what else. But he was, above all, the man behind some of the most popular and successful military thrillers ever and the creator of Jack Ryan, swashbuckling CIA analyst and, later, President of the United States.

Clancy’s passing leaves quite a legacy, including books he wrote (including The Hunt for Red October, Clear and Present Danger, Patriot Games, and The Sum of All Fears, all of which became successful movies with three different Jack Ryans — Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, and, getting the same “he’s not right for the part” reaction he’s gotten for Batman, Ben Affleck) and books he didn’t write but which had his name on them (Tom Clancy’s Op-Center, Tom Clancy’s NetForce, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon, Tom Clancy’s EndWar, Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.X ., and more). It’s not like authors haven’t used ghostwriters before, but the “Tom Clancy’s” label took the branding concept to a new level in publishing. And it didn’t matter, because the brand meant you got what you wanted — a thriller set up with mounds of intricate military or espionage details, insider stuff. There’s even a Young Adult series, Tom Clancy’s Net Force Explorers. And it all grew from a writer whose research compensated for the fact that he never served in the military nor CIA (as far as we know, that is…); he worked in insurance before becoming a novelist, then a brand (and even a part-owner of the Baltimore Orioles, which is something you do when you’re rich beyond imagination).

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Then there were video games (and board games, too). His novels lent themselves to gaming, since you could take the essentials and do simulators or shooters or strategy. And they did. Among others:

Top that, John Grisham or Danielle Steel.

The next Jack Ryan movie, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (formerly Jack Ryan: Shadow One), has Chris Pine as Jack (with a trailer due Thursday) and isn’t based on any one book. And that seems fitting. Clancy’s works sort of took on a life of their own, the ultimate franchise machine. He thought up the worlds, and the rest grew from there.

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Are you a Tom Clancy fan? Which book, movie, or game was your favorite? Comment below….

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8 comments

  • Clancy liked Affleck as Ryan. In an interview with Conan O’Brien he stated that Ben Affleck ‘could read and write, and that’s not the usual thing for an actor’. (paraphrased)
    Conan kept prodding until Clancy hinted that he was NOT a fan of Harrison Ford, who he frequently said in other interviews that he felt was too old to play Jack Ryan.

  • I read the first few and enjoyed them, because I was about fourteen at the time. Gave up when I got to Debt of Honor and realised it was a gigantic fantasy of “how everybody in the world died and I got to become President of the USA”.

    Best of the lot is undoubtedly the first.

  • How awesome is it that an author like him was in my back yard. I wish I could have met him, I admired his work(s).

    The Sum of All Fears was my favorite book by him. When an author devotes six pages narrating the timespan of the first 30 nanoseconds of a nuclear detonation… yea, that’s some deep shit.

    I also read a few of the Ops-Center books. Always wonder where the show 24 got their CNC from?

    I remember seeing The Hunt for Red October in 70mm @ the Senator Theater here in town. The opening scene, when the sub appears through the dark water of the ocean, it looked like someone was literally shoving a submarine through the back wall of the theater at the audience.

    Looking forward to Command Authority – what will now be his final book – this Christmas and Jack Ryan: Shadow One, starring Chris Pine, sometime in the next year.

  • Clancy was the first real grown series of books I read. I gobbled up the Ryan series in High School and have been a fan of quite a few Clancy games. While I’d say he didn’t maintain his quality from earlier work it was usually entertaining.

    My favorite Clancy book is The Sum of All Fears. It carries a lot of great ideas and thoughts about that very strange time at the end of the Cold War. The tension in the latter half of the book following the nuke going off was awesome the first time I read it. Even in re-reads there is still some dread as you read on, seeing both sides get closer and closer to a nuclear exchange. I also liked it because it wrapped up Jack’s character arc that began in Red October (of course I know Patriot Games Ryanverse time comes before that, but he wrote TFRO first). Its just a really good book.

    Red Storm Rising, Cardinal of the Kremlin, Without Remorse, and Clear and Present Danger round out my top five. I liked most of the movies but agree that Harrison wasn’t my favorite Jack Ryan. Alec Baldwin was always Ryan to me, even when I visualize things as I read. Afleck did a fair job though wish they had used him in a different story.

    Going to miss Tom Clancy, but at least we have all those books and games to remember him by.

  • I loved most of the Jack Ryan series, some more than others. And as wild as the premise is on how he became president, I really liked Executive Orders. Easily in my top 3. The other two would have to be Patriot Games and Red October.