News Column

Tom Clancy Dead at 66

October 2, 2013

Claire Armitstead,

Tom Clancy, the bestselling thriller writer who counted Ronald Reagan among his fans, has died at the age of 66 in a Baltimore hospital.

The Hunt for Red October, Clancy's first novel, published in 1984, launched the techno-thriller genre, was described by Reagan as "the perfect yarn".

Clancy, a lifelong Republican, returned the compliment by making Reagan a dedicatee of one of his later novels one of several conservative politicians he honoured with dedications.

The Hunt for Red October introduced his most famous character, Jack Ryan, a CIA agent who rises to become president. Ryan has been portrayed by Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck respectively in films including Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger and The Sum of All Fears. A new Jack Ryan film, Shadow One, directed by Kenneth Branagh and starring Chris Pine, is out soon.

Born in Baltimore, Clancy worked as an insurance agent before making his literary fortune. Though, unlike many other thriller writers, he had no military or espionage experience, he managed to sound absolutely authentic.

When asked about his research, he said: "I read the papers, watch CNN and think ... It's all in the open. You just have to know where to look."

His 1994 novel Debt of Honor displayed an eerie prescience: it features a scene in which a jingoistic Japanese industrialist, bent on bringing America to its knees, crashes a Boeing 747 jet into the US Capitol dome during an address, killing the president and most of Congress.

Called in as a TV pundit after the 11 September 2001 attacks, Clancy claimed that leftwing politicians in the US were partly responsible due to their "gutting" of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Though his novels sold in their millions, he was no stylist. Reviewing his 2002 novel Red Rabbit in the Guardian, John Sutherland wrote: "Tom Clancy is not, by conventional literary-critical criteria, a great novelist. But he is, without question, the novelist with the biggest ideological clout currently active."

Clancy was regarded as old school, but was media-savvy, writing computer games as well as novels and pioneering the idea of the author as a franchise with a "factory of co-writers", which has since been taken up by James Patterson.

Clancy's own attitude to literature was businesslike: "Writers' block," he said, "is just an official term for being lazy and the way to get through it is work."

(c) 2013 Guardian Newspapers Limited.

Original headline: Tom Clancy dies aged 66

Source: (c) 2013 Guardian Newspapers Limited.

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