R.I.P. Tom Clancy

Mega-selling thriller writer Tom Clancy has died, of undisclosed causes, in hospital in his hometown of Baltimore, following a short illness. He was 66, and is survived by his wife and five children (four from a previous marriage). 17 of his 18 novels reached number one on the New York Times bestsellers list, and 100 million copies of those novels are in print. Command Authority, his 19th (co-written with Mark Greaney, who also worked with Clancy on his prior two novels), is due for publication on 3 December.

A former insurance salesman, Clancy wrote his debut, the Cold War submarine thriller The Hunt for Red October, while running his own insurance agency, selling it for $5,000 to the Naval Institute Press, who published it in 1985 (but only after Clancy excised around 100 pages’ worth of technical details that were seen as intruding upon his way with a good story). Red October made its way into the hands of then-President Ronald Reagan, whose public endorsement of it as ‘my kind of yarn’ resulted in a sales boost that allowed Clancy to quit the insurance game and concentrate on writing full-time. Much of his subsequent work would also focus on Red October‘s protagonist, C.I.A. agent Jack Ryan, including Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger and The Sum of All Fears, all of which were made into commercially successful Hollywood blockbusters starring, respectively, Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford (twice) and Ben Affleck as Ryan. A fifth Ryan film is currently in production with Star Trek‘s Chris Pine.

Clancy was also the figurehead of many other commercial enterprises, including spin-off series of novels penned by ghost writers that nevertheless saw Clancy’s name feature most prominently on their covers – Op-Center (twelve titles written exclusively by Jeff Rovin), Net Force (ten titles written exclusively by Steve Perry) and the latter’s own teen-focused spin-off series, Net Force Explorers (eighteen titles by various authors) – and, particularly lucratively, video games, founding the developer Red Storm Entertainment in 1996. Red Storm was subsequently bought by Ubisoft, and created numerous popular series of games all bearing Clancy’s name: Rainbow Six (seventeen titles to date, with another due for release next year), Ghost Recon (thirteen titles to date), Splinter Cell (seven titles to date, the most recent of which was released in August of this year) – the latter even spawned its own spin-off series of novels, again written pseudonymously by ghost writers.

Command Authority, his aforementioned final novel, will bring his career full circle by once again focusing on a Russian threat.

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