Tom Clancy, master of the techno-thriller, dead at 66

Tom Clancy, author of 'The Hunt for Red October' and 'Sum of All Fears' has died
Tom Clancy, author of ‘The Hunt for Red October’ and ‘Sum of All Fears’ has died

He wrote what many consider some of the best “techno-thriller” novels of the 20th Century.  Tom Clancy, prolific author of “The Hunt for Red October” and a number of other books has died at the age of 66.

“Red October” was his first published novel and it had been rejected by almost every mainstream publisher of fiction.  Ultimately the U.S. Naval Press Institute, which didn’t normally publish fiction, gave him an advance of $5,000 and published the book.  It remains their most successful fiction novel to date and made Clancy an author who could command multi-million dollar advances for future novels.

In addition to “The Hunt for Red October”, Clancy novels that have been made into feature films are “Patriot Games”, “Clear and Present Danger” and “The Sum of All Fears”.  All feature “Jack Ryan”, the character most dear to the heart of Clancy.  Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck have all portrayed Ryan.  Sean Connery played the commander of the submarine Red October, “Marko Ramius.”

Two of Clancy’s other characters who appear frequently in his novels are “Bart Mancuso” and “John Clark”.  Scott Glenn played Mancuso in The Hunt for Red October while both Wilem Dafoe and Liev Schreiber have portrayed Clark, Dafoe in Clear and Present Danger and Schreiber in The Sum of All Fears.  Jack Ryan and John Clark appear in every single novel that Clancy wrote on his own, with two exceptions.

Clancy also put his name on a series of “franchise” paperbacks that were written by others.  Initially he refused to acknowledge that the books were ghost-written but eventually it became well-known.  “Op-Center”, “Net Force”, “Net Force Explorers”, “Power Plays” and “Ghost Recon” are the most familiar of these lines of books.  There were at least a dozen novels in the “Op-Center” universe and the first came out at the same time as an NBC miniseries of the same name that starred Harry Hamlin.

Clancy also wrote non-fiction, all about war, military equipment or military unit structure.


He and his first wife went through a bitter divorce after 28 years of marriage and later fought in court over ownership of the Op-Center books (she was awarded 50% of that business entity in the property settlement).  He married his second wife, Alexandra Llewellyn, after Colin Powell had introduced her to Clancy.

His 1994 novel “Debt of Honor” contained a plot point about a Japanese commercial airline pilot diving a 747 with a full load of fuel into the U.S. Capitol Building, to avenge the death of his son during an armed conflict between the U.S. and Japan.  Some think it may have inspired the 9/11 attacks and Clancy was interviewed by CNN and other media following 9/11.

The cause of death was not disclosed.  It is known he had been recently hospitalized at Johns Hopkins, a place that figured prominently in many of his novels.  Tom Clancy was 66 years old.

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