I’ve been a huge fan of Tom Clancy, and his work since I was a teenager, and yesterday’s news of his death hit me hard. Later in the day, I was having coffee with a friend, who mentioned Clancy during our conversation. Something told me he didn’t yet know of the news, and I asked, “You do know he died today, right?” His face fell, and he said, “No, I hadn’t.” We both shared a spontaneous moment of silence. It felt pretty crummy to break the news to someone, but at least we weren’t alone.

For those of you who might not know Clancy, he was an author of espionage fiction. Many of his books were about his protagonist, Jack Ryan, a CIA agent who went on to much bigger and better things in later books, including becoming President of the United States. Clancy did have a number of books with other characters, including two starring Ryan’s bodyguard, John Clark (my favorite Clancy character). Later books focused on Ryan’s son. Many of Clancy’s books have been made into movies. The Hunt for Red October is still one of my all-time favorite films.

Tom Clancy was the first author I owned in paper format whom I re-purchased in electronic format, when Fictionwise finally got his entire back list. I spent many a happy hour re-reading all my favorites on, I think, my Palm TX ( remember those?). Oh, this was after pirating all his books when they weren’t yet available in legal e-versions. So, yeah, piracy doesn’t automatically mean lost sales. I was happy to acquire them legally when I could.

I didn’t like some of his later works, and I never read the books he co-wrote with others, but I loved his early books about Jack Ryan. My dad encouraged me to start with Patriot Games, saying The Hunt for Red October and Red Storm Rising would be “too technical,” and I wouldn’t enjoy them. Yeah, right, Dad. Read ’em. Loved ’em. Kept reading him.

It was ironic that a man with such a love of technology was a bit of a Luddite when it came to e-books. I found an old TeleRead article from 2004 which discussed his views. Apparently he was afraid of piracy. Well, he was both right and wrong as my story shows.

No matter his views on e-books, he was a great author who has entertained millions. He will be sorely missed.


  1. Yes, darn it! I enjoyed his early books a great deal – he was indeed a master yarn-spinner, and will be sorely missed ! Back in snail mail days, I wrote the man a fan letter, and he was gracious and took the time to respond. A class act !

  2. @Fred, thanks for the video links!

    @Marilynn, you’re absolutely correct about the video games. I think my son’s played a few. I don’t think he’s ever read any Clancy books, though. So three generations of my family have appreciated his work, in different formats.

  3. Loved his early books, and we purchased (and watch over and over) four of the Jack Ryan movies. I’m hoping the newest Jack Ryan movie will still release in Dec. 2013 as a tribute to a great author.

    One of my favorite Tom Clancy computer quotes:
    “Never ask what sort of computer a guy drives. If he’s a Mac user, he’ll tell you. If not, why embarrass him?” –As quoted in Escape The Pace: 100 Fun And Easy Ways To Slow Down And Enjoy Your Life (2002) by Lisa Rickwood; this quote appears at least as early as 1996 online.

  4. One writer has noted that one of the best things Clancy did was move thrillers away from the fanciful one-guy-with-super-gadgets of James Bond into something much more realistic and that involved teams rather than lone individuals. He also had a knack for weaving together a complex chain of events taking place around the world.

    By the way, the reason so many pictures show him with sunglasses or tinted lenses is that he had very poor vision. Dark lenses, he said, made the thick lenses he required seem less obvious.

  5. That is very true. The current for of thrillers out on the market today can mostly trace their linage back to his form of the genre.

    As I get older it seems I keep loosing the icons of my generation.

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