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Thank You, Tom Clancy


I’ll never forget reading The Hunt for Red October. I couldn’t put it down. I read it in high-school biology class, I read it in church (behind a particularly big Bible), and I read it on my dateless Friday nights. When I finished, I picked it up and read it again. I was at the bookstore with each new book launch, ready to read about Jack Ryan’s next challenge (In addition to Red October, The Cardinal of the Kremlin, and Red Storm Rising were my favorites).

Clancy wrote stories that fired the imagination of a teenage boy and that continued to fire my imagination throughout my school years. My favorite mental health break in law school required me to put down my law books and pick up Clancy. When my son turned eleven, just after he finished Lord of the Rings, he asked me for more books that I loved as I kid. I immediately gave him my old, dog-eared copies of The Hunt for Red October and Red Storm Rising. He found them challenging but captivating, and he loved the same characters I loved.

I can think of few better books for boys to read, where the heroes were tough, honorable, and brave, and they understood that evil can’t be appeased but must be overcome. For a Cold War kid, the stories had a ripped-from-the-headlines feel, and many of them felt almost plausible enough that you could imagine you were reading a classified debrief.

As I grew older, I realized that Clancy’s books helped teach me what it means to serve your country, to love your country — to take pride in the legacy of courage that built her and dedicate yourself to taking your own place “on the wall” to defend her. In one amusing moment, I can remember reading a Clancy book during lunch in my Manhattan law firm, closing it decisively, picking up the phone and telling my wife, “That’s it, I’m quitting this firm and joining the Navy.”

That didn’t happen, but seeds were planted — along with the seeds of my family’s heritage of service — that ultimately did bear fruit. I know this sounds silly, but I can remember once in Iraq — after feeling extremely jittery on a foot patrol that just didn’t feel right — silently asking myself, “What would Jack Ryan do?” Ahh, well. Whatever works.

Thank you, Tom Clancy. Thank you for enriching my life and my son’s life. May God bless your family, and may God grant you everlasting rest.

Tom Clancy
Author Tom Clancy died Tuesday at age 66. The best-selling creator of dozens of military and political yarns such as The Hunt for Red October was well-known to millions of readers. Here’s a look back at his career.
Clancy is often credited with popularizing the “techno-thriller” genre, action stories with a heavy emphasis on detailed descriptions of military hardware and intelligence operations. He also portrayed the professionalism of the armed services in a way often lacking in other Cold War novels.
A prolific writer who ventured into video games and saw several of his books made into major motion pictures, Clancy produced 17 No. 1 New York Times bestsellers during his nearly three-decade career.
MAN OF LETTERS: Clancy was working as an insurance salesman when he sold his first novel, The Hunt for Red October, to the Naval Institute Press in 1983. Prior to buying Clancy's book, the publisher had never before handled a fiction novel. Pictured, Clancy in his insurance office in 1983.
Red October told the tale of a Soviet submarine commander who defects to the West with a super-secret nuclear missile boat. The book's other main character, CIA analyst Jack Ryan, would become a fixture of other Clancy novels.
Clancy’s follow-up novel, Red Storm Rising, charted the course of World War III after Muslim insurgents attack the Soviet Union's oil fields, precipitating an energy crisis that leads to war. It ranges wide across a European theater but, interestingly, never rises to nuclear exchange.
Among Clancy’s numerous other best-sellers were The Cardinal of the Kremlin, Without Remorse, The Teeth of the Tiger, and Against All Enemies. His most recent novel, Threat Vector, was published in December, 2012.
Clancy’s final book, Command Authority, will be published in December. The plot concerns Ryan dealing with a rising strong man in Russia — more shades of current headlines.
Clancy also lent his name to the Op-Center, Net Force, and Power Plays series of books, which were written by other authors.
The realism in Clancy’s novel sometimes presaged real-world events. In 1994's Debt of Honor — another Jack Ryan story, about a brief war between the U.S. and Japan — a rogue pilot crashes a 747 into the Capitol Building, a foreshadowing of sorts of the attacks on 9/11.
An enthusiastic supporter of the military, Clancy found a receptive audience for his books in conservative circles and in the armed forces, where his positive portrayal of uniformed servicemen and the military in general were well received.
Clancy’s in-depth knowledge of submarines and other military matters (both U.S. and Soviet) led him to also publish a number of non-fiction books on the American military.
MILITARY MOVIES: Several of Clancy’s Jack Ryan novels were made into motion pictures, beginning with 1990’s The Hunt for Red October, starring Sean Connery as Clancy’s Captain Marko Ramius and Alec Baldwin as Jack Ryan.
For 1992’s Patriot Games, actor Harrison Ford stepped into the role of Jack Ryan, which saw the analyst tangle with a rogue IRA terrorist.
Ford returned in 1994's Clear and Present Danger, which explored the international cocaine trade.
The Jack Ryan movie franchise languished until being revived in 2002 with The Sum of All Fears, a re-casting of the story starring Ben Affleck as a younger Ryan. The film also took liberties with Clancy's plot, changing the villains from Muslim extremists to neo-Nazis.
FIRST-PERSON SHOOTERS: Clancy’s action-packed stories were a natural for adaptation into video games, and he co-founded the game company Red Storm Entertainment. Clancy helped create the successful Splinter Cell (picutred), Rainbow Six, and Ghost Recon game franchises, and oversaw numerous tie-in books.
ELDER STATESMAN: Clancy sometimes spoke on military affairs, trading on the reputation he earned from the extensive research he conducted in writing his novels. Pictured, Clancy at a 2004 conference hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations.
His earnings allowed him to buy a house on Chesapeake Bay (pictured) and become part owner of the Baltimore Orioles.
The spoils of literary success: Clancy on his private indoor gun range.
Updated: Oct. 02, 2013