Thursday, October 3, 2013

A tribute to author Tom Clancy, dead at 66

I was saddened to hear yesterday that author Tom Clancy has died.

There was a period of time (in my late teens) when I could not get enough of Tom Clancy's novels.  Beginning with The Hunt for Red October, I devoured his novels one after another.  Indeed, I am one of the fortunate few who ordered the Hunt for Red October from his original publisher, the Naval Institute Press, long before the big publishers came knocking at his door. That first edition copy of the book remains treasured part of my book collection to this day.

The novels, which opened up a whole new world to me, were quintessential page turners that were almost impossible to put down once you picked them up.  The books were fascinating in their technical details and were filled with suspense and adventure.  They became the measuring stick by which I measured other books in the genre (and few, if any, measured up).

I preferred his earlier novels to the later one's, and my favorite of the bunch was Red Storm Rising which absolutely blew me away.  I should note that I was disappointed later on when he began writing with co-authors.  I could never overcome the suspicion that the lesser-known fella was doing the bulk of the work and writing and that Mr. Clancy was slapping his name on the book so that it would sell.

I admired Tom Clancy's patriotism and his obvious respect and admiration for those who serve in our nation's military.  I suspect the influence of his books played a role in my decision to join the Navy.  After all, how could a young man's sense of patriotism, adventure, and service not be sparked by books such as those written by Mr. Clancy!

It has now been a decade or more, since I last picked up one of his books, but the pleasure I received from them is a vivid as if I had just read the books.  I think it is time that I pick them up again, in tribute to Mr. Clancy and in remembrance of a special time in my reading life.

Over at National Review Online, David French penned a wonderful tribute to Mr. Clancy.  In reading his tribute I was struck by how much his thoughts captured mine, right down to joining the Navy.  Here is an excerpt from the piece by Mr. French:
...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... 
You can read the full essay HERE.
The New York Times had a nice piece on Mr. Clancy as well.  This passage, in particular captured my attention:
...It was all a far cry from his days as a Maryland insurance salesman writing on the side in pursuit of literary aspirations and submitting his manuscript for “The Hunt for Red October” to the Naval Institute Press in Annapolis, Md. An editor there, Deborah Grosvenor, became mesmerized by the book, a cold war tale set on a Soviet submarine.
But she had a hard time persuading her boss to read it; Mr. Clancy was an unknown, and the publisher had no experience with fiction. She was also concerned that the novel had too many technical descriptions, and asked Mr. Clancy to make cuts. He complied, trimming at least 100 pages while making revisions.
“I said, ‘I think we have a potential best seller here, and if we don’t grab this thing, somebody else would,’ ” Ms. Grosvenor, now a literary agent, said in an interview on Wednesday. “But he had this innate storytelling ability, and his characters had this very witty dialogue. The gift of the Irish, or whatever it was — the man could tell a story.”
The press paid $5,000 for the book, publishing it in 1984...
To Mr. Clancy I can only say, "Thank you sir for a job well done. And, may you rest in peace."


  1. Like Ian Fleming, Clancy meticulously described espionage of modern times, unlike Sherlock Holmes who didn't get any opportunity to know about spying using scientific gadgets. Clancy's ingenious idea that commercial airlines can be used as missiles got the attention of Osama bin Laden and it was disastrously implemented by Atta & co.,on September 9, 2001 (9/11). Clancy's novels has captivated millions worldwide and his death is a great loss to scientific-espionage literature.