Author Tom Clancy has passed at the age of 66, and whether or not you liked his military thrillers, you can't escape the size of the impact he had on fiction, movies, and increasingly, video games.
Seventeen of his novels were No. 1 New York Times best sellers, including his most recent, “Threat Vector,” which was released in December 2012. More than 100 million copies of his books are in print.
Sales of his books made him a millionaire. His family moved into a five-bedroom house in Calvert County, Md., and acquired an 80-acre farm on the Chesapeake Bay. He became a part owner of the Baltimore Orioles. He even bought a tank.
Mr. Clancy was an insurance salesman when he sold his first novel, “The Hunt for Red October,” to the Naval Institute Press for only $5,000.
That publisher had never released a novel before, but the editors were taken with Mr. Clancy’s manuscript. They were concerned, however, that there were too many technical descriptions, so they asked him to make cuts. Mr. Clancy made revisions and cut at least 100 pages.
The book took off when President Ronald Reagan, who had received a copy, called it “my kind of yarn” and said that he couldn’t put it down.
After the book’s publication in 1985, Mr. Clancy was praised for his mastery of technical details about Soviet submarines and weaponry. Even high-ranking members of the military took notice of the book’s apparent inside knowledge.
In an interview in 1986, Mr. Clancy said, “When I met Navy Secretary John Lehman last year, the first thing he asked me about the book was, ‘Who the hell cleared it?’ “
I remember CNN's interview with Clancy within the first 24 hours after 9/11, the plot of his novel "Debt of Honor" had an airliner smash into the Capitol building during the President's State of the Union speech. I remember thinking "Jesus, we're living in a Clancy novel, and the bad guys just won."
Clancy's books spawned a number of video game series, Rainbow Six, Splinter Cell, Ghost Recon, and HAWX, which are still going today. The latest Splinter Cell title, Blacklist, pits veteran black ops specialist Sam Fisher and his team against a group of US military "patriots" gone rogue, calling themselves The Engineers. Much like George Lucas's Star Wars empire, Clancy knew how to leverage his work.
And yeah, I did enjoy his earlier books when I was younger, mainly because Jack Ryan and his friends were nerds saving America, and back then I was okay with that.
It was fun, Tom.