Tom Clancy – The Master of Military Thrillers


“The control of information is something the elite always does, particularly in a despotic form of government. Information, knowledge, is power. If you can control information, you can control people.”

— Tom Clancy

The master of spy thriller novels passed away in Baltimore, USA on October 1, Tuesday. The 66 year old author was famous for writing bestselling novels, “The Hunt for Red October”, “Clear and Present Danger, Patriot Games, which were later, adapted into Hollywood blockbuster films. Though he is no John la Carre or Frederick Forsyth (“The Day of the Jackal”) in the spy game, he is famous for pitching out gripping story lines and for depicting powerful action scenes. He made $47.8 million in 2002 and made it to the Forbes celebrity list.  He is extremely patriotic, fervent anti-communist and wrote novels that appealed to America’s national pride, political conservatism and military supremacy.

Tom Clancy was born to a middle class family in Baltimore, 1947. His father was a mailman and mother, a department store employee.  He attended a local catholic school. Unlike his friends, Tom was fascinated with things like guns, tanks, and planes. In college, he majored in English and tried (and hoped) to serve in Vietnam. His poor eyesight kept him away from the army. Few years later, he wrote his first short story. It was rejected by magazines crushing another one of his dreams. He immediately began to work as an insurance agent in Baltimore. Afterwards, he joined in his father-in-law’s insurance company, and later bought it in 1980 for $125,000.

Up to this period, he didn’t make any head way as a writer. His insurance company turned in huge profits and in the afternoons he had time to devour all sorts of techno and military journals.  In 1982, he began working on his first novel, “The Hunt for Red October.” He published it in 1984 and the novel was an instant hit. The novel was published “Naval Institute Press” (a publisher of scholarly titles that had never printed a work of fiction). The American President, at that time, Mr. Ronald Reagan heaped high praise on the novel.

Sean Connery, Alec Baldwin and Scott Glenn

From the movie adaptation of “The Hunt for Red October”

The incredible success of Clancy’s first novel was followed up with “Red Storm Rising” (1986), “Patriot Games”, “The Cardinal of the Kremlin”, “Clear and Present Danger”, “The Sum of All Fears”, “Debt of Honor”, “Executive Decision.” 17 of his 28 books appeared on the New York Times best-sellers list. He also wrote several non-fiction studies of tactics used by American military organization, including “”Submarine”, “Airborne.” Most of his novels are closely associated with ‘Cold War’ themes. When Cold War ended, many though Clancy’s themes might go obsolete, but he proved himself by staying contemporary and cooking up new gallery of villains. Even people, who have never read Clancy, described Sept. 11 attacks as “something out of a Tom Clancy novel.”

Tom Clancy’s incites our emotions by incorporating gritty details that goes on with the military training (he was also careful not to reveal classified information or sensitive details). Most of the military technologies used in his novels hikes up the suspense level and makes us feel that something deadly is going to happen because of that technology. Clancy’s descriptive writing style puts us right in the middle of an action. Even though, he has used more or less same formula in the stories, his pain-staking military details make him one of a kind.

Clancy's famous Jack Ryan character played by "Harrison Ford", "Baldwin" and "Ben Affleck."

Clancy’s famous Jack Ryan character played by “Harrison Ford”, “Baldwin” and “Ben Affleck.”

Tom Clancy lived on a 400 acre estate. His secure home has two tennis courts, basket ball courts, a full size foot ball field and a gun range. He once said that, he doesn’t care about awards, “I don’t want to sound commercial,” says Clancy, “but I’m in it for the money, not the awards. What do I care if someone reads my books a hundred years from now? It’s hard to make money when you’re dead.”

He might be a millionaire, who made huge money out of thrilling & twisted novels. He might be accused of being a mouthpiece to Central Intelligence Agency. Nonetheless, Clancy’s vivid imagination and vast knowledge will be greatly missed in the so called brand of ‘escapist literature.’


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