October 3, 2013

Novelist Tom Clancy dies at age 66


Tom Clancy.

Novelist Tom Clancy, whose distinguished fans include the likes of Ronald Reagan and Colin Powell, is dead at 66. Intensely interested in technical details, Clancy was best known for his bestselling techno-thirllers, which draw on thriller, science-fiction, spy, action, and war novels. Clancy’s work seemed to be tailor-made for the big screen. The Hunt for Red October, which features his flagship protagonist Jack Ryan, delivers high-octane showdowns with big time criminals that threaten the sanctity of the good ol’ US of A.

In the real world, of course, CIA analysts are not action heroes. In fact, they’re typically desk jockeys: sifting through files and extracting intelligence, drafting memos to various associates (sometimes the President! But mostly not the President.) But in Clancy’s world, CIA analysts were American heroes, so much so that Jack Ryan actually became the president. But all that’s besides the point. Thrillers are supposed to be far-fetched. And in the end, no one wants to read about a pencil pusher.

What’s unusual, however, was Clancy’s uncanny ability to build a bonafide ideological following. It’s no coincidence that his pacifist heroes loved to tote guns and often served in public office. He was a conservative republican, whose heroes reflect his beliefs. When Reagan made it public that he loved his techno-thrillers, Clancy reimbursed him with a novel dedicated to the former president. In a program designed to send messages of gratitude to members of the Armed Forces, Clancy confidently claimed that “The U.S. Military is us. There is no truer representative of a country than the people that it sends into the field to fight for it.”

Phil Velinov is a Melville House intern.