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October 2, 2013 10:00 AM   Subscribe

Insurance salesman and occassional writer, Tom Clancy dies at 66.
posted by blue_beetle (142 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
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posted by stoneweaver at 10:02 AM on October 2, 2013


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posted by smoothvirus at 10:02 AM on October 2, 2013


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posted by Cash4Lead at 10:02 AM on October 2, 2013


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posted by Foci for Analysis at 10:03 AM on October 2, 2013


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His first few books easily earned him the right to slide for the last bunch.
posted by codswallop at 10:04 AM on October 2, 2013 [8 favorites]


I think of Tom Clancy as "dad reading." Growing up, my dad loved his books (and the movies made of them), and everyone else's dad that I knew felt the same.

In honor of the dads out there:

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posted by heurtebise at 10:04 AM on October 2, 2013 [31 favorites]


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(all the writers out there, get out there and go for a walk and get some exercise, 66 is just way too young)
posted by sammyo at 10:04 AM on October 2, 2013 [9 favorites]


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posted by Thorzdad at 10:04 AM on October 2, 2013


I wonder who inherits the tank.
posted by elizardbits at 10:05 AM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


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posted by TwelveTwo at 10:05 AM on October 2, 2013


/feels weird sadness for the long-gone heyday of airport thrillers. It's all "How You Are Smarter Than Liberals" now.
posted by Artw at 10:05 AM on October 2, 2013 [20 favorites]


Damn you Obama!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:08 AM on October 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


"Give me a ping for Mr. Clancy, Vasili. One ping only, please."
posted by Rangeboy at 10:10 AM on October 2, 2013 [78 favorites]


One ping only...
posted by mrbill at 10:10 AM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


"What's he going to do, sail into New York Heaven, pop the hatch, and say "Here I am"?


"It might be just that simple, yes."
posted by Debaser626 at 10:11 AM on October 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


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posted by ghharr at 10:11 AM on October 2, 2013


Special Agent William Hardlock rested the Infinity King coffin on his left shoulder leaving his right had free to access his Calico M950 concealed behind his suit jacket. The jacket itself was woven of kevlar panels and had a formal, yet stylish, spectra collar. The other seven members of his elite NTPB (Nation Tactical Pall-Bearer) covert assault squad assisted bearing up the coffin while providing 360 degree surveillance of the surrounding crowd. Inside the casket rested the earthly remains of Tom Clancy.
posted by flyingfox at 10:11 AM on October 2, 2013 [61 favorites]


I'm sure everyone in the Metafilter community will miss him - even if you didn't enjoy his work, there's no denying his contributions to popular culture. Truly an American icon.
posted by entropicamericana at 10:11 AM on October 2, 2013 [7 favorites]


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posted by Mojojojo at 10:12 AM on October 2, 2013


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I loved Red Storm Rising when I was younger.
posted by Pendragon at 10:13 AM on October 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


Sometimes I wonder how I turned out as well as I did (if I do say so myself) given the number of Tom Clancy novels I read. Somehow I didn't turn into a Republican and it's only occurring to me know how weird and problematic that book where John Clark starts hunting down pimps is (Without Remorse?). But, man, I loved Tom Clancy's books as a kid. I stopped reading them sometime around when Rainbow Six came out, but I'm way sadder right now than I ever have thought I'd be.
posted by hoyland at 10:13 AM on October 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


Where will aging male action stars turn for inspiration now!? Oh, Mr. Clancy. you have left us bereft!
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:14 AM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon.
posted by Artw at 10:15 AM on October 2, 2013 [4 favorites]



(that is a bullet)
posted by shothotbot at 10:15 AM on October 2, 2013 [21 favorites]


.

“All the Americans are paragons of courage, endurance and devotion to service and country,” Robert Lekachman wrote in The Times in 1986. “Their officers are uniformly competent and occasionally inspired. Men of all ranks are faithful husbands and devoted fathers.”

I have never had a problem with that. That's how I like my fables.
posted by hat_eater at 10:17 AM on October 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


I grew up reading his books. They were absolutely thrilling to me, such a great combination of technical nerdery and intrigue. His later stuff became a little too polemic and fantastical for me (mild spoilers: Debt of Honor ends with a Japanese pilot crashing a 747 into the Capitol building right after his hero Jack Ryan is confirmed as Vice President, killing basically everyone in government leadership and making Ryan President in the most ridiculous fashion). But that run, from Red October through The Sum of All Fears, is just an incredibly good time, and I think I'll have to dig up my copies when I get home. What a wildly entertaining writer and world-builder.
posted by Errant at 10:19 AM on October 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


. One . only please
posted by pjern at 10:19 AM on October 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


I went through a period of a couple of years in the early 90s where I devoured everything he'd written and carried on with him until things really started to slide with Rainbow Six. I think I glossed over the politics, especially towards the end but when he was good he was very very good. There's a section in The Hunt For Red October, regarding something to do with the sub that's one of the best descriptions of a pure technical process/sequence that I can ever remember reading.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 10:19 AM on October 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


I had the pleasure of meeting him, and of hearing him speak on international issues, at the Origins Game Fair several years ago. He struck me as a very nice, and knowledgable, man.

God rest you, Mr. C.

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posted by magstheaxe at 10:20 AM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


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posted by Iridic at 10:20 AM on October 2, 2013


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posted by radwolf76 at 10:21 AM on October 2, 2013


> /feels weird sadness for the long-gone heyday of airport thrillers. It's all "How You Are Smarter Than Liberals" now.

To be fair, they were mostly "How Your Fictional Adventurous, Heroic Mary Sue Is Smarter Than Liberals" back then. The average air traveler has gotten too dull and literal-minded to accommodate the nominal challenge of literary interpretation, so the messages have to be excruciatingly obvious.
posted by ardgedee at 10:22 AM on October 2, 2013 [9 favorites]


ping
posted by double block and bleed at 10:22 AM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Where will Red Storm Entertainment get its material now?
posted by ardgedee at 10:23 AM on October 2, 2013


Tom Clancy's .
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 10:23 AM on October 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


While Red October is his most popular book, I think out of all of them I liked Without Remorse the best.

Liam Neeson (after seeing Taken) could have been an amazing John Clark.
posted by mrbill at 10:25 AM on October 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


13-year-old me loved Clancy. I grew out of it and moved on to other books, but I always had kind of a warm spot for everything up to The Sum of All Fears just for the enjoyment they gave me as a kid.

A few years ago, I started a tradition of going back and rereading a Clancy book whenever I had a long flight; I was really struck by how good he was, early on at least, at making you wonder what the hell happened next even when the characters were paper thin and the dialog ridiculous.

I also noticed that after The Sum of All Fears, he seemed to move into more of a dogmatic right-wing viewpoint. Like, he was always clearly a conservative, but there's this shift were suddenly democrats are gutting the navy with disastrous consequences and a barely-disguised Ted Kennedy is a rapist.

Still, the dude followed his interests and cranked out at least a few books that were tough to put down. That's definitely a form of victory. And I wish he'd been able to buy the Vikings; I bet that would have been interesting.
posted by COBRA! at 10:25 AM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wasn't Rainbow Six written at the same time as / to go along with, the video game? Rather than the book coming first and then the game being based on it...
posted by mrbill at 10:26 AM on October 2, 2013


Sad news. :(

I also stopped reading his books after Rainbow Six because the ideological shift was too overt. But I loved The Cardinal of the Kremlin, Red Storm Rising and The Hunt for Red October.

He was marvelous at writing thrillers, and had a knack for making technical minutiae, mechanical processes and political intrigue come alive. His male characters were believable and usually quite well fleshed out. Unfortunately, his female characters hardly ever got the same treatment. They mostly fell into one of two archetypes: healers or whores. Man oh man, did that get boring after a while.

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posted by zarq at 10:26 AM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


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Too dang young. Have they released a cause of death yet?
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 10:27 AM on October 2, 2013


I never read any of his books, but insofar as his work led to the first Splinter Cell game getting made, he's had a mostly positive effect on my life.

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posted by invitapriore at 10:27 AM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


There's a section in The Hunt For Red October, regarding something to do with the sub that's one of the best descriptions of a pure technical process/sequence that I can ever remember reading.

I remember reading David Foster Wallace talking in admiration about Clancy's ability to just hit pause on the plot and spend a while telling you how nuclear weapons or whatever worked.
posted by COBRA! at 10:27 AM on October 2, 2013 [10 favorites]


Also, man but those insurance salesmen sure get up to things.
posted by invitapriore at 10:29 AM on October 2, 2013


Oh and he gets bonus points for making Prince 'Chuck' Charles an action hero in Patriot Games for pure redonkulousness
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 10:30 AM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


There were a half dozen Ryanverse books that were just outstanding...got too political after that, but at his peak and in that genre the man was brilliant.


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posted by aerotive at 10:30 AM on October 2, 2013


ping
posted by scaryblackdeath at 10:32 AM on October 2, 2013


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posted by cass at 10:34 AM on October 2, 2013


The 1987 Hunt for Red October submarine simulator was, I think, the first graphical (and non-text-adventure) game I played on a computer. I loved that thing. Actually read the Dad-book because of it – a copy printed on cheap paper came with the game. Nerdery ahoy.

ping.
posted by fraula at 10:36 AM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I loved his books when I was younger, too. That was also a time in my life when I loved Robert Ludum and Michael Crichton, so I don't think I'll re-read any of them for fear of discovering that maybe they were not as good as I thought. I do have a copy on my bookshelf, though, of the Naval Institute Press hardcover version of The Hunt for Red October. I knew I had to read that book when my fifth grade teacher told the class about a book he was reading where a guy died on a submarine and they stashed his body in a freezer.
posted by MoonOrb at 10:36 AM on October 2, 2013


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posted by Gelatin at 10:38 AM on October 2, 2013


I couldn't really stand Clancy's politics and the way they started leaking more and more into the later books, but when he was on, he was on. There's a part in The Sum of All Fears where he basically hits super-slow-motion on the plot to detail exactly what is going on during the detonation of a nuclear bomb and what's happening to the people and objects around it, and it's absolutely fascinating. Man. I should go back and reread it.

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posted by Mr. Bad Example at 10:38 AM on October 2, 2013 [8 favorites]


For some reason, I thought Clancy was much older. 66 is far too young.
posted by xingcat at 10:38 AM on October 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


PING
posted by troika at 10:38 AM on October 2, 2013


fraula, same here. Played Hunt for Red October on my Commodore 64, read the book later.

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posted by annathea at 10:40 AM on October 2, 2013


The politics in his books bordered on self-parody sometimes but damn where they hard to put down. Having the villains in Sum of All Fears be a coalition of Native Americans, Palestinians and East Germans was pretty laughable but I still tore through all 800 pages in a couple of days.
posted by octothorpe at 10:43 AM on October 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


The early books definitely still stand up as good and engrossing reading, the sort where suddenly 3 hours have passed and the bath water is cold and you are a shivery prune. The later ones have the same potential but it is drowned out by the partisan nonsense.
posted by elizardbits at 10:43 AM on October 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


And a lot of generalized nonsense as well, admittedly, as per zarq's points above.
posted by elizardbits at 10:45 AM on October 2, 2013


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posted by jquinby at 10:47 AM on October 2, 2013


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posted by Renoroc at 10:49 AM on October 2, 2013


When we met my brother's in-laws at the engagement party (a big republican family), one of the grandkids was named "Jack Ryan" and the awkward small talk kept coming around to "We named him that first". My lefty history nerd relations all smiled and chuckled awkwardly, realizing there was something in the culture being alluded to that our collective nerd mind knew nothing of. Eventually someone told the joke and noticed the blank look and explained it to us. They were amazed none of us had read any Clancy, as they had heard we were 'Big Readers'.

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posted by readery at 10:53 AM on October 2, 2013 [10 favorites]


I was amazed at the end of Red storm Rising to notice that all those acronyms has sunk into my brain well enough that I could enjoy the story without stumbling over them. It could have been a fluke, but it happened in Hunt for Red October, too, and I realized Clancy just spun a good enough yarn to more than compensate.

. for all the times my friend Jude's dad stole my copy of Hunt for Red October on a marathon three-week car trip across Europe.
posted by wenestvedt at 10:54 AM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I hope they use the franchised "Tom Clancy's..." writers as pallbearers
posted by thelonius at 10:54 AM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


A friend of mine pointed out that if there's any justice in the world, Clancy will be given a Viking funeral in a decommissioned Alfa-class Soviet attack boat.
posted by COBRA! at 10:54 AM on October 2, 2013 [10 favorites]


A friend of mine pointed out that if there's any justice in the world, Clancy will be given a Viking funeral in a decommissioned Alfa-class Soviet attack boat.

"... and the sea will grant each man new hope, as sleep brings dreams of home."
posted by zarq at 10:56 AM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Bummer.
posted by Pudhoho at 10:58 AM on October 2, 2013


Damn, I just reread Patriot Games last week.
posted by xiw at 10:59 AM on October 2, 2013


He was an entertaining storyteller, a rare gift in this or any age.

ping
posted by Mister_A at 11:00 AM on October 2, 2013



I remember reading David Foster Wallace talking in admiration about Clancy's ability to just hit pause on the plot and spend a while telling you how nuclear weapons or whatever worked.


To be precise, an entire long chapter on the detonation of a nuclear bomb, right after the aforementioned bomb is said to go off in a football stadium and you're wondering what the hell is going to happen.
posted by randomkeystrike at 11:00 AM on October 2, 2013


He doesn't seem to have written anything in ten years that wasn't ascribed to "Tom Clancy (with Other Author)". I assumed that he was too old to keep writing and was outsourcing it but he was only in his fifties when he started doing.
posted by octothorpe at 11:01 AM on October 2, 2013


I can only speak to the earlier books which I read when I was in middle school, but inside each of those books was a nasty kernel of Reagan era militarism:

1) Red October takes as it's premise the fantasy that the USSR was technologically matching the US in military development. The take away is that we have to invest the big bucks in military technology if we don't want the Russkies slipping up the Potomac in magic subs.

2) Red Storm Rising. For all the overt military fantasy, the biggest fantasy was that a war between the US and USSR could be fought without the use of nuclear weapons. The thing about Reagan's build-up of the standing military to fight the communist menace was that the consensus was always that WWIII, no matter how it started would end up with a nuclear exchange.
posted by ennui.bz at 11:03 AM on October 2, 2013


The casting of Jack Ryan always bothered me. He should have looked like the (retired from the Jazz) basketball point guard John Stockton.
posted by Cranberry at 11:03 AM on October 2, 2013


These days it would be Tom Cruise.
posted by Artw at 11:07 AM on October 2, 2013


The newest Jack Ryan is Chris Pine.
posted by octothorpe at 11:10 AM on October 2, 2013


Cranberry: "The casting of Jack Ryan always bothered me. He should have looked like the (retired from the Jazz) basketball point guard John Stockton."

My dad was always bummed over the various casting choices for John Clark. No one was big, mean, or grizzled enough.
posted by jquinby at 11:10 AM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


As an aside, here is a History channel doc that covers the event that was partly the inspiration for The Hunt for Red October, if I remember correctly.

(apologies, although not a high quality production, it's reasonably better than most of that channel's current ridiculous fare, and does not contain any references to aliens, bigfoot, ancient mysteries, or Hitler's hidden Antarctic fortress with easy Hollow Earth access, I think.)
posted by chambers at 11:14 AM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've never been a fan of his books, but he inspired THFRO and 50 (or was it 60) games, among which Splinter Cell and Ghost Recon.

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posted by ersatz at 11:23 AM on October 2, 2013


I've read the Hunt For Red October at least seven times. I'm sure I won't read another book at least seven times. Haven't been back to him since those early 90s books started going south, as others have mentioned.

I can't believe he was only 66, he seemed like he was already in his 50s in the 80s.
posted by Kwine at 11:27 AM on October 2, 2013


I hadn't realized how crazy the last few books had gotten until I popped open the Wikipedia synopses just now. Everything centers around the "Campus," an off-the-books intelligence agency situated in the line of sight between the CIA and FBI, which apparently allows it to intercept all communications between the two agencies. The Campus funds itself through insider trades derived from its intelligence siftings, and its agents operate with impunity under the protection of "100 blank presidential pardons."

Those are the unvarnished good guys. The only character who dislikes the idea of an omniscient, unaccountable, market-distorting assassination agency is Evil Paul Soros, a former KGB mole who "decides to divert all of his resources, funds and power into one thing - the destruction of Jack Ryan and his administration."
posted by Iridic at 11:32 AM on October 2, 2013 [10 favorites]


fearfulsymmetry: "I went through a period of a couple of years in the early 90s where I devoured everything he'd written and carried on with him until things really started to slide with Rainbow Six. "

Agreed there: Rainbow Six was a paranoic conservative fear-wank about those scaaaary environment moles hoping to bring down the Fall of Man.

If death is defined by the cessation of brain activity, August 1998 would appear to be the date. I'll miss him for the work he did prior to then.
posted by IAmBroom at 11:36 AM on October 2, 2013


I got tremendous enjoyment out of Red Storm Rising when I was a kid, and a couple of years ago I realized that it is now feasible to film it with CGI effects on a reasonable budget. I do not know if I want anyone to do it, though...

RIP, Mr. Clancy.
posted by Harald74 at 11:37 AM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Like a lot of others, I loved his books when I was about 12. At that point they were perfect, long enough to allow me to read all the time, complex enough to feel adult, but still accessible. The amount of military equipment nerdery didn't hurt either. As an adult, I can't help but see all the problems with them, both in terms of encouraging terrible policy. They also got kind of silly later on (Iran and Iraq combine to form one country which then colludes with India and China to bring down America...yeah, that makes sense), but as a kid they were so fun.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:38 AM on October 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


I was a huge fan - his work from Hunt For Red October to Sum of All Fears was amazing, and I not only enjoyed them repeatedly, as I grew interested in writing myself, I learned a lot from how he structured his stories.

I used to own a "complete" collection, but after 9/11 I really didn't want to read about that world any more, and got rid of them. I took a couple of his later novels out for the library, but they didn't have that same appeal as his earlier works - his post 9/11 works were too starkly right versus wrong, instead of the shades of grey I could see everywhere. So I drifted away from his technothriller worlds.

But I'm sad he's gone, and glad for the many happy hours of reading I did have.


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posted by nubs at 11:39 AM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


The fall of the Soviet Union was a major blow to his career. I never read anything of his after that. But I definitely enjoyed him up until then.
posted by tommasz at 11:39 AM on October 2, 2013


>“All the Americans are paragons of courage, endurance and devotion to service and country,” Robert Lekachman wrote in The Times in 1986. “Their officers are uniformly competent and occasionally inspired. Men of all ranks are faithful husbands and devoted fathers.”

I have never had a problem with that. That's how I like my fables.


It's kind of interesting that you could apply the same criticism towards the Democratic-leaning The West Wing as Republican-leaning Clancy books.

I don't mean this as disrespect to the man, but it was weird how days after 9/11, Clancy was making the rounds on the news networks to talk about the US intelligence agencies and what we were going to do next. I wasn't sure if he was on because he had a lot of insider knowledge or the networks were running really low on guests after days of 24 hour coverage. The Onion noticed it too: Tom Clancy Treated Like He's Some Kind Of Terrorism Expert
posted by riruro at 11:41 AM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


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He spoke at my brothers college graduation at the end of the cold war, very interesting guy.

Me and a bunch of friends were out mountain biking once near the Chesapeake Bay and we ended up on his property and he came out and asked us to leave. he was pretty nice about it, all things considered.

I spent some time in the military and only once managed to 'catch him out' on the technical details. he claimed that a planes side number was 208 and in reality no plane can have any digit in a side number larger than 7 (3 bits).
posted by Confess, Fletch at 11:45 AM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's kind of interesting that you could apply the same criticism towards the Democratic-leaning The West Wing as Republican-leaning Clancy books.

As a West Wing-lover, I would counter that occasionally the West Wing had Republicans who acted out of principle and conviction (I'm thinking of that scene where Josh gets in an argument with the gay Republican whose name escapes me), whereas Clancy's Democrats were all spineless. I think you could level the same criticism at John Grisham--he sometimes has rightwing pantomime villains.
posted by hoyland at 11:46 AM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


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posted by Maastrictian at 11:50 AM on October 2, 2013


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posted by maryr at 11:53 AM on October 2, 2013


Inside the casket rested the earthly remains of Tom Clancy.

As the coffin was slowly, stately lowered into the earth, the Goalkeeper short range missile defence gatling guns opened up in a 21 gun salute, for all the world sounding like a giant tearing canvas.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:58 AM on October 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


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Those first four books were super engaging in high school, but my favorite Clancy-spawned memory was the intense typing scene in Clear and Present Danger between Jack Ryan and the Deputy Director of Operations. I think Jack Ryan was trying to bust into something, and the DDO had suspicions about it. It was weird and hilarious.
posted by ignignokt at 12:06 PM on October 2, 2013


inside each of those books was a nasty kernel of Reagan era militarism

Exactly. It was Ronald Reagan who made Tom Clancy. Nobody knew of Clancy who published in little known Navy Press, and Reagan was heard to remark something about Red October which got into the press and bingo, it became overnight sensation. Clancy for me has always been conservative propaganda, ends justify the means, peace through strength. Never touch the stuff.
posted by stbalbach at 12:20 PM on October 2, 2013


It's astonishing how many dudes my age bonded with their dads through Tom Clancy books. I did, too. I remember reading Red October and devouring it, but I was the kid who'd buy those Jane's All The World's Attack Submarines or whatever and read them all for fun.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 12:28 PM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I picked up The Hunt for Red October off the take-a-book/leave-a-book shelf of the hostel I was working at fifteen years ago for something to read in the subway home one night and to my mild dismay, found I was drawn the narrative although I hated the prose (perfectly captured above). Someone had left all the Jack Ryan books on the shelf, and I proceeded to read them all without ever pausing to admire a well-constructed phrase or evocative image, because to my recollection there were none. It was thus way I learned it is possible to read around 4000 pages of prose in a week and follow the story just fine.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 12:29 PM on October 2, 2013


/feels weird sadness for the long-gone heyday of airport thrillers. It's all "How You Are Smarter Than Liberals" now.

Artw, meet Jack Reacher. Jack, Artw. Have fun, guys.
posted by The Bellman at 12:32 PM on October 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Congrats for finally escaping Calvert County, Tom. Better late than never.
posted by dephlogisticated at 12:33 PM on October 2, 2013


Tom Clancy books were a large part of my 80s childhood.

He had an ability to draw you into a story, despite often hackneyed prose and sometimes one dimensional characters.
He definitely put the 'techno' in techno-thriller.

But as has been said above, when the ghost-writers started appearing, he either lost the knack or stopped caring about what made his books great, they became 600 page polemics, and I stopped reading.

Either way, thanks Tom for all those summer hours whiled away reading your books.
posted by madajb at 12:57 PM on October 2, 2013


I thought he was a lot older too, probably because he came and did a speech/author Q&A when I was in college (already super-famous, this would have been 1997ish?), and in response to some question about threats to the United States, he said, "The worst thing that ever happened to the U.S. was giving women the vote." When a bunch of 18-22-year-old women got up to leave, he said, "Oh, sit down, sit down, it's okay for me to say, I've got a wife! I've got daughters!" and HOW NEANDERTHAL DO YOU HAVE TO BE?

It's possible the "giving women the vote" comment was in some larger context that wasn't clear in that setting, but the "oh, sit down, sit down, it's okay for me to say!" was just ENRAGING. Suffice to say I am deliberately ignorant of all Tom Clanciana postdating that event.

(I'm poking through the student newspaper archives since I'm sure they would have written about it, but stuff from that period doesn't seem to be online yet.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:04 PM on October 2, 2013 [8 favorites]


Loved reading Clancy's books. I always wanted to be Jack Ryan. 66 is young.

Ping

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posted by JohnnyGunn at 1:09 PM on October 2, 2013



(that is a bullet)


[Said in my best Sean Connery voice:] Most things in here don't react well to bullets.
posted by compartment at 1:09 PM on October 2, 2013 [7 favorites]


I find it curious, that no cause of death has been made public.

I guess 66 year olds sometimes just drop dead for no apparent reason...
posted by littlejohnnyjewel at 1:19 PM on October 2, 2013


THIS is a nice thread. You see, we can have nice things.
posted by JHarris at 1:29 PM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


In addition to being an excellent book, THFRO is also one of those movies that qualify as "Gotta stop and watch it, if it's on". Like the AV equivalent of comfort food.

I was reminded of something else. A few years ago, before the advent of cheap eBooks and sub-$100 ereaders, my dear late departed wife wanted to read The Hunt for Red October one night. It was late, all the local bookstores were closed, and none of our paper copies could be located.

I woke up the next morning to discover that she had tracked down a pirated PDF copy off the 'net, then proceeded to print the entire book, using (the entire ink cartridge on) our non-duplex inkjet printer. It turned into a running joke about how she had the most expensive copy of THFRO ever.
posted by mrbill at 1:29 PM on October 2, 2013 [8 favorites]


Ping
posted by OHenryPacey at 1:30 PM on October 2, 2013


Clancy for me has always been conservative propaganda, ends justify the means, peace through strength. Never touch the stuff.

I mostly read Clancy before I had a politics that was more than unconsciously parroting the background noise of where I grew up, so I'm sure I'd notice a lot more of this energy now. Still, as plenty of others have observed in this thread, in his prime the man was one helluva good storyteller, and considering the things I believe sincerely now, I don't think the exposure to his worldview did me any lasting harm.

And I, too, bonded with my dad over how much fun we had with those books. That's worth a lot to me.

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posted by brennen at 1:30 PM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


(Eyebrows McGee, was this at Notre Dame? I heard about a similar incident from my parents, who worked at ND, and they seemed to be under the impression that he was drunk during his talk.)
posted by nicepersonality at 1:32 PM on October 2, 2013


Yeah, while my politics were fairly uninformed when I was devouring his stuff, I certainly ended up miles away from any well-represented position of Clancy's. On the other hand, the fact that I could bike down to the local library on a warm summer's day and ride back with a backpack full of hardcover potboilers was one of the many things that kindled in me a love of and respect for libraries. While his later works were certainly polemic and even his earlier ones are pretty easy to locate in the vein of conservative triumphalism, they're also damn good fun, and I think I'd have lost something if I'd let those (easily-refuted) political bugaboos dissuade me. He could have been a lot better about writing women, though, that's for sure.
posted by Errant at 1:48 PM on October 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


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posted by Bwithh at 1:52 PM on October 2, 2013


He could have been a lot better about writing women, though, that's for sure.

Yeah, you ingest a lot of Clancy at 13, you wind up with some weird ideas how marriages function.

it's even worse if you go on to ingesting a lot of tom robbins
posted by COBRA! at 1:53 PM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


As a kid, my dad took me to see The Hunt for Red October movie. I caught the first little bit, fell asleep, and then woke up at the very end. For years, I was convinced that Sean Connery spoke in Russian with subtitles for the entire movie.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:56 PM on October 2, 2013


I have to assume that Christopher Buckley will not be a pallbearer.
posted by Man-Thing at 2:06 PM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


it's even worse if you go on to ingesting a lot of tom robbins

oh my GOD rereading his stuff made me realize that he is utterly incapable of writing anything other than white men. any attempts at writing women or POCs ends in hideous racist/sexist parodies.

posted by elizardbits at 2:09 PM on October 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yeah, you ingest a lot of Clancy at 13, you wind up with some weird ideas how marriages function.

I distinctly recall encountering a woman character in one of Clancy's mid-career novels who wasn't either a honeypot agent or a stupid lonely/widowed dupe and being surprised at this bold new career path. (I believe she died in a car crash about two pages later.)
posted by Errant at 2:18 PM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


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posted by Ber at 2:24 PM on October 2, 2013


There were certainly some things not to like in Clancy's books--especially the later ones, but as far as edge of your chair description...wow.




ping
posted by BlueHorse at 2:42 PM on October 2, 2013


There was a lot of hype at the time about the first book being super realistic ("Does he have inside connections with the guys running secret programs?!" and so on) and a ripping yarn, and I like it when yarn rips realistically, so I read that one, but he definitely wasn't the sort of guy I liked. As for the cause of death: is it possible he was a government program?
posted by pracowity at 2:49 PM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


When I was in junior high and was attempting to write Michael Crichton rip-off "novels", I sent Clancy an email asking for advice as a writer.

He sent me a single word response: "Write."


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posted by brundlefly at 2:54 PM on October 2, 2013 [17 favorites]


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posted by Token Meme at 2:55 PM on October 2, 2013


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posted by Mitheral at 3:05 PM on October 2, 2013


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posted by vonstadler at 3:10 PM on October 2, 2013


I would have liked to have seen Montana.

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posted by crossoverman at 3:32 PM on October 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


I distinctly recall encountering a woman character in one of Clancy's mid-career novels who wasn't either a honeypot agent or a stupid lonely/widowed dupe and being surprised at this bold new career path. (I believe she died in a car crash about two pages later.)

I seem to remember that two of his super-spies that crop up in several of his novels are a husband and wife team (with two kids eventually)... one a field agent, and one a research type. I think they ended up running the Berlin station. Thought that's not really your typical marriage.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:50 PM on October 2, 2013


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posted by mstokes650 at 3:54 PM on October 2, 2013


I was delighted to find out today that reading a hyper-bureaucratised parody of The Hunt for Red October was a rite of passage for actual CIA staffers.

She continued slowly and surely as an icebreaker. “I don’t know what sources you used, but someone has made a serious error. The Soviets have not developed an impeller drive system.”

“Sandra, I’m afraid you’re wrong on that,” Jack thought he had the advantage at last. “According to this report from British intelligence—complete with pictures, I may add—the Soviets have an operable impeller system on the ‘Red October.’”

Her answer was as rapid and as categorical as machine gun fire. “The British are wrong. Don’t tell me you believe something just because it appeared in print somewhere? After all, one wouldn’t accept something as true simply because it appeared in a Reuter press release,” she added.

Actually, Jack would. It had never occurred to him before that something printed in black and white might not be true. Jack felt his intellectual world begin to crumble around him as he contemplated that possibility—so he ignored it, and concentrated on the matter at hand. “Listen, Sandra, if the Sovs don’t have an impeller drive system, what are those round black circles on the side of the ‘Red October’?”

“Mickey Mouse ears. Someone has painted a Disney logo on the side of that submarine. We have already subjected these photographs to careful analysis using advanced computer models that analyze the light reflections from the various surfaces of the vessel—I would explore the details but you wouldn’t understand.”

posted by Sebmojo at 3:55 PM on October 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


I seem to remember that two of his super-spies that crop up in several of his novels are a husband and wife team (with two kids eventually)... one a field agent, and one a research type. I think they ended up running the Berlin station.

Yeah, Ed and Mary Pat Foley. They're interesting, they're basically the best spies ever in part because they act so dumb that no one suspects them, and then they end up being two of the most senior officials in the CIA organization. Doesn't really negate the impression that his characters are either totally tubular or utter rubes, but sure.
posted by Errant at 4:05 PM on October 2, 2013


It was Ronald Reagan who made Tom Clancy. Nobody knew of Clancy who published in little known Navy Press, and Reagan was heard to remark something about Red October which got into the press and bingo, it became overnight sensation.

Maybe, maybe not. He had the gift of narrative drive, and no amount of shilling can help you if you don't have that. It might have taken longer, but I think he would have taken off regardless.

(BTW, that's the Naval Institute Press - quite well known in naval circles because focused on naval issues. Fiction is a very small part of their catalog.)
posted by IndigoJones at 4:29 PM on October 2, 2013


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posted by NordyneDefenceDynamics at 5:41 PM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


So what's become of the Dad Potboiler genre? Because my dad was into Tom Clancy, Craig Thomas, Dale Brown, and all those Self-Insert Two-Fisted Badass Fighting The Russians And Liberals books and also the Larry Bond/Harold Coyle "No, the Russians are REALLY coming, my M1A1 let me show you it"-types and I read a ton of them for a while but obviously grew out of that phase. Did the death of the USSR kill the Dad Potboiler?
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 7:16 PM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


The thing that I always find fascinating is how disconnected popular success is from purely literary merit. People bag on Dan Brown's writing style, or Clancy's or any of these guys, but many do so full of incredulity, as if wooden awful writing automatically precluded popular success. Of course, you don't have to be a bad stylist to be popular - see Chandler, King, Leonard to name a few who are to varying degrees decent or at least competent stylists. But there are plenty, plenty, plenty awful ones who are super successful, and it hampers them not one bit. Many of their infuriated detractors are openly envious of their success and simply cannot imagine how it can be that someone who writes in such horrendous style manages to be so very successful.

I never read Clancy, so this is a good excuse to delve into some of his early stuff - hope it's not like my experience with Dan Brown (read The Da Vinci Code, and feel no need to read anything else by him). What should I start with?
posted by VikingSword at 10:26 PM on October 2, 2013


As a child of the Military-Industrial complex I grew up reading his books, and they were part of my deep appreciation for how bad war was. I lost interest after things got too "Jack Ryan ex macima", but he clearly wrote as someone from the cold war era and mindset.

Later on I read that he was an early adopter of online communications (Compuserve?), and had a reputation for tearing white supremacists a new exhaust port online when they emailed him or spouted their nonsense on the then new newsgroups.

Sad to see him go so young.
posted by nickggully at 10:45 PM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I never read Clancy, so this is a good excuse to delve into some of his early stuff - hope it's not like my experience with Dan Brown (read The Da Vinci Code, and feel no need to read anything else by him). What should I start with?

Personally, I'd recommend starting with one of two books.

Red Storm Rising is a wonderful global thermonuclear war thriller, written and set at at time when that concept was much more plausible. If you can put your head into the pre-collapse Soviet space, it has many advantages as an introduction, chief of which is that it is a self-contained novel. So if you don't like what he's doing or any of the characters involved, you may at least rest assured that nothing or no one like it happens again.

But, for my money, start with The Hunt for Red October. It's his signature and most classic book for a reason; and if you've seen the movie, you will be astonished at how much more stuff there is in his work. He was once an incredibly intricate and nuanced thriller writer, and there are at least five whole storylines that don't appear in the film at alll (understandably, of course).

Know that you're walking into a lowercase-"c" conservative mindset, and then read, in order, The Hunt for Red October, The Cardinal of the Kremlin, Clear and Present Danger, The Sum of All Fears. I left out Patriot Games because Clancy doesn't, in my opinion, do Western terrorism as well as non-Western terrorism, and because Jack Ryan is not really that interesting until after he is a fully-fledged CIA analyst or higher, which the Hunt for Red October sets up. (Side note: I cannot believe The Cardinal of the Kremlin is the only one of those never to have been adapted for film, because it is in my opinion the best and most interesting one.)

If, after you have read those ones, you are interested to read more, go in this order: Patriot Games, Without Remorse, Debt of Honor, Rainbow Six. Those four are more thriller than intrigue, but because they utilize familiar characters, they will be more enjoyable as prequels and side stories once you've read through the "main canon", as it were.

After that, I haven't read very much at all for reasons already elucidated, so good luck, and I hope you find yourself as unreasonably fond of those books as I am.
posted by Errant at 2:29 AM on October 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


Read everything up to Red Rabbit, although with increasing reluctance (and avoided all the ghostwritten stuff). He truly was a master at absolutely ridiculous plots (Prince Charles: Action Hero, Jack Ryan becomes VP, Jack Ryan becomes POTUS, Russia joining NATO to fight the Chinese, etc.) combined with meticulous technical and technological realism (even while using fictional technologies). His books worked because they hooked you and kept you hooked even through the most preposterous twists. At times it approached revenge porn, that conservative fantasy of "if only everyone just listened to me and did what I wanted, everyone would be happy and content", but every author has their own delusions. If you can accept that, they can be an enjoyable read.

I do miss looking forward to a new Clancy book coming out. Too bad that feeling went well before he did, and too bad he went before writing one that brought that feeling back.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 4:02 AM on October 3, 2013


Eh, every writer has their political axe to grind. But like many here, I bonded with my dad over Tom Clancy novels, and they were always a good yarn.

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posted by corb at 5:07 AM on October 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


A spoiler, but:

Red Storm Rising is a wonderful global thermonuclear war thriller

No nukes go off in RSR. Or at most very few. But it's not a "global apocalypse" book at all.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:07 AM on October 3, 2013


I enjoyed the cold-war era Clancy potboilers growing up. And his slide into political jingoism wasn't as comically awful as Dale Brown's, although I also gave up some time around Rainbow Six.

The Clancy books that still sit on my shelf (other than THFRO) are his Gulf War era co-authored command histories.

on the Army: Into the Storm (w/ Fred Franks)

on the Air Force: Every Man a Tiger (w/ Chuck Horner)

and, less so, on the SOF: Shadow Warriors (w/Carl Stiner)

I haven't read Battle Ready, with Zinni, which is more of a Marine institutional history of the "transformation" ('RMA') era.

(His "reference" titles were also fun companions to the thrillers, growing up: Submarine, Carrier, Airborne, Armored Cav etc.)
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:15 AM on October 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I find it curious, that no cause of death has been made public.

I guess 66 year olds sometimes just drop dead for no apparent reason...


Be careful about speculating. There may still be a black ops squadron lurking in Baltimore.
posted by TedW at 10:35 AM on October 3, 2013


A spoiler, but:

Red Storm Rising is a wonderful global thermonuclear war thriller

No nukes go off in RSR. Or at most very few. But it's not a "global apocalypse" book at all.


Yes, sorry, this is correct. I wrote that kind of late at night and I was thinking about WarGames and Global Thermonuclear War and "the only winning move is not to play" and I didn't really get the thought out that I wanted. It is in fact notable for being a WWIII novel without nuclear warfare but with the attendant brinksmanship in a conventional warfare setting. I obviously expressed that about as badly as it is possible to do so, hence my apologies.
posted by Errant at 11:33 AM on October 3, 2013


No worries; I just didn't want someone to avoid it because they didn't want to read an On The Beach / Threads everybody-dies-palooza.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:27 PM on October 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Lengthy 1991 New Yorker review of The Sum of All Fears.
posted by COBRA! at 1:28 PM on October 3, 2013


What it was like ghost writing for Tom Clancy.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:34 AM on October 4, 2013


Louis Menand's New Yorker review of Sum of All Fears that COBRA! linked to is great. Tom Clancy did have some... quirks... as a plotter and inventor of character. Have some direct quotations from the review:

Clancy in terms of Barrie:
(Clancy) knows he is writing fairy tales, but cannot keep from begging us, like Peter Pan, to clap our hands and make it so.
    The idea in "The Sum of All Fears" is that the bad fairies have got hold of a nuclear bomb and it's up to the good fairies to keep them from starting the Third World War. The bad fairies here are a sorry group; after all, the world's supply of bad fairies has fallen off rather sharply since 1984.
It's really very simple (emphasis mine):
It has Jack, now the deputy director of the C.I.A., whip up a peace plan for the Middle East. Jack's brainstorm is pretty simple--but then that's always the way with the really big ideas, isn't it? His plan is to evacuate the Jewish settlements on the West Bank and hand it over to the Palestinians; make Jerusalem a dominion of the Vatican governed by an interfaith troika of clerics and policed by the Swiss Guard; and guarantee Israel's security by stationing American troops there permanently. The Israelis (in an extremely feeble concession to reality) are made to have a few reservations about this plan. But the rest of the world is enthusiastic, the Israelis come to realize that it's in their interest to cooperate, and the treaty is signed by the major powers, under the vague auspices of the Pope, in a ceremony at the Vatican.
Not the most feminist work:
[...] [his characters are] cut out carefully along the dotted lines. If the story requires a professor, he will be absent-minded; if it requires a young cop, he will be gung ho and a little undisciplined. Politicians are fickle and self-serving, and reporters are jaded scandal-hounds. [...] [W]hen he creates a female character he cannot, for reasons that are not obvious to me, resist humiliating her. A female television reporter refuses to wear a bulletproof vest when she goes to interview a terrorist being staked out by the F.B.I., and when the terrorist is shot in the face and killed in front of her, his blood soaks her blouse. She is made to vomit from the shock and to rip off her shirt, "forgetting that there was nothing under it." Another woman, a convicted murderer, hangs herself in her cell after removing her dress and bra. A third, a housewife, is stripped and assassinated, and her body is sliced into pieces with a chain saw. The major female character, Liz Elliot, is grasping, contemptible, and a sexual predator. Her plots, needless to say, explode in her face, and at the end of the book her reaction to the global crisis she is supposed to help the President deal with is so hysterical that she had to be sedated.
And:
Jack's wife, Cathy, thought a crackerjack eye surgeon and supermom, is the subject of what must be one of the strangest lines ever written to conclude a love scene: "And then it was over, and he lay at her side. Cathy pulled him against her, his face to her regrettably flat chest."
Note: I'm recounting this stuff not to tear the man down. There are certainly popular writers who write much more artificial and denigrating potboilers than Tom Clancy. I found the quotes interesting, is all. I seem to remember an ultra-right teacher who went to the Depressing Christian Private School I went to loved Clancy, but I have to wonder what he thought about the idea of having the Vatican take over Jerusalem.
posted by JHarris at 8:26 PM on October 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Another woman, a convicted murderer, hangs herself in her cell after removing her dress and bra.

Clancy did much that was wrong headed*... but I remember this and I was pretty sure it was a call back to the death of Ulrike Meinhof of Baader-Meinhof - the character wasn't just a murderer but a terrorist. She uses the clothes to fashion a noose.

*My fave bit was after terrorists use magic hacking to shut down the NY stock exchange for some time thus potentially crippling the US economy President Ryan solves this but just starting it again with the share prices as was (all the other share prices movements on all the other stock exchanges around the world and how that that might effect this is of course not mentioned)

I also seem to remember that Ryan introduced a flat tax, but also massively stamped down on the corporate lobbying of the government so it wasn't all bad.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 4:41 AM on October 5, 2013


From the director of "Thor".
posted by octothorpe at 11:14 AM on October 5, 2013


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