WASHINGTON: American author Tom Clancy, whose spy and military thrillers became worldwide best-sellers and inspired a raft of Hollywood hit films, has died, his New York publisher said on Wednesday. He was 66.
His more than 25 fiction and non-fiction books included his 1984 novel The Hunt for Red October as well as Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger.
“He was a consummate author, creating the modern-day thriller, and was one of the most visionary storytellers of our time,” said Penguin Group executive David Shanks in a statement.
“I will miss him dearly and he will be missed by tens of millions of readers worldwide,” added Shanks, who was involved in the publication of all of Clancy’s works.
The Baltimore Sun newspaper said Clancy, a Maryland native, died on Tuesday “after a brief illness” at the city’s Johns Hopkins hospital.
Clancy, who is estimated to have sold more than 100 million books worldwide, set his novels in the context of the Cold War and its aftermath, throwing a spotlight on high espionage and military science with rich attention to technical detail.
“The difference between fiction and reality,” he once said, “is that fiction has to make sense.”
Ivan Held, president of Penguin imprint Putnam’s, said publishing a Clancy book was “a thrill every time… He was ahead of the news curve and sometimes frighteningly prescient.”
Beyond the realm of books, Clancy licensed his name to a series of successful video games such as the hugely popular “Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell” franchise released by French company Ubisoft.
“Tom Clancy was an extraordinary author with a gift for creating detailed, engrossing fictional stories that captivated audiences around the world,” said Ubisoft on its Facebook page.
An avowed Republican, Clancy was also a co-owner of the Baltimore Orioles baseball team in the city in which he was born, and to which later in life he returned to, settling into a chic harborside condo.
“He really arrived when critics began (describing) other authors’ books as being ‘Clancyesque’,” said Hollywood producer Mace Neufeld, who brought four of Clancy’s best-sellers onto the silver screen.
Clancy was an insurance salesman when he sent The Hunt for Red October to Deborah Grosvenor, an editor at Naval Institute Press who is credited with discovering him.
The small publishing house was expanding into nautical-themed fiction, so the book’s gripping tale about the pursuit of a top-secret Soviet submarine made a good fit.
It introduced Jack Ryan as one of Clancy’s enduring characters, a CIA analyst with a military background who specialized in covert operations against the Soviet Union and, in later books, ventured into Washington politics.
The success of The Hunt for Red October— more than five million copies sold—was helped in no small part by then-president Ronald Reagan, who praised it as “the perfect yarn.”
Seventeen of Clancy’s books topped the New York Times best-seller lists. His latest work Command Authority was due to be published in December, just in time for Christmas gift-giving.
Sometimes his story lines could be eerily prophetic: Debt of Honor from 1994 featured a Japanese kamikaze attack on the US Capitol using a Boeing 747 airliner.
Former US general and secretary of state Colin Powell, a close friend of the novelist, said he enjoyed all of Clancy’s books, but “had a special feeling for Clear and Present Danger, which grew out of conversations they had had.
On the big screen, Jack Ryan has been portrayed by the likes of Alec Baldwin in The Hunt for Red October, Harrison Ford in Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger and Ben Affleck in The Sum of All Fears.