back to article Techno-thriller author and gaming franchise Tom Clancy dies at 66

Tom Clancy, the author of techno-thrillers that sold more than 100 million copies and a games franchise that lured in nearly as many software buyers, has died at the age of 66 in Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore. Clancy shot to fame in 1985 with the publication of his first novel, The Hunt for Red October, which was written …


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  1. Kharkov

    He'll be missed...

    A sad loss.

    It was after reading Red Storm Rising that I got interested in the Harpoon game-system. A paper map and bits of card and my friends & I were happy for hours fighting over the Norwegian Sea, crossing the Atlantic with convoys & defending the UK.

    He wrote interesting page-turners that nevertheless pointed out some of the limitations of power.

    RIP, Tom, you were the first & best of the modern techno-thriller writers.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: He'll be missed...

      66 years old?

      That's not fair is it.

    2. Ian 55

      Re: He'll be missed...

      Harpoon is interesting - techno deathmatch Hide-and-Seek, because if they find you before you find them, you're dead.

  2. Roger Stenning

    RIP, Sir.

    You led the class from the front.

  3. attoman

    Clancy and Dolby

    Dolby was a great inventor who touched billions of people. Why did die so young?

    Clancy wrote about 15 good overnight reads and far too many dual author junk reads.

    1. Ian Tunnacliffe

      Re: Clancy and Dolby

      Could it be something to do with that ever present merit cigarette?

      1. JDX Gold badge

        Re: Clancy and Dolby

        None of the news stories have reported the cause of his death, which now makes me curious a)what it was b)why it isn't mentioned.

      2. JeffyPoooh Silver badge

        Re: Clancy and Dolby

        '...merit cigarette...'

        I was wondering if he must have been a smoker, to die so young at 66.

        It's a darn shame to be extremely wealthy, and dead. RIP.

    2. John 62

      Re: Clancy and Dolby

      overnight reads? I thought his shortest book was about 600 pages!

  4. Daniel B.

    Sad loss

    Though I'll admit that the only book I've actually read has been The Hunt for Red October. Most of his other stuff, I only watched the movie adaptations. Hunt for Red October was mighty good.

    1. GitMeMyShootinIrons

      Re: Sad loss

      The films generally murder the books, with the exception of Hunt for Red October that at least tried to stick to the story.

      I still come back to Red Storm Rising from time to time.

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: Sad loss

        Sean Connery's Russian accent in Red October was particularly awesome.

  5. Eponymous Cowherd

    Always believable

    No other author of "techo-thrillers" could convey an air of authenticity like Tom Clancy.

    A real sad loss.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: No other author of "techo-thrillers" could convey an air of authenticity like Tom Clancy.

      While I enjoyed his books very much, and agree that Clancy gives a convincing air-of-authenticity, I wouldn't regard that aithenticity as particularly unique. For example, compare with the less well known but equally `authentic' "ninth day of creation" by Leonard Crane.

  6. Shaun 2

    I've loved all of the Ryan/Clark books - Fantastic author. Really sad :(

  7. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    Goodbye Ryan and Clark

    There were some good books concealed in the arms catalogues!

  8. Craig 2

    Early Jack Ryan novels were good (Red October etc). The `Net Force` series, well....

    Too early to go though, people regard 66 as `middle aged` these days.

    1. Dabooka Silver badge

      I have to agree entirely

      I love the 'biggies' he wrote; Red October, Red Storm et al, but the Net Force were a little,er, shit. Even at the time of VR glasses being 'imminent' for everyone's home entertainment, they were pretty dreadful. I think I gave up after 2.

      Red October was my first grown up book, I recall reading it on the way into school, probably about 1987/88. And the film was my first book adaptation where I'd done the novel first.

      1. foxyshadis

        Re: I have to agree entirely

        There were ten Net Force novels and 18 Net Force Explorers novels, all written within 6-7 years. I doubt he ever even saw them before publication, let alone contributed.

  9. Lottie

    Rainbow 6

    One of the first games that really, really grabbed me. The book was decent too.

  10. RyokuMas Silver badge

    "Ubisoft says future releases will carry on author's legacy"

    trans: "Ubisoft intends to milk the name for all its worth in the name of profit"

    1. Marketing Hack Silver badge

      @ RyoukuMas

      Hey, it could be worse!!

      "Today, UbiSoft and the Tom Clancy estate announced the transfer of all Tom Clancy-related rights and licenses to EA...."


  11. IHateWearingATie

    Loved the early books, later ones not so much...

    I thought his early books were great (Cardinal of the Kremlin etc), but the later ones (Executive Orders, Bear and the Dragon etc) just got more and more one dimensional - 'America is great, right wing libertarians are right and everyone else is wrong'.


  12. Snapper

    Of course....

    One of his books gave the Bush administration the idea for 9-11.

    1. thegrouch

      Re: Of course....

      Actually it was a Japanese pilot who crashed his plane into the White House in 'Debt of Honour', arguably the idea came from the Kamikaze pilots of WWII? Try 'Storming Heaven' by Dale Brown for more technothriller aircraft based acts of terror.

  13. SeanEllis

    He was a space enthusiast, too

    I remember seeing him speak at the rollout of the Rotary Rocket ATV in Mojave in 1999, sporting a jaunty Casey Jones engine-driver's hat. He invested a fair wedge of his own cash in the venture, and was bullish about their prospects to open up space in the same way that the railways opened up the American West, something that unfortunately didn't happen. Sorry to see him go.

  14. Ian Tunnacliffe

    I "discovered" Tom Clancy about 15 years ago. I started with Red October, which was terrific and read through chronologically as far as Executive Orders. At which point I gave up, as a once-brilliant writer of stories founded in cold-war realities morphed into a one-dimensional right-wing polemicist with an increasingly shaky grasp of reality. Stuck for something to read on a long flight I later bought Red Rabbit and was astonished at how far his work had fallen. The trademark detail and accuracy of Red October was replaced by wild-eyed, mouth frothing neo fascist ranting.

    Obviously most of the recent output that bore his name was concocted by a team of anonymous hacks at the publishing company. Good business for them I suppose.

    I will try to remember him for the first three or four books. They were good.

  15. disgruntled yank Silver badge

    Saw that

    Sorry to see him dead so soon. Sixty-six doesn't look so old from here.

    But I quit after Red October. The dialogue was laughable, and the general outlook seemed to be that of a fairly naive and unreflective midshipman. A few years later, I happened on a used copy of the WW II submarine novel Run Silent, Run Deep, written by a man with serious time on the submarines. And guess what--not everything works right: USN personnel screw up, US submarines are attacked by their own torpedos, the enemies (German and Japanese) are at least as smart, at least as technologically able. Clancy struck me as a writer who portrayed the military as it would like to imagine itself, a Kipling without the gifts.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Saw that

      I'm not sure that's entirely fair. I gave up on his later stuff, but Red Storm Rising has some fun ideas. And like a commentard above, got me interested in Harpoon as well.

      It also has plenty of bits of US navy kit not working and US forces screwing things up. Although I suppose at one point, when it's all gone horribly pear-shaped he sinks the French aircraft carrier and lets the American one get away with heavy damage. Not that I'm saying his books were full of political sophistication or anything. Also Red October does mostly have the US getting stuff right and things not going the Soviets' way - but then that's partly a necessary function of the plot.

      Clancy was also the basis for a couple of very silly jokes in Headcrash, which was an odd book which had many very silly jokes, but was quite fun at the time. Sadly the internet hasn't morphed into a sort of virtual Doom, but on the upside, at least you don't have to stick anything up your bottom in order to get the full experience of Web 2.0...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Read that

      Run Silent, Run Deep. Loved the book, despised the movie.

      1. disgruntled yank Silver badge

        Re: Read that

        Didn't realize they made a movie, not surprised to hear either that they did or that it was bad.

        If you are a connoisseur of bad submarine movies, though, you should hunt up "Hellcats of the Navy", starring not only Ronald Reagan but Nancy Davis, later Nancy Reagan.

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: Read that

          I too was nervous that you recommended the book, because I've unfortunately seen the film. Co-incidentally I also saw a bit of Hellcats of the Navy at the weekend, as it was on some channel in deepest, darkest Sky. It didn't look terribly good, and I only flicked over to it for a bit. Their submarine seemed to have millions of torpedo tubes, I'm sure he said "Fire 10!" at one point. They seemed to be able to shoot a destroyer, sink it in about 5 seconds, dive to avoid its friend, then pop up and account for them - all in the space of about 60 seconds.

          I know you have to compress time in films, or we'd all die of boredom. Yes I'm looking at you Peter Jackson! I've watched about 17 hours of The Hobbit already, and we've barely got anywhere yet! My legs will have fallen off by the time they get anything done. Sorry, digression alert.

          I highly recommend Das Boot. Both the film, the full 6 hour mini-series and the book. Particularly as they recently digitally remastered it. This makes it all a bit nicer, but the big benefit is that they went back to the original cast and got the ones who hadn't done an English dub to do so. So you can listen to it in English, with the proper actors doing it, rather than some rubbish dubbing 'artistes' - or watch with subtitles. One word of German I definitely now know is, "Alaaaarrrrrmmmmmm!!!!!!!!!" Although there was still a review on Amazon complaining that when he watched it in English, the actors' lips didn't synch with their voices...

          Oh, and one of the better DVD commentaries as well.

  16. Tromos

    RIP Tom Clancy

    I'm pretty sure he lent the name not just to game franchises, but also to the so-called co-written books. The average quality of these is so far below that of his solo works that it is difficult to believe he had very much to do with them. Pity to see him go so early, it isn't often that you get an author consistently pushing out best sellers that also make a good movie.

  17. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    *very* young for a modern wealthy American to die.

    And Clancy was a very wealthy American.

    I always found his novels a good laugh and I wondered how many people realized how much of Jack Ryan's later career was modeled on that of George Bush Snr.

    The plot for the original Net Force was pretty dumb but it was fun realizing who the power hungry bad guy was modeled on.

  18. Martin

    He may be dead...

    ...but no doubt there will still be Tom Clancy novels released.

    I'm old enough to remember when the death of an author meant that there were no more books by said author. Nowadays, it just seems to mean a short hiatus before someone is employed to churn out a book in a similar style with the original author's name on it.

    And yes, sixty-six is FAR too young.

  19. Dom 3


    Clancy's technowibble was all a bit spoiled for me when he had a "computer expert" be handed a floppy and say "it's a Sony MFD-2DD double-density diskette", like anybody that knows anything is going to a) read out what's on the label and b) not just refer to it as a bog-standard floopy.

    1. John 62

      Re: Technowibble

      The US trojan program sent into the Chinese politburo's computers in The Bear And The Dragon was a rather low point, but at least in that book there was a reasonably good description of a rushed software upgrade to some rather critical aiming software in a rather critical defence system, and the upgrade introduced a bug, which although it was only one bug was pretty realistic nonetheless!

  20. Marketing Hack Silver badge

    RIP Tom...

    I think the only book of his I read was "Red Storm Rising". I did play the harpoon computer games years back. I enjoyed the Harrison Ford Jack Ryan movies and the Hunt for Red October.

    Mr Clancy also gets props for having a sense of humor. I remember the Simpson's episode where Marge becomes an author and Marges publisher hits up Tom Clancy for a book jacket endorsement.

    "Would I say that (name of marges book) presents a clear and present danger to your free time? No I wouldn't. What do you mean I just did?!"

  21. Graham Marsden

    A sad loss...

    He did write some excellent books, but it's a shame that his latest ones mostly involved him franchising out his name to other writers.

    For instance I'm currently reading (or, rather, struggling through) "Against All Enemies" which has TOM CLANCY in big letters all over the top of the cover and, below it the title. Sandwiched in the middle, in a comparatively tiny font, printed in grey on a crimson background it says "with Peter Telep" who clearly did most of the writing because it's certainly not a Clancy novel.

    A bad case of Bait and Switch to end a glittering career :-(

  22. John 62


    Teenage me revelled in his massive tomes containing glorious descriptions of (mostly) US derring do.

    Adult me decided to read The Bear and The Dragon. Oh dear - a teen idol knocked from its totem pole. I mostly agree with Clancy on politics and economics, but 600 pages of glib neo-conservativism was too much for me and left a bad taste in the mouth even though the final 300 pages was a mostly terrific description of military logistics only let down by some poor writing about the actual fighting.

  23. foxyshadis

    A short but notable run

    If you enjoy endless technical and procedure manuals in the middle of your fiction - why hello, Neil Stephenson - I suppose Clancy was an all right writer. More than anything I think he just tapped into the zeitgeist of his time and sold boatloads to the military, ex-military, and wannabe military, taking advantage of their particular ingrained tolerance for excessive detail, which isn't a bad thing. I just wish he'd actually written anything in the last two decades; Sum of All Fears is the last one that was distinctly his, and not a ghostwriter's.

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