I once boarded an airplane and counted a dozen different Tom Clancy books being read in those pre-Kindle days as I walked down the row. On another trip, I flew on four planes and on all four was seated next to someone reading a Tom Clancy book. Clancy, who died today at age 66, was the master of the “airplane novel,” the gripping thriller that is just right for passing the time while traveling. Clancy’s trademark was the detailed descriptions of weapons and other military technology. He made it all seem both fantastic and realistic. That’s because it was both. Clancy was as famous for his meticulous research into dense and arcane government reports. That research produced his nonfiction “Guided Tour” series about military machinery. That’s just the background, though. What made his books come alive was the intensity of the peril in his plots and the integrity and dedication of the characters, especially Jack Ryan and Admiral Greer.
Clancy’s Jack Ryan books have been made into four movies (so far): The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games, and Clear and Present Danger) (Alec Baldwin as Ryan in the first one and Harrison Ford in the second and third), plus The Sum of All Fears, a prequel with Ben Affleck. “Jack Ryan: Shadow One” is now in production, directed by Kenneth Branagh and starring “Star Trek’s” Chris Pine.
“The Hunt for Red October” is one of my favorite thrillers, with an all-star cast and a sensational storyline.
But I hope Clancy will also be remembered for his extraordinary kindness, as shown in this story he wrote about his friendship with a very, very sick little boy. He will be missed.