Born: April 12, 1947; Died: October 1, 2013.
Tom Clancy, who has died aged 66, was a best-selling author who specialised in spy thrillers that were renowned for their striking accuracy about military procedure. When his first and most famous novel, The Hunt for Red October, was published in 1984, there were some in US intelligence who suggested that the story about the working of a nuclear submarine must have relied on inside knowledge. But Clancy always denied it. "All I do," he once said, "is connect the dots. I think that if this is true and that is true, there must be something in between that is also true."
Whatever it was - insider knowledge or connecting the dots - it proved to be an extremely successful formula for Clancy. He wrote 19 books, many of which were turned into films, and later became a video game brand, lending his name to games that were also big hits.
Born in Baltimore, Maryland, he began writing at weekends while holding down a job in insurance. He was not from a literary background - he always called himself a middle class slob -and his first wife was sceptical about his ambition to be a novelist. "He was writing at home every weekend," she said. "I told him to go back to selling insurance but once I read the book, I changed my mind."
The book his wife was referring to was The Hunt for Red October, which follows Soviet submarine captain Marko Ramius and Clancy's hero CIA analyst Jack Ryan who would go on to feature in many more of his books. Clancy sold the manuscript to the first publisher he tried, the Naval Institute Press, which had never bought original fiction and it was an immediate hit, selling five million copies. It was particularly loved by men with an interest in the military and its hardware. Among its fans was President Ronald Reagan who famously called it a perfect yarn, furthering fuelling the sales.
In researching the book, Clancy interviewed former submariners; his publisher also asked two other submariners to read the finished manuscript and they found only two tiny mistakes. Clancy said there was nothing remarkable about that - he simply did his research, reading hundreds of books on military intelligence and strategy.After the success of The Hunt for Red October in the mid-1980s, Clancy returned to the character of Jack Ryan for Patriot Games in which Ryan saves the Prince and Princess of Wales from an attack by Irish terrorists. Ryan became by far Clancy's most famous and successful character but Clancy always resisted any sophisticated analysis of who the man was. His approach was much more straightforward than that.
"I think about the characters I've created," he once said, "and then I sit down and start typing and see what they do. It amazes me to find out, a few chapters later, why I put someone in a certain place when I did. It's spooky. It can be agonising, too, but God, it can be fun."
It was also financially rewarding - after the success of The Hunt for Red October, Clancy signed a $3million deal for three books, and there was also success in movies. The Hunt for Red October was made into a film in 1990 with Sean Connery playing Marko Ramius and Alec Baldwin as Ryan.
Patriot Games was also made into a film with this time Harrison Ford playing Ryan. He played Ryan again in Clear and Present Danger, adapted from Clancy's 1988 novel of the same name. Ryan was also played by Ben Affleck in the 2002 release The Sum of All Fears. A new film featuring Ryan called Jack Ryan: Shadow One and to be directed by Sir Kenneth Branagh, is also in the works and will be released in December.
Clancy was always self-deprecating about all his success in films, novels and video games, saying that writing was just something you had to learn to do like golf. "You do it and you keep doing it until you get it right," he said. "A lot of people think something mystical happens to you, that maybe the muse kisses you on the ear. But writing isn't divinely inspired -it's hard work."
At the height of his success (more than half his novels have been number one on the New York Times bestseller list) Clancy enjoyed close connections with the military, touring nuclear subs and aircraft carriers. He was known for his Republican views and one of his books is dedicated to Reagan.
In the 1990s, he found new success in the video games market when Red Storm Entertainment developed games based on his ideas including titles such as Splinter Cell, Ghost Recon and Rainbow Six. His latest novel, Command Authority, is due to be published later this year.
Ivan Held, the president of Putnam Books, Clancy's publisher, said Clancy had always been a thrill to work with; his editor, Tom Colgan, said that the novels were always prescient whatever the subject: technology, military tactics or geo-political manoeuvring.
Clancy, who died in hospital near his home in Maryland, divorced his first wife in 1999 and is survived by his second Alexandra Marie Llewellyn.
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