Thomas Leo Clancy Jr. (April 12, 1947 – October 1, 2013) was an American novelist best known for his technically detailed espionage and military-science story lines set during and after the Cold War. Seventeen of his novels were bestsellers, and more than 100 million copies of his books are in print. His name was also used on movie scripts written by ghost writers, nonfiction books on military subjects, and video games. He was a part-owner of the Baltimore Orioles and vice-chairman of their community activities and public affairs committees.
Clancy's literary career began in 1984 when he sold The Hunt for Red October for $5,000. His works, The Hunt for Red October (1984), Patriot Games (1987), Clear and Present Danger (1989), and The Sum of All Fears (1991), have been turned into commercially successful films. Actors Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, Ben Affleck, and Chris Pine have played Clancy's most famous fictional character, Jack Ryan; his second-most famous character, John Clark, has been played by actors Willem Dafoe and Liev Schreiber. Clancy died on October 1, 2013, of an undisclosed illness.
Clancy was born on April 12, 1947, at Franklin Square Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, and grew up in the Northwood neighborhood. He was the second of three children to Thomas Clancy, who worked for the United States Postal Service, and Catherine Clancy, who worked in a store's credit department. His mother worked to send him to the private Catholic Loyola Blakefield in Towson, Maryland, from which he graduated in 1965. He then attended Loyola College (now Loyola University) in Baltimore, graduating in 1969 with a degree in English literature. While at university, he was president of the chess club. He joined the Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps; however, he was ineligible to serve due to his nearsightedness, which required him to wear thick eyeglasses. After graduating, he worked for an insurance company in Hartford, Connecticut. In 1973, he joined the O. F. Bowen Agency, a small insurance agency based in Owings, Maryland, founded by his wife's grandfather. In 1980, he purchased the insurance agency from his wife's grandmother and wrote novels in his spare time. While working at the insurance agency, he wrote his debut novel, The Hunt for Red October (1984).
Clancy's literary career began in 1982 when he started writing The Hunt for Red October, which in 1984 he sold for publishing to the Naval Institute Press for $5,000. The publisher was impressed with the work; Deborah Grosvenor, the Naval Institute Press editor who read through the book, said later that she convinced the publisher: "I think we have a potential best seller here, and if we don’t grab this thing, somebody else would." She believed Clancy had an "innate storytelling ability, and his characters had this very witty dialogue". The publisher requested Clancy to cut numerous technical details, amounting to about 100 pages. Clancy, who had wanted to sell 5,000 copies, ended up selling over 45,000. After publication, the book received praise from President Ronald Reagan, who called the work "the best yarn", subsequently boosting sales to 300,000 hardcover and 2 million paperback copies of the book, making it a national bestseller. The book was critically praised for its technical accuracy, which led to Clancy's meeting several high-ranking officers in the U.S. military.
Clancy's fiction works, The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games (1987), Clear and Present Danger (1989), and The Sum of All Fears (1991), have been turned into commercially successful films with actors Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, and Ben Affleck as Clancy's most famous fictional character Jack Ryan, while his second most famous character, John Clark, has been played by actors Willem Dafoe and Liev Schreiber. All but two of Clancy's solely written novels feature Jack Ryan or John Clark.
The first NetForce novel, titled Net Force (1999), was adapted as a 1999 TV movie starring Scott Bakula and Joanna Going. The first Op-Center novel (Tom Clancy's Op-Center published in 1995) was released to coincide with a 1995 NBC television miniseries of the same name starring Harry Hamlin and a cast of stars. Though the miniseries did not continue, the book series did, but later had little in common with the first TV miniseries other than the title and the names of the main characters.
With the release of The Teeth of the Tiger (2003), Clancy introduced Jack Ryan's son and two nephews as main characters; these characters continued in his last four novels, Dead or Alive (2010), Locked On (2011), Threat Vector (2012), and Command Authority (2013).
Clancy wrote several nonfiction books about various branches of the U.S. Armed Forces (see nonfiction listing, below). He also branded several lines of books and video games with his name that are written by other authors, following premises or storylines generally in keeping with Clancy's works. These are sometimes referred to by fans as "apostrophe" books; Clancy did not initially acknowledge that these series were being authored by others; he only thanked the actual authors in the headnotes for their "invaluable contribution to the manuscript".
By 1988, Clancy had earned $1.3 million for The Hunt for Red October and had signed a $3 million contract for his next three books. By 1997, Penguin Putnam Inc. (part of Pearson Education) reportedly would pay Clancy $50 million for world rights to two new books and another $25 million to Red Storm Entertainment for a four-year book/multimedia deal. Clancy followed this up with an agreement with Penguin's Berkley Books for 24 paperbacks to tie in with the ABC television miniseries Tom Clancy's Net Force aired in the fall/winter of 1998. The Op-Center universe has laid the ground for the series of books written by Jeff Rovin, which was in an agreement worth $22 million, bringing the total value of the package to $97 million.
In 1993, Clancy joined a group of investors that included Peter Angelos, and bought the Baltimore Orioles from Eli Jacobs. In 1998, he reached an agreement to purchase the Minnesota Vikings, but had to abandon the deal because of a divorce settlement cost.
In 2008, the French video game manufacturer Ubisoft purchased the use of Clancy's name for an undisclosed sum. It has been used in conjunction with video games and related products such as movies and books. Based on his interest in private spaceflight and his US$1 million investment in the launch vehicle company Rotary Rocket, Clancy was interviewed in 2007 for the documentary film Orphans of Apollo (2008).
A long-time holder of conservative and Republican views, Clancy dedicated books to American conservative political figures, most notably Ronald Reagan. A week after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, on The O'Reilly Factor, Clancy suggested that left-wing politicians in the United States were partly responsible for the attacks due to their "gutting" of the Central Intelligence Agency.
On September 11, 2001, Clancy was interviewed by Judy Woodruff on CNN. During the interview, he asserted "Islam does not permit suicide." Among other observations during this interview, Clancy cited discussions he had with military experts on the lack of planning to handle a hijacked plane being used in a suicide attack and criticized the news media's treatment of the United States Intelligence Community. Clancy appeared again on PBS's Charlie Rose, to discuss the implications of the day's events with Richard Holbrooke, New York Times journalist Judith Miller, and Senator John Edwards, among others. Clancy was interviewed on these shows because his book Debt of Honor (1994) included a scenario wherein a disgruntled Japanese airline pilot crashes a fueled Boeing 747 into the U.S. Capitol dome during an address by the President to a joint session of Congress, killing the President and most of Congress.
Clancy's first wife, Wanda Thomas King, was a nursing student who became an ophthalmologist. They married in 1969 and had four children. The couple separated briefly in 1995, and permanently separated in December 1996. Clancy filed for divorce in November 1997, which became final in January 1999.
On June 26, 1999, Clancy married freelance journalist Alexandra Marie Llewellyn, whom he had met in 1997. Llewellyn is the daughter of J. Bruce Llewellyn and a family friend of Colin Powell, who originally introduced the couple to each other. They remained together until Clancy's death in October 2013. The two had one daughter.
Clancy's 80-acre estate, which was once a summer camp, is located in Calvert County, Maryland. It has a panoramic view of the Chesapeake Bay. The stone mansion, which cost $2 million, has 24 rooms and features a shooting range in the basement. The property also features a World War II-era M4 Sherman tank, a Christmas gift from his first wife.
Clancy also purchased a 17,000 square foot penthouse condominium in the Ritz-Carlton, in Baltimore's Inner Harbor, for $16 million. Clancy and his wife combined four units to create the apartment.
Clancy died on October 1, 2013, of an undisclosed illness, at Johns Hopkins Hospital, near his Baltimore home. The Chicago Tribune quoted Pulitzer Prize-winning author Stephen Hunter as saying, "When he published The Hunt for Red October, he redefined and expanded the genre and as a consequence of that, many people were able to publish such books who had previously been unable to do so."
John D. Gresham, a co-author and researcher with Clancy on several books, attributed Clancy's death to heart problems: "Five or six years ago Tom suffered a heart attack and he went through bypass surgery. It wasn’t that he had another heart attack, [his heart] just wore out."
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