WASHINGTON, D.C. — Tom Clancy, whose chillingly realistic novels reflected his knowledge of the military and the changing nature of threats to the United States while providing Hollywood with fodder for blockbuster movies, has died. He was 66.
He died Tuesday in Baltimore, according to an e-mailed statement from Penguin Group, his publisher. No cause of death was given.
Clancy’s biggest hits featured the character Jack Ryan, a CIA analyst whose smarts and bravery stand out among the lesser lights of the government around him. He rises through the ranks all the way to the Oval Office. Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck all played Ryan in film versions of Clancy’s books.
Later novels were built around John Clark, a veteran of U.S. Navy special operations. Clancy also wrote a series on real-life military leaders.
Clancy’s novels that reached No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list include “The Hunt for Red October” (1984), “Patriot Games” (1987), “Clear and Present Danger” (1989), “The Sum of All Fears” (1991) and “The Bear and the Dragon” (2000). His publisher said his 17th novel, “Command Authority,” is due out in December.
“He was a consummate author, creating the modern-day thriller, and was one of the most visionary storytellers of our time,” David Shanks, chief executive officer of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., said in the statement.
The company Clancy co-founded in 1996, Red Storm Entertainment, makes video games including the “Ghost Recon” and “Rainbow Six” series. UbiSoft Entertainment SA, based in Montreuil, France, bought Red Storm in 2000 for $45 million.
His 1994 novel “Debt of Honor,” proved eerily prescient, culminating in a then-unthinkable breach of U.S. air defenses: a 747, under the control of a suicidal terrorist pilot, crashing into the U.S. Capitol during the president’s State of the Union address.
The book got a burst of renewed publicity after real hijackers turned airplanes into missiles on Sept. 11, 2001.
In its final report, released in 2004, the U.S. commission that studied the 9/11 attacks found that the government had suffered a “failure of imagination” in not grasping the capabilities and intentions of Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida terror group.
“We were often advised during the course of the hearings to read very imaginative writers, like Tom Clancy, and encouraged to think outside the box,” said the commission’s vice chairman, former Indiana Rep. Lee Hamilton.
Clancy said in an interview that he had little faith in U.S. authorities to outwit their enemies.
“I don’t see much imagination in government, except maybe looking for new ways to take money in taxes,” he said.
Thomas Leo Clancy Jr. was born on April 12, 1947, in Baltimore, the middle child of three, according to a 1998 profile in the St. Paul Pioneer Press. His father, Thomas, worked for the U.S. Postal Service. His mother, Catherine, went to work to help put Clancy through private Catholic high school.
He graduated from Loyola University in Baltimore, where, he said, he was president of the chess club and “had a reputation for dealing with abstract problems.”
He said the roots of his “Debt of Honor” terrorist hijacking plot came from a college discussion.
“A guy sat down in my chess club office and said, ‘How do you destroy the whole government?’ ” he recalled. “We both agreed that using nuclear weapons was cheating, so we scratched that out. It took us a couple minutes to come up with a way to do it. It’s actually rather obvious.”
Clancy was a part-owner of the Baltimore Orioles and served as the team’s vice chairman for community projects and public affairs.
He was twice married, the second time in 1999 to Alexandra Maria Llewellyn, a freelance journalist, according to a wedding announcement in the Times.
With assistance from Edmund Lee in New York.
© 2013, Bloomberg News