Publish date:
Updated on

Tom Clancy, author of mega-selling techno thrillers, dies

On this day in 2013, espionage and military thriller author Tom Clancy, whose books include “The Hunt for Red October” and “Patriot Games,” dies in Baltimore at age 66 following a brief illness. During a career that spanned nearly 30 years, Clancy penned more than two dozen novels, a number of which were made into hit movies and popular video games. By the time of his death, more than 100 million copies of Clancy’s books were in print and 17 of his novels had reached the top of The New York Times’ best-seller list.

Clancy was born on April 12, 1947, in Baltimore, where he grew up in a middle-class neighborhood. At Loyola College (now known as Loyola University Maryland), Clancy majored in English and participated in ROTC; however, he was unable to join the military due to severe nearsightedness. Instead, after graduating in 1969, he became an insurance agent. In his spare time, Clancy read military journals and eventually started writing what would become his debut novel, “The Hunt for Red October,” about a renegade Soviet nuclear submarine pursued by both the Americans and the Soviets (the story was based loosely on the real-life attempted mutiny of a Soviet missile frigate in 1975). Purchased by a publisher for $5,000 and released in 1984, “The Hunt for Red October” became a runaway best-seller, thanks in part to an endorsement from President Ronald Reagan, who labeled the book “my kind of yarn.” The novel was full of authentic details about military technology, something that would become one of Clancy’s trademarks and which would initially lead some U.S. military officials to suspect the author had gained access to classified information. In fact, he had no insider knowledge but instead did in-depth research.

Clancy followed “The Hunt for Red October” with such novels as “Patriot Games” (1987), about a terrorist plot against the British royal family, “Clear and Present Danger” (1989), about a covert U.S. military campaign against a Colombian drug cartel, and “The Sum of All Fears” (1991), about terrorists who use a nuclear weapon to try to start a war between America and Russia. Other Clancy titles include “Executive Orders” (1996), “Rainbow Six” (1998), “Against All Enemies” (2011), “Threat Vector” (2012) and “Command Authority” (2013). Some of his work seemed to predict real-life events. For example, well before the September 11 terrorist attacks, Clancy wrote “Debt of Honor” (1994), in which a character flies a Boeing 747 into the U.S. Capitol.

Clancy’s most famous character, Jack Ryan, a CIA analyst who in later stories becomes U.S. president, was portrayed on the big screen by Alec Baldwin in 1990’s “The Hunt for Red October”; Harrison Ford in 1992’s “Patriot Games” and 1994’s “Clear and Present Danger”; Ben Affleck in 2002’s “The Sum of All Fears” and Chris Pine in 2014’s “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.” In addition to his movies, novels and a number of nonfiction books about the military, Clancy co-founded a video game company and became a part owner of the Baltimore Orioles. He famously had an Army tank on the lawn of his Maryland estate.

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us!


2017 Las Vegas Shooting

On this day in 2017, a gunman opened fire on a crowd attending the final night of a country music festival in Las Vegas, killing 58 people and injuring more than 800. Although the shooting only lasted 10 minutes, the death and injury tolls made this massacre the deadliest mass more

Franco heads Spain

During the Spanish Civil War, General Francisco Franco is named head of the rebel Nationalist government in Spain. It would take more than two years for Franco to defeat the Republicans in the civil war and become ruler of all of Spain. He subsequently served as dictator until more

Suharto crushes Indonesian coup

A communist coup against Indonesian President Sukarno is crushed by General Mohammed Suharto, the Indonesian army chief of staff. In the aftermath, Suharto moved to replace Sukarno and launched a purge of Indonesian communists that resulted in thousands of deaths. In 1967, more

Lawrence of Arabia captures Damascus

A combined Arab and British force captures Damascus from the Turks during World War I, completing the liberation of Arabia. An instrumental commander in the Allied campaign was T.E. Lawrence, a legendary British soldier known as Lawrence of Arabia. Lawrence, an Oxford-educated more

Terrorists strike again in Bali

On this day in 2005, suicide bombers strike three restaurants in two tourist areas on the Indonesian island of Bali, a popular resort area. The bombings killed 22 people, including the bombers, and injured more than 50 others. This was the second suicide-bombing incident to rock more

Nazi war criminals sentenced at Nuremberg

On October 1, 1946, 12 high-ranking Nazis are sentenced to death by the International War Crimes Tribunal in Nuremberg. Among those condemned to death by hanging were Joachim von Ribbentrop, Nazi minister of foreign affairs; Hermann Goering, founder of the Gestapo and chief of more

Yosemite National Park established

On this day in 1890, an act of Congress creates Yosemite National Park, home of such natural wonders as Half Dome and the giant sequoia trees. Environmental trailblazer John Muir (1838-1914) and his colleagues campaigned for the congressional action, which was signed into law by more

Roger Maris breaks home-run record

On October 1, 1961, New York Yankee Roger Maris becomes the first-ever major-league baseball player to hit more than 60 home runs in a single season. The great Babe Ruth set the record in 1927; Maris and his teammate Mickey Mantle spent 1961 trying to break it. After hitting 54 more

Jimmy Carter is born

On this day in 1924, future President James Earl Carter is born in Plains, Georgia. Carter, who preferred to be called “Jimmy,” was the son of a peanut farmer and was the first president to be born in a hospital. Carter was raised a devoted Southern Baptist and graduated from the more

A 12-year-old girl is kidnapped

Polly Klaas is abducted at knifepoint by an intruder in her Petaluma, California, home during a slumber party with two friends. Despite a massive manhunt and national attention, there was no sign of the missing 12-year-old or her abductor for two months. Eventually, investigators more

Rose Greenhow dies

Confederate spy Rose O’Neal Greenhow drowns off the North Carolina coast when a Yankee craft runs her ship aground. She was returning from a trip to England. At the beginning of the war, Maryland native Rose O’Neal Greenhow lived in Washington, D.C., with her four children. Her more