R.I.P. Tom Clancy – Thank you for your Jack Ryan thrillers!

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Tom Clancy, the Baltimore-born author died Tuesday October 2nd in his hometown at the age of 66, two months’ shy of the publish date of his new Jack Ryan novel, Command Authority. It’s fascinating to see how the former insurance agent couldn’t find a publisher for his first book, The Hunt for Red October, until Naval Institute Press, which never bought original fiction, took a chance on him in 1985. It’s a great American success story as his work shot up to the NY Times’ best-seller list (17 out 26 of his books made the best seller list), he even garnered the attention of President Ronald Reagan who’s a big fan of his work.

Hollywood took notice and his film adaptations were box office hits. I happen to be a big fan of his Jack Ryan thrillers. Though The Hunt for Red October with Alec Baldwin as the original Jack Ryan is the best of the series, I also have a soft spot for the more action-packed thrillers with Harrison Ford in the role, Patriot Games and Clear & Present Danger. I enjoy spy thrillers but the strength of Mr. Clancy’s work lies in the protagonist who’s relatable and easy to root for. Even when the film itself is subpar (The Sum of All Fears), the valiant, patriotic but NOT a superhero Jack Ryan endures. Soon the character will be revived with the fourth actor playing the role, more on that in a bit.

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Clancy himself is ambivalent about being a Hollywood darling, apparently the lack of creative control bothered him, as I’d think it would any author. “Giving your book to Hollywood is like turning your daughter over to a pimp,” he famously said. (per ABCnews.com) His reach extends beyond films. His work had inspired TV shows like 24 and Homeland, as well video games like Splinter Cell, which according to NYTimes, were so realistic, the military licensed them for training.

Here’s a tribute from my friend and blog staff Ted S., who’s a big fan of Mr. Clancy:

Tom Clancy was one of my favorite fiction writers back in high school and college, I always get excited when his new novel hit the book shelves. But I have to admit after 9/11, I kind of loss interest in his books. I think I’ve read only two of his novels after the 9/11 attack. You see most of his novels were about what if scenarios and when a real tragedy happened, I just loss interest in his work. He in fact got some heat after 9/11, in one of his novels, Debt of Honor, a “terrorist” clashed an airplane into the State Capital Building in D.C., killing most the government officials, including the president. So of course some people blamed Clancy for writing things write that, but I thought it was pretty silly to blame a fiction writer.

Hollywood has turned four of his novels into films, The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger and The Sum of all Fears. Out of the four films, I thought The Hunt for Red October was the best one, in fact I thought it’s even better than the book version, you can read why I thought so in this post. Funny enough though, out of all of the Jack Ryan novels, I liked The Hunt for Red October the least. Now, The Hunt Red October and Patriot Games stayed pretty true to the source material, while Clear and Present and The Sum of all Fears weren’t. I even remember Clancy was quite upset at the changes the screenwriters made to Clear and Present Danger, he even bad-mouthed the movie before it opened in theaters.

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He wasn’t too happy that Jack Ryan was made into the main character in the movie, in the novel John Clark (Willem Dafoe‘s character in the movie) was the main lead and Ryan didn’t show up until half way through the book. Of course when you have Harrison Ford as the star, he’s still a box office force at the time, you can’t make him a supporting character. So I didn’t mind the filmmakers decided to make that change.

I really like the Jack Ryan series, both films and novels, because he’s more of thinking man’s action hero. In fact in most of the novels, Ryan wasn’t part of the action at all, he uses mostly his brain to solve problems and leave all the action stuff to his comrades Clark and Chavez.

Out of all of Clancy’s novels, my absolute favorites were Without Remorse and The Cardinal of the Kremlin; the former has been in development hell for years, at one point Keanu Reeves signed on to star and John McTiernan was attached to direct but the studio went bankrupt before the cameras started rolling and the last I heard Tom Hardy was courted to play the young John Clark. I hope the new Jack Ryan film does well and maybe they can incorporate the storyline from The Cardinal of the Kremlin into the eventual sequel.

– Ted S.

Well, it’s a bit of peculiar timing that the new poster of the new Jack Ryan film is released on the day of Clancy’s death. But the pensive pose of Chris Pine actually looks appropriately somber, as if the character’s mourning the death of the creator.

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Apparently this film is NOT based on a particular Clancy novel, instead, it’s an original story initially conceived by screenwriter Hossein Amini featuring the Jack Ryan character (per Wiki). Glad they still put Clancy’s name on the poster though. The title seems to have been changed from Shadow One to Shadow Recruit, and it’ll focus on Jack as a young covert CIA analyst who uncovers a Russian plot to crash the U.S. economy with a terrorist attack. I’m quite looking forward to it given I’m a fan of the character, and Kenneth Branagh directing (as well as playing the villain) doesn’t hurt. Nice to see Kevin Costner playing his military mentor, though I’m not too fond of Keira Knightley as the love interest.

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The trailer’s finally released today, check it out:

The film is scheduled to be released on Christmas Day in the US.

So THANK YOU Mr. Clancy for giving us such great thrillers, and an enduring character we can enjoy for years to come.


So what’s your favorite Tom Clancy work, are you looking forward to the new Jack Ryan film?