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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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?

39 thoughts on “R.I.P. Tom Clancy – Thank you for your Jack Ryan thrillers!

    1. It’s amazing indeed, and he didn’t have any formal training as a novelist! More than half of his work are best-sellers, that’s just incredible! So are you looking forward to the new Jack Ryan movie Keith?

        1. Yeah I like Costner, glad to see him reprising his role as man in uniform. I think one of the early movies I saw him in was No Way Out. Hope he gets a decent screen time!

            1. Yeah, I need to rewatch that one soon. Too bad about Sean Young’s career, she was great in that film, but I remember having a big crush on Costner 😉

        2. Ted S.

          You know I’m always wonder what Jack Ryan would’ve been like had Coster took the role, he was the producers first choice but he turned it down to do Dances with Wolves. Funny that he’s back in the origin story of Ryan playing the mentor.

            1. Y’know, as much as I like Ford (and I do like his two Jack Ryan films), I think Costner would’ve been awesome as Jack Ryan! So yeah, I’m glad he’s now playing his mentor, he has the gravitas for this type of roles IMO.

  1. I keep hearing great things about Without Remorse. Think i’ll track it down. I’ve never read a Tom Clancy book but i’ve played most of his games which apparently he was heavily involved in the making of, at least at the start

    1. I think even if people don’t read Clancy’s books, they still know his work through other media. I love his espionage thrillers, and I think his games are great from what I read. Yeah, he’s quite hands-on in creating those games.

    2. Ted S.

      I would recommend you start reading Without Remorse first if you’ve never read any of Clancy’s novels. Even a very young Jack Ryan appeared in that book, only briefly though since it’s an origin story of John Clark.

  2. Sad day, indeed. My favorite film adaptation of a novel of his remains ‘The Hunt for Red October’. It’s the most faithful story conversion, has an outstanding cast, and with my most-liked actor portrayal of Jack Ryan, Alec Baldwin. Great tribute Ruth and Ted.

    1. Hi Michael! Yeah I like Baldwin’s take which I think is more accurate for a CIA analyst, though as a fan of Ford, I like his versions too. I think the character itself is well-rounded and that’s the key to its longevity I think. I hope that Chris Pine’s version is not going to be an ‘action hero’ type but more of a thinking man’s hero who has to use his intelligence and tactical prowess when an emergency situation calls for it.

      1. Ted S.

        Apparently Pine fought hard to not make the new film into straight action/adventure, which is why the film took forever to get a green light. The previous director wanted the film to be all action and Pine said no, he wanted to be more of character driven action thriller. Then another director came on board and he wanted to make it into like a drama thriller, the studio didn’t like that idea and when Branagh came on board, I assume he was able to make everyone happy since the film is finished.

        1. Oh really? That’s great to hear. Props for Pine for wanting it to be more character driven, more like Baldwin’s Ryan then. I hope Branagh does a good job but I generally like his work.

    2. Ted S.

      Same here Michael, even though Red October was my least favorite of the Jack Ryan books, the film version is still the best in the series. And yes Baldwin was perfect in the role, just too bad he got forced out of doing the sequels. That’s a good example of Hollywood politics.

  3. Ted S.

    When Paramount announced they were going to do an origin story of Jack Ryan, I thought they were going to adapt Clancy’s Red Rabbit which was about the early days of Jack Ryan. But the book wasn’t a huge hit and to be honest, it wasn’t that good. I’m glad they came up with a new storyline for this new film.

  4. The Hunt for Red October is my favorite Jack Ryan thriller as I think it’s a film where it could’ve been boring but it ended up being way better than it should’ve been and more. I love watching it whenever it’s one as I also enjoy Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger. Especially the latter as I love any scene with Willem Dafoe. I have no interest in the new film as I don’t really much of an opinion on Chris Pine as an actor while I have mixed feelings about Keira Knightley as I saw Anna Karenina this past weekend which I didn’t like and her teeth was distracting.

    1. Ted S.

      Yeah I think a lot of people prefer Red October over the other Ryan films. I’m actually pretty excited to see the new film, especially now that I saw the trailer.

  5. jackdeth72

    RIP: Tom Clancy:

    Who proves the greatness of this country. Where an insurance salesman with some friends for technical advice can become a best selling author. Creating a new genre of “techno thrillers” that have proven to be infinitely readable and re-readable.

    Still think ‘The Hunt for Red October’ and ‘Red Storm Rising’ were his best written works. Also very disappointed in Hollywood for giving the role of John Clark. Who was described to a T as Clancy Brown. To Willen Dafoe in the film, ‘Clear and Present Danger’. Completely miscast, in my opinion.

    Alec Baldwin was an okay Jack Ryan in ‘The Hunt for Red October’. Though I imagined Bart Mancuso as more of a Daniel J. Travanti. Captain Furillo from ‘Hill Street Blues’, than Scott Glenn. Also would have liked to have seen more British Royal Navy involvement. A decent film, overall.

    1. Ted S.

      Hey Jack, you know I don’t remember much about Red Storm Rising, I remember Hollywood tried bring that book and The Cardinal of the Kremlin to the big screen but with the fall of the Russian’s power, they thought those books weren’t relevant. Totally agree with you on Defoe’s miscasting, he doesn’t fit the look of John Clark at all.

      1. jackdeth72

        Hi, Ted:

        HBO had a tentative deal for ‘Cardinal’ and ‘Red Storm’ mini-series that fell through as you mentioned. Tried another for ‘Without Remorse’ (Which would have Rocked!) and had Mr. Brown in negotiations, when it fell through as well.

        More’s the pity.

    1. Ted S.

      I really liked Rainbow Six too but I thought the story was too outlandish and fit more in the James Bond universe than the world Clancy created in his books. But it’s still a fun action/adventure, I know Hollywood’s been trying to turn the book into the big screen for years. The last I heard John Woo tried but failed to get a green light from the studio, apparently he was asking close to $200mil for the budget.

      1. Hi Ted, yeah I always wondered why Rainbow Six never made it to the big screen. It was a pretty ridiculous story, but it seems like it could make for a hell of a film, especially from John Woo. At least some of the characters were able to live on through his video games..

  6. Awesome tribute, Ruth! I am looking forward to Branagh’s film–I have growing respect for them all–Costner, Branagh, and Chris Pine. Tom Clancy is a mans-man, for sure, and he gave Harrison Ford the chance to veer away from the usual and do something pensive. Great post.

    1. Thank you Cindy, appreciate you checking it out. Yeah I’m curious to see how the film pans out. I really admire Branagh so fingers crossed it’ll be a good one!

  7. I haven’t seen Patriot Games or Clear and Present Danger, but I’m a big fan of The Hunt for Red October. The new Jack Ryan film looks like a disaster in terms of accents. 😉 I like Keira Knightley, but she does seem miscast here.

    1. Ted S.

      Do check out Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger Josh, they’re pretty good especially Clear and Present Danger.

      You don’t like the look of the new film huh? I’m pretty excited to see it but I’m a sucker for this kind of genre.

  8. R.I.P. Tom Clancy. Didn’t know Clancy himself was ambivalent about being a Hollywood darling.
    Been a long time since I saw those adaptations with Harrison Ford, I remember liking them.
    I’m curious how The Hunt for Red October would hold up today, should give it a rewatch 🙂

    1. Ted S.

      Chris, The Hunt for Red October still holds up pretty well, I just watched it recently. Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger are a bit dated though.

  9. Pingback: » Movie Review – Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit Fernby Films

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