One of the world's best-known authors, Tom Clancy penned a vast array of densely plotted, action-driven military and spy thrillers over the course of a two-decade career that included such titles as The Hunt for Red October (1984), Patriot Games (1987) and The Sum of All Fears (1991). Clancy's novels, which frequently followed the adventures of CIA analyst - and future President - Jack Ryan, were praised by readers and military personnel alike for their extensive understanding of covert technology and affairs, which led to 10 of his books reaching the top of the New York Times best seller list and Clancy becoming a cottage industry unto himself, with video games like the popular Rainbow Six series and countless tie-in novels to his name. Clancy's work was also frequently adapted into feature films, including 1990's "The Hunt for Red October" and "The Sum of All Fears" (2002). At the time of his unexpected death in 2013, Clancy remained at the top of the publishing industry, with a net worth of some $300 million, and a dedicated readership.
Born Thomas Leo Clancy, Jr. on April 12, 1947 in Baltimore, Maryland, Tom Clancy developed an interest in military history at an early age, poring over journals and engineering texts intended for adult naval officers and personnel. This naturally evolved into a desire to serve in the armed forces, but after joining the R.O.T.C. while attending Loyola University, he was declared unfit due to his nearsightedness. Clancy graduated in 1969 with a degree in English and worked for a time at an insurance agency founded by his grandfather. In 1984, he sold his first novel, The Hunt for Red October, to the Naval Institute Press for $5,000. At the time, the publisher had never released a fictional work, but was intrigued by Clancy's level of technical knowledge. October soon attracted a national audience thanks in part to praise by military officials - some of whom expressed concern over the author's understanding of clandestine matters - and then-President Ronald Reagan, who declared it "(his) kind of yarn." The Commander in Chief's laurel helped to boost the novel to the top of the New York Times' best seller list, a feat he would repeat 10 additional times during his lifetime.
The Hunt for Red October, about a Soviet naval captain's defection, introduced readers to Clancy's most enduring hero, CIA analyst Jack Ryan, who would serve as the protagonist for most of his subsequent thrillers. After writing 1986's Red Storm Rising with Larry Bond, he would publish the second Ryan novel, a prequel to October called Patriot Games (1987) which found the heroic agent in the crosshairs of an Irish terrorist after saving the Prince and Princess of Wales from an assassination attempt. Ryan would then return in The Cardinal of the Kremlin (1988), Clear and Present Danger (1989) and the doomsday scenario thriller The Sum of All Fears (1991). He would then revisit Ryan's past in Without Remorse (1993), which pitted Clancy's other recurring hero, ex-SEAL John Clark, against Baltimore drug dealers and the North Vietnamese. The following year brought readers back to Ryan's present with Debt of Honor (1994), which found the agent, who had been promoted to National Security Advisor, assume the Presidency after a deranged airline pilot crashed a jetliner into the U.S. Capitol, wiping out most of the Cabinet. The novel would be revisited under grim circumstances less than a decade later due to the similarities between the events of September 11, 2001 and its plotline.
Each of these novels reached the No. 1 spot on the New York Times best seller list, which helped to make Clancy one of the most popular authors of the late 20th century. A series of savvy publishing deals, including a 1997 agreement with Penguin Putnam that paid over $50 million for his next six books, also made him one of the wealthiest writers in the world, and allowed him to join a group of investors which purchased the Baltimore Orioles baseball team in 1993. His books had also enjoyed successful adaptations to feature films, beginning in 1990 with "The Hunt for Red October," with Alec Baldwin as Jack Ryan. Harrison Ford would assume the role for "Clear and Present Danger" in 1994 before Ben Affleck took over as Ryan for 2002's "The Sum of All Fears." Clancy soon took advantage of his position within the publishing and entertainment industry by establishing himself as a brand name that could be applied to a variety of media. In 1997, he launched Red Storm Entertainment, a video game manufacturer that scored a massive hit among gamers with the tactical first-person-shooter series "Rainbow Six" in 1998. He also created two popular series of paperback espionage thrillers: Op-Center, written by Jeff Rovin, which launched in 1995, and Net Force, which began in 1999 and was written by Steve Perry. In 1998, Clancy would release Rainbow Six, an action novel featuring John Clark and Ryan and designed to tie in with the video game of the same name.
Clancy's fortunes took a downward turn in 1999 when he was required to pay a large undisclosed sum to his first wife, Wanda, whom he married while a student at Loyola in 1969. The settlement forced him to abandon his 1998 plan to purchase the Minnesota Vikings football team, but Clancy soon rebounded, returning to the best seller list with a new Jack Ryan novel, The Bear and the Dragon, in 2000. Seven more novels would follow between 2002 and 2013, during which Ryan's son, Jack Ryan, Jr., would assume the role of protagonist. Clancy's fortunes also resumed their previous high levels, with the author reaching No. 10 on Forbes magazine's list of top earning celebrities in that year. In 2010, he began working with co-authors on his novels, beginning with Dead or Alive that same year. In 2013, Clancy was hospitalized at the Johns Hopkins Hospital following a brief illness. His health worsened, resulting in Clancy's death on October 1, 2013. At the time of his passing, he was working on a new novel, Command Authority, which was slated for release in December of that year.