Wednesday, 2 October 2013

R.I.P.: Tom Clancy, 1947-2013

Tom Clancy at Burns Library, Boston College, in November 1989.
Photo: Gary Wayne Gilbert/Wikimedia Commons

Tom Clancy was one of my favourite authors of spy thrillers. His Cold War novel, The Hunt for Red October, tops my list of those of his books which I have read.

His novels were technically brilliant and technologically superior. In this regard he was ahead of all his peers. In fact, he was probably the only one to write the way he did. Frederick Forsyth and John le Carré are known for writing highly researched novels but mostly in a non-technical way.


Clancy was a fearless writer. For instance, in Red October, he took the reader into the bowels of a submarine and not only explained how it worked but also compared it with rival U-boats. Going into a sub is one thing, writing about its nuts and bolts is another (I don't know if Clancy actually went into one). My knowledge of a submarine is restricted to its periscope and torpedo. I know what the two things are used for but it was Clancy who explained in some detail how to look through the first and fire the second.

The author of several entertaining thrillers like Patriot Games, Red Storm Rising, and Clear and Present Danger had a large number of fans in the US and other world militaries including, I suspect, secret admirers in the then Soviet (now Russian) navy.

As far as spy thrillers go, Tom Clancy was in very good company. He is part of my list of 10 of the best writers of espionage books. I have mentioned the other nine below, along with titles of novels that I think are their best. Actually, I like all their work.


01. Tom Clancy – The Hunt for Red October

02. Harry Patterson (Jack Higgins) – The Eagle Has Landed

03. Don Pendleton (Mack Bolan) – Continental Contract

04. Frederick Forsyth – The Day of the Jackal

05. Alistair MacLean – The Guns of Navarone

06. John le Carré – The Russia House

07. Ken Follett – Eye of the Needle

08. Len Deighton – XPD

09. Craig Thomas – Firefox

10. Donald Lindquist – The Red Gods

Of all these writers, the last two, Thomas and Lindquist, have been forgotten. I recommend their books to those who haven't read them.

10 comments:

  1. Prashant - shame about Mr Clancy. I have THFRO on the pile plus a few of the others listed le Carre, Follett, Deighton. I have never heard of Lindquist so will google him for more info - but won't be buying!

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    1. Col, I agree. Tom Clancy went too early. He would have gone on to write many thrillers. I never tire of reading the authors I mentioned and I'm glad that I haven't read all their books yet. There's very little about Donald Lindquist on the internet, I think, because he didn't write many novels. His BERLIN TUNNEL 21 is another terrific read, especially if you are fond of the genre.

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  2. I also like Red October very much. I don't know why I didn't read a lot more of Clancy's work. Only Red storm rising. I'm not a big spy thriller reader.

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    1. Charles, if I didn't have so many books to read, I'd have gone back to RED OCTOBER. The plot is simple, the details are complicated. It requires a scientific mind to understand U-boat elements like sonar. Having read many of these spy thrillers, I've realised there's a thin line between spy and war fiction, as in Alistair MacLean's novels where you have espionage during wartime.

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  3. Must admit that I could never quite get past Clancy's extremely hawkish politics and the books did seem to get very, very bloated - I found the Jack Ryan movies highly entertaining in their own way though. Love you list of favourites - never read Lindquist so shall seek him out,

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    1. Sergio, I have read about Tom Clancy's "hawkish politics" which is clear from his novels, as is the exaggeration, although I don't let these things bother me while I'm reading political, war or espionage thrillers. I try and stay away from religious extremism in fiction, not that I recall reading any of those. I believe Clancy thought Harrison Ford was too old to play Jack Ryan but I preferred him over Alec Baldwin in RED OCTOBER. I'm looking for Lindquist's books too; he has written very few.

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  4. Thank you SO much for this list. As I have shared, I am very interested in novels such as these. I will try one. I've never read Clancy but do own two titles from him. I was very sorry to hear of his passing.

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    1. Keishon, you are most welcome. I have been reading some of these authors since the eighties, so it's easier to read and re-read their books. I usually know what to expect. In case you haven't read any of their works, I recommend Higgins' THE EAGLE HAS LANDED and Forsyth's THE DAY OF THE JACKAL to begin with. Their film versions were good too. Tom Clancy's passing was unexpected.

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    2. Replying to say that I bought THE EAGLE HAS LANDED. Look forward to reading it soon. Thanks!

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    3. Keishon, a great choice! I have read it thrice and seen the film starring Michael Caine (I think) as Liam Devlin, the ex-IRA poet and romantic hero, as many times. You'll enjoy this gripping tale as well as its film version. I hope you review it. I also recommend Higgins'/Patterson's early novels prior to THE EAGLE HAS LANDED.

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