Tom Clancy, thriller writer and creator of Jack Ryan, dies aged 66

Author of popular thrillers The Hunt for Red October and Patriot Games died in hospital in Baltimore

Tom Clancy at his home in Calvert County, Maryland in 1998.

Tom Clancy at his home in Calvert County, Maryland in 1998.


Tom Clancy, a writer who was as famed for what Stephen King called his “monster advances” as his wildly popular thrillers, including The Hunt for Red October and Patriot Games, has died in hospital in Baltimore at the age of 66.

The author of 17 New York Times bestsellers was launched on his career by then US president Ronald Reagan. The Hunt for Red October, his first novel, had been bought for a lowly $5,000 by the Naval Institute Press. When Reagan pronounced it “the perfect yarn” in 1984, Clancy, then a Maryland insurance agent, was propelled into a hugely successful writing career.

In 1996 he returned the compliment by dedicating Executive Orders to Reagan. A lifelong Republican, Clancy dedicated several of his other novels to conservative politicians.

Recalling the story in 2002, he told an interviewer: “President Reagan . . . was actually a big reader and he read the book during his tenure at the White House and he liked it, and he talked it up and Time magazine found out and . . . did an article about it, and I became a bestselling author.”

He added: “I mean, I would have done so anyway in all likelihood.”

The Hunt for Red October introduced his most famous character, Jack Ryan, a CIA agent who becomes president. Ryan has been portrayed by Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck respectively in films including Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger and The Sum of All Fears.

His early novels also tackled terrorism; his 1994 novel Debt of Honor was eerily prescient: it features a scene in which a jingoistic Japanese industrialist, bent on bringing America to its knees, crashes a Boeing 747 jet into the US Capitol dome, killing the president and most of Congress.

Alongside his thrillers – including Command Authority, the 13th Jack Ryan novel, to be published in December – Clancy also sold his intellectual property rights for an estimated $100 million to a videogame company. – (Guardian service)