Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Rest in Peace, Tom Clancy

By James O. Born

 I don't want to be the guy who only blogs when someone dies. It just worked out that way this week. Writer Tom Clancy passed away Tuesday in Baltimore. Unlike my blog about Elmore Leonard passing away, this is not about my personal relationship, I never personally met Mr. Clancy. We shared an editor, Neil Nyren, at Putnam and we had many friends in common. He is one of the few writers my kids liked.  I even managed to snag a couple of signed books for my son when he was in highschool.  Any time a teen aged boy shows an interest in reading you support it strongly.

I try to be careful not to disclose privileged information when someone deems me worthy of hearing it. Clancy was widely known as a mercurial personality who reportedly once tried to buy the Minnesota Vikings and bought a share of the Baltimore Orioles, but I recall one story I heard about him where a young man who had cancer in South Florida contacted him as a fan. By all accounts Clancy went far above and beyond the call of duty and did everything he could to make this young man's plight easier. To me, doing something like that, when no one's paying attention, is much more important than being known as the minority owner of the Baltimore Orioles. (For the record I would not mind being the minority owner of any major sports team. Except the New York Jets.) I was also a fan of Tom Clancy.

 We often hear debates about whether people can learn to write or are natural writers. The element many people leave out his storytelling. Clancy was a storyteller on a grand scale. His lesser-known novels such as Red Storm Rising and The Bear And The Dragon detail global military conflict better than any other book ever written. That is my opinion, but I will confidently state it as fact. Because although the books are filled with military detail, which I don't know to be absolutely correct, the stories and characters themselves drew me in to the novels.

 I read Red Storm Rising while on a long surveillance with the US Drug Enforcement Administration. There is a tremendous amount of dead time during an activity like that. The surveillance was more than twenty-five years ago and I can remember every nuance of that novel. There is no higher praise I could give to a work of literature.

 I will choose to remember Mr. Clancy by his act of kindness for a young man stricken with cancer and his ability to create an entire universe of conflict which entertained me for hours on end.

If he had done nothing else in the world (and he achieved a lot), those are two notable accomplishments.

 Rest in peace, Tom Clancy.


  1. Sort of shocking. Sixty-six is sounding younger and younger as the years go by. I was just talking with a friend about how many publishers rejected his first book. Amazing story.

  2. If I were a famous writer and your friend, I'd be nervous. I know you and WEB Griffin are close. Let's hope he's paid his life insurance.

  3. Robert Allen10/02/2013 7:07 PM

    Good observation about story telling. That is exactly what Clancy was.

  4. I felt he had too much of his political views in his novels. I prefer not to know the author's preferences. That way I can decide for myself..

  5. You can still decide for yourself.


  6. I think that "storytelling" is a natural gift. "Writing" is a craft that can be improved with time and practice and very hard work. Very nice tribute, Jim. Hope we don't need another writer passing away to bring you to the page. Paul Levine