Great Writers Dying Too Young

I was in the middle of teaching my aviation class when a text came through on my phone. The students were taking a quiz, so I had a moment to look discreetly at the message. My wife had texted, simply, “Tom Clancy died. He was 66.” First Vince Flynn, now Clancy.

I could not believe it. The age of 66 is far too young an age to die. I could not help but think there were many more novels and stories in Clancy’s mind that we will never have the chance to read. Then I thought of the last Clancy book I had read. It was a great story packed with typical Tom Clancy insight into modern day, real-world technology and events – Threat Vector.

Clancy had a unique ability to acquire all the technical facts and jargon applicable to his novels. Then he spun a great yarn around, below, above, and all through those facts making his novels some of the most incredible stories to read. Indeed, most of the Clancy novels are the kinds of stories readers cannot put down until the last page is turned.

The first Clancy novel I read was as a young naval officer. It was right up my alley – The Hunt for Red October, published by the Naval Institute Press in 1985. That house had never published fiction before Clancy’s debut novel. It was Deborah Grosvenor at the press who argued for publication of the novel. She correctly analyzed the story as having the potential of becoming a best-seller.

The Hunt for Red October made Jack Ryan a central character to follow-on novels written by Clancy. In the Ryan series that followed, Clancy wrote Patriot Games in 1987, The Cardinal of the Kremlin the following year, 1988, and Clear and Present Danger rounded out the decade of the 1980s.

In the 1990s, the Jack Ryan stories included: The Sum of All Fears, Without Remorse, Debt of Honor, Executive Orders, and Rainbow Six. Entering into the new millennium, Clancy continued the Ryan stories with The Bear and the Dragon, Red Rabbit, The Teeth of the Tiger, Dead or Alive, Locked On, and Threat Vector.

Clancy’s latest novel is slated to come out this December.

If you have not read the novels, you really should. The Ryan series is the kind of stories many enjoy. The scary thing about them is that Clancy was right on target with what was happening in world at the time the publishers pushed the novels out to the public.

At the time I read Threat Vector, things were happening in the real world that mirrored the action taking place in the novel. It was, in a phrase, actually scary. President Reagan, upon reading The Hunt for Red October, quipped the book was keeping him up at night reading, he said he could not put the book down. I think he was probably kept up at night for all the realistic scenarios Clancy developed in the story.

Clancy died on October 1. No one released the cause of death.

Earlier this year on June 19, Vince Flynn passed. He was only 47 and died as a result of prostate cancer. He announced the illness via his website in February 2011. Flynn was responsible for introducing Mitch Rapp as his main character in more than a dozen novels the writer produced from 1999 through this year.

After graduating from college and deciding he wanted to do something more exciting with his life, Flynn applied for naval flight training as a Marine. Shortly before taking off to officers’ training, the Marine Corps medically disqualified from flight for injuries suffered as a child. While trying to obtain a waiver to continue on, Flynn decided to write.

His first book was Term Limits, which was not a Mitch Rapp novel. Term Limits, was a story about the political situation in Washington which Flynn originally self-published. Flynn developed the character of Mitch Rapp while jogging and thinking about how any one person could actually change Washington. This led to the production of his second novel, Transfer of Power and the introduction of CIA Agent Mitch Rapp.

Over the course of the next decade, Flynn continued writing very successful Mitch Rapp novels. Each, like Clancy’s books, is a page-turner. Once you start reading, there’s little chance you can put the books down until you finish. The other books in the Mitch Rapp series, in order of the story line, include: American Assassin, Kill Shot, Transfer of Power, The Third Option, Separation of Power, Executive Power, Memorial Day, Consent to Kill, Act of Treason, Protect and Defend, Extreme Measures, Pursuit of Honor, and The Last Man.

For more information about Clancy’s work, is a good place to start. Flynn’s website is still maintained at where you can find information on all the books of the Mitch Rapp series.


©2013 J. Clark

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2 Responses to Great Writers Dying Too Young

  1. Caleb McKee says:

    I don’t read a whole lot of books myself but the ones I read usually have Tom Clancy’s name on the front. He is by far my favorite author and like you said once you pick up one of his books, it’s hard to put it down. He really knew how to make a interesting stories that really pulled the reader in. It was very sad to hear of his passing.

    • Joe Clark says:

      Caleb, I have to agree, I was very saddened by his passing. I have not read all of his books, so I have a chance to read a little more before there is nothing left to read. I hope someone else comes along to fill his place, but that seems like a pretty tall order.

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