Thursday, 3 October 2013


My obit of Tom Clancy is up at the Guardian online, you can link to it here; it should appear in the paper paper soon.

One thing that got left out was an examination of just how wealthy his writing had made him; at different times Forbes estimated his annual income at $46million and $65million. He diverted some of that money into sports ownership: Clancy was a part-owner of the Baltimore Orioles baseball team, and a very active one, being Vice-Chairman of Community Activities for his hometown team.

In fact, sports ownership was one of the reasons his divorce was so acrimonious (the negotiations reportedly took a year). Clancy was in position to join the group buying the Minnesota Vikings of the NFL, but because of the potential drain on his resources, or perhaps because he might have lost his share in the proceedings, he was forced to withdraw. A Clancy novel set around divorce proceedings might have been an interesting one.

I found it fascinating that he fell out with Robert Gottlieb at least in part over his films--mostly because he seems well-served by them; Alec Baldwin in particular brought a sort of intellectual tinge to Jack Ryan, which I'm sure is what Clancy intended, and I would guess he didn't like Harrison Ford because he lacked a similar edge to his gravitas. The Jack Ryan character is very much a fantasy figure, drawn up by a man who could not himself have the military career he might have desired; Ryan turns into a man of action, but he is primarily one who out-thinks those around him. Having said that, The Hunt For Red October might have made a good movie for almost anyone.

It is odd that as a writer, Clancy's legacy will be equally torn between his character Jack Ryan, a rather perfect pulp hero (note that none of his other characters, even in the Ryan series, have much traction), and his insurance agent's business sense--Clancy turned himself into more than a brand name, he became a virtual corporation, with low-budget outsourcing, a pattern followed by more than a few writers and publishers now.

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