Tom Clancy was an author before he was a brand. You would be forgiven for forgetting that, considering that by the time he passed away Tuesday in Baltimore at the age of 66, “Tom Clancy” had become the label on books, movies, video games, and Lord knows what else. But he was, above all, the man behind some of the most popular and successful military thrillers ever and the creator of Jack Ryan, swashbuckling CIA analyst and, later, President of the United States.
Clancy’s passing leaves quite a legacy, including books he wrote (including The Hunt for Red October, Clear and Present Danger, Patriot Games, and The Sum of All Fears, all of which became successful movies with three different Jack Ryans — Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, and, getting the same “he’s not right for the part” reaction he’s gotten for Batman, Ben Affleck) and books he didn’t write but which had his name on them (Tom Clancy’s Op-Center, Tom Clancy’s NetForce, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon, Tom Clancy’s EndWar, Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.X ., and more). It’s not like authors haven’t used ghostwriters before, but the “Tom Clancy’s” label took the branding concept to a new level in publishing. And it didn’t matter, because the brand meant you got what you wanted — a thriller set up with mounds of intricate military or espionage details, insider stuff. There’s even a Young Adult series, Tom Clancy’s Net Force Explorers. And it all grew from a writer whose research compensated for the fact that he never served in the military nor CIA (as far as we know, that is…); he worked in insurance before becoming a novelist, then a brand (and even a part-owner of the Baltimore Orioles, which is something you do when you’re rich beyond imagination).
Then there were video games (and board games, too). His novels lent themselves to gaming, since you could take the essentials and do simulators or shooters or strategy. And they did. Among others:
Top that, John Grisham or Danielle Steel.
The next Jack Ryan movie, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (formerly Jack Ryan: Shadow One), has Chris Pine as Jack (with a trailer due Thursday) and isn’t based on any one book. And that seems fitting. Clancy’s works sort of took on a life of their own, the ultimate franchise machine. He thought up the worlds, and the rest grew from there.
Are you a Tom Clancy fan? Which book, movie, or game was your favorite? Comment below….