Techno-thriller pioneer Tom Clancy reportedly died in a Baltimore hospital last night at age 66. My cousin gave me my first Clancy novel, The Cardinal of the Kremlin, in 1988. I was thirteen, and he knew I was a fan of spy movies. I didn't read the book through until 1994, having decided I wanted to be a writer, and having read dozens of books in one summer, including The Hunt For Red October and Patriot Games.
I've always cared more about story than about technical detail, but I appreciate that Clancy's level of detail raised the genre's standards for authenticity. One thing I knew reading a Clancy novel: He had done his homework; practically all of it was on the page.
As detail became Clancy's trademark, his books became longer and longer, but I read Jack Ryan's arc through Debt of Honor. In that book, a kamikaze plane crash kills the President of the United States, elevating Ryan to the position. With that, it became clear to me Clancy was playing out his personal fantasy. I tried to read further in the Jack Ryan-John Clark saga, but lost the willingness to suspend disbelief.
Other critics also tired of Clancy as he tried to recapture his mojo. Most recently, there have been books published featuring his best-loved characters, but written "with"—Does this really mean "by"?—other thriller writers.