Tom Clancy’s fiction has never really been my cup of tea, and his rightwing ideology even less so. Clancy, a gun-toting NRA member who famously blamed 9/11 on left wing politicians, has made a vast fortune writing military thrillers. But like a lot of rightwing military fans, Clancy never served in the military, enrolling at Loyola College at the height of the Vietnam War to earn a bachelor’s in English Literature before becoming an insurance broker. His wife of nearly thirty years divorced him after she discovered his affair with Katherine Huang, an assistant district attorney in New York he’d met on-line. He then married Alexandra Llewellyn, twenty years his junior and a cousin to Colin Powell who introduced them while Clancy was still married to his first wife while having an affair with his mistress. Charming.
His personal ethics are reflected in his fiction, not only by its literary content but by the questionable professional practices of its author. His novels gleefully espouse torture such as waterboarding and inducing heart attacks, where every liberal character is an idiot and a buffoon snorting cocaine, scarfing tofu, and determined to raise taxes on the wealthy (the b-stards!), and all the conservative characters are heroic patriots with impeccable principles. Then again, Clancy can’t actually be considered a real writer anymore, since he’s far too busy milking his various cash cows to ever sit down at a keyboard. It might be because since 2002 and the release of Red Rabbit the quality of his novels has greatly deteriorated. “If you haven’t read the new Jack Ryan novel yet, do yourself a favour. Don’t,” read one particularly acrid critic. The following year, his book, The Teeth of the Tiger (where the so-called “good-guys” are an FBI agent who murders a suspect in cold blood, and his cousin, Jack Ryan Junior, a lacklustre foul-mouthed frat-boy with the intellectual acuity of roadkill) was likewise savaged in reviews; the Washington Post calling it a “bloated, boring, silly novel” with “inane dialogue, gossamer characterizations, endless repetition and bumper-sticker politics.”
Ouch. On the other hand, Putnam paid him a cool $50 million for the two new books, which I’m sure did much to assuage any bruising to the ego.
Even so, Clancy didn’t come out with another Jack Ryan novel until 2010, which he didn’t even write – instead, it was written by Grant Blackwood, with his two follow-up novels, Against All Enemies and Locked On written by Peter Telep and Mark Greaney, respectively. That the true authors’ names appear on the cover in squintingly teeny-tiny print dwarfed under Tom Clancy’s name in huge typeface is actually quite remarkable, since Clancy didn’t even previously acknowledge his novels were being ghostwritten by other people past a brief mention in the acknowledgments to their “invaluable contribution to the manuscript.” Raymond Benson and David Michaels wrote the first two books in his Splinter Cell franchise, for which Clancy received millions from his publishers. No idea how much Benson and Michaels got for their work-for-hire hackery. The only thing Tom Clancy has to write these days to ensure a bestseller is two words: his name.