Thursday, October 3, 2013

Tom Clancy: Gone, But Never Forgotten

Tom Clancy died Tuesday. He was just 66.

The Brick served for six years in the Navy, some of it on the submarine Batfish.

Nope, not this was considered the best hunter of WWII, but decommissioned in 1959. Dave served on the next-named one. Here's the diesel-powered Batfish, the dear old girl, now the feature of an Oklahoma museum.

 And here's Dave's 'baby,' the nuclear-powered fast-attack USS Batfish (SSN-681). Sadly, she was scrapped in 2002.

What a beautiful boat...

His brother Jim served on the Ben Franklin (out of Pearl Harbor). He commanded the Pennsylvania (SSBN-735) out of Charleston for years.

Another sleek from Wikipedia
Why am I burbling on about submarines? Clancy never served on a sub. In fact, other than ROTC classes in college, he never served in the military at all. Yet this insurance salesman wrote a taut, nailbiting thriller about a Russian sub and its captain engaging in a guessing game with an American boat and its skipper.
      That book was "Hunt for Red October."

No one wanted the book, at first. Finally, the Naval Institute Press published it, and eventually, Ronald Reagan mentioned it, saying Red October was one of his favorite books. This info-packed, technically-engaging military thriller. (Guess our former prez wasn't such a dimwit after all.)

     After the book was published, Clancy was asked how he got his information so accurate, including some things people weren't supposed to know. Clancy said he'd studied, and done research in public information files. Also, two sub officers read the manuscript for him.
     Frankly, I couldn't tell a sub detail from a surface ship. But the Brick loved Red October because of its crisp moments, its tense action, and technical accuracy. He liked the movie, too.

Clancy went on to write many other military thrillers. (I read his Patriot Games right after Daughter #2's birth -- it was a refreshing break to think about something other than pushing!) He sponsored some video games. But I will always have a soft spot in my heart for his first book, because of my beloved submariner. (And the book is wonderful, though I liked Patriot Games and Cardinal of the Kremlin, too.)

Rest in peace, Tom Clancy.

For more on his books, including his latest, Command Authority, visit his website,

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“I tell them you learn to write the same way you learn to play golf...You do it, and keep doing it until you get it right. A lot of people think something mystical happens to you, that maybe the muse kisses you on the ear. But writing isn’t divinely inspired — it’s hard work.” 
                                              - Tom Clancy

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