Saturday, October 5, 2013

Tom Clancy Gone?

by Bill Doughty

More than 20 years ago Martin Greenberg edited “The Tom Clancy Companion."   Like many Americans I thought about the iconic Clancy this week after his obituaries were published: Tom Clancy, author of “The Hunt for Red October,” “Red Storm Rising,” “Patriot Games,” “Clear and Present Danger” and other now-classic techno-thrillers, dead at 66.

Tom Clancy loved the Navy, and the feeling was mutual.

With an introduction by his writing partner and family friend Larry Bond, this easy read is presented in four parts: an essay by Marc A. Cerasini on “The Birth of the Techno-Thriller,” an interview with the author by Greenberg, a series of essays by Clancy, and “A Tom Clancy Concordance,” an encyclopedic compilation by Roland J. Green.  The concordance includes an entry for USS Reuben James (DDG-57), central to “Red Storm Rising.”

The interview with Clancy shows the author’s strong feeling on the mission, capabilities and power of the Navy as well as the long-lasting international impact of democracy and freedom.

 “What will happen, what must happen, very simply is that democracy is going to spread itself across the world.  And the reason democracy is going to spread itself across the world is that it works.  Over the past 200 years, representative democracy and the free-enterprise system have proven to be extraordinarily effective at giving people the things they want -- justice and prosperity.”

Read Clancy’s interview and essays and learn, among other things, his views on Reagan, Ricin, Napoleon, Apple computers, stealth technology, Bush Sr., Iran and Iraq, science and technology, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Baltimore, God and science fiction writers, including Joe Haldeman, Edgar Allen Poe and Jules Verne.


“Dinosaurs” discusses the outdated, outmoded weapons systems from previous wars and calls for extending former President Reagan’s “Zero Option” for theater nuclear forces and “an international agreement to bring intercontinental-ballistic weapons down to as close to zero as we can,” in Clancy’s words.

Clancy's essay “Before Anyone Gets Carried Away” eviscerates Oliver Stone’s movie about JFK and gives a logical and forceful view about Kennedy assassination conspiracy theories.  “But I Like to Shoot” gives the author’s views on responsible gun ownership and gun control, while “Funeral” celebrates the death of communism.  Revised in 2005, "Companion" expanded the concordance and retained the original essays.

“Getting Our Money’s Worth” showcases the British Royal Navy and prevention of war through strength, commitment and expertise.  It seems to presage CNO Adm. Greenert’s “Warfighting First” tenet:
“The military needs to restore the warrior ethic.  A warrior is someone who kills his fellow man for a living, and wants to be good at it.  Not all officers are or can be warriors, but only those who are deserve to command at any level.  The military must change its programs to identify them, to nurture them, to select only the best from their ranks, and then to give them the support and experience they need to fulfill their wartime missions at every level of command responsibility.  That will give us the force which will win in war; and recognition of it will go far toward preventing one.”

Several essays get to the heart of Clancy’s personal philosophy.  In “Investia-3. Principles,” he writes that, “A healthy society allows citizens of different beliefs to speak their mind.  In words that resonate today:

“As citizens of a free society you have a civic duty both to tolerate people whose beliefs are different from your own, and a moral duty to listen to them from time to time, because even a fool has something intelligent to say once in a while.”

“Back to the Frontier” calls for support to the nation’s space program, recalling Neil Armstrong’s and Buzz Aldrin’s walk on the moon in 1969.

Harrison, Baldwin and Affleck as Jack Ryan.
“Who can forget that night?  Who can forget the pride of nationhood?  Who can forget the excitement and the wonder? ... Exploration is part and parcel of American history ... The Space Program is the future.  It really is that simple.”

There are hundreds of other works by and especially about Tom Clancy.  Legions of critics have weighed in on the prolific writer, but he is much more complicated than his novels or protagonist Jack Ryan.  Clancy said he wrote “The Hunt for Red October” to achieve a lifelong dream to be a novelist and to achieve immortality.  

Tom Clancy, R.I.P. 

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