Tom Clancy, 'king of the techno-thriller'

Tom Clancy, the prolific Baltimore-born author whose novels "The Hunt for Red October" and "Patriot Games" inspired blockbuster movies and action-packed video games, earning him the nickname "king of the techno-thriller," died Tuesday at Johns Hopkins Hospital after a brief illness. He was 66.

"When he published 'The Hunt for Red October' he redefined and expanded the genre and as a consequence of that, a lot of people were able to publish such books who had previously been unable to do so," said Stephen C. Hunter, a Baltimore author and Pulitzer Prize-winning former film critic for The Washington Post. "He valued technical precision and on-target writing that became the form of the modern thriller."

Numerous edge-of-your-seat books, including many featuring hero Jack Ryan that were made into Hollywood hits, turned Mr. Clancy into one of the best-read authors of all time.

His literary output during a 28-year career made him a millionaire. He wrote 26 books — 17 of which made The New York Times' best-seller list — and it has been estimated that tens of millions of his books have been sold.

"People say I write techno-thrillers and Cold War novels. I say I write books," Mr. Clancy told The Baltimore Sun in 1991. "As long as there are bad guys around, I can write books. And last time I looked, there are still a few bad guys out there."

A new Jack Ryan book, "Command Authority," co-written with Mark Greaney is due out in December. And a new Jack Ryan movie, "Shadow One," will be released at Christmas.

"The Hunt for Red October" was released as a movie in 1990 with Sean Connery and Alec Baldwin. Harrison Ford later starred as Jack Ryan in "Patriot Games" and "Clear and Present Danger."

Mr. Clancy was a major financial player in Baltimore's sporting renaissance in the 1990s, when the Orioles moved to Camden Yards. He was the biggest minority investor in the group that Peter G. Angelos assembled to buy the Orioles for $173 million in 1993.

"While he achieved international acclaim as a celebrated author, Tom, a proud Baltimorean, was a devoted Marylander, a treasured friend, and a valued partner and adviser in the Orioles ownership group," Mr. Angelos said Wednesday.

"Although he was a world-renowned, best-selling author whose works became box office hits and video games, Tom remained rooted in Baltimore," Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said in a statement. "A devoted resident until his final day, Tom is a Baltimore icon whose legacy will forever be remembered."

Mr. Clancy's lawyer, Thompson "Topper" Webb of the Baltimore law firm Miles & Stockbridge, confirmed his death Wednesday, but gave no cause.

Thomas Leo Clancy Jr., the son of a mail carrier and an eye surgeon and insurance agency manager, grew up in Baltimore's middle-class Northwood neighborhood.

"I was a little nerdy but a completely normal kid. Mom and Dad loved each other. It was like 'Leave it to Beaver,'" he told The Sun in 1992.

His education was Roman Catholic, beginning with St. Matthew's grade school. He went on to Loyola High in Towson, an all-boys school with an all-male faculty and a rigorous Jesuit curriculum. Students took four years of Latin, wore jackets and ties, and began each class with a prayer.

"He was kind of his own man. He was quiet and toward the shy side," Father Thomas McDonnell, a former Loyola faculty member who taught Mr. Clancy religion, Latin and history in his sophomore year, recalled in an interview with The Sun some years ago.

He described Mr. Clancy as a straight-A student from the standout class of 1965, but unremarkable as a leader or athlete.

"I knew he was in class, but if you had told me he would be where he is today I would have said, 'No way,'" Father McDonnell recalled.

While some of Mr. Clancy's classmates went on to spend the late 1960s on campuses rife with antiwar activism, he moved to Loyola University Maryland, where the ruling Jesuits had little tolerance for demonstrations.

"Loyola was a working-class college. You had to be rich to be radical," Mr. Clancy told The Sun. "I was more of a Peter, Paul and Mary kind of guy."

Mr. Clancy initially took ROTC classes but later withdrew because of severe myopia, which accounted for his wearing dark, aviator-style glasses that made him "look like a chipmunk," he once explained. Eye surgery in recent years eliminated the need for them.