Tom Clancy became one of the best-selling writers of the late 20th and early 21st Centuries, starting with the publication of his 1984 thriller, The Hunt for Red October (1990). Born in Baltimore to a U.S. Post Office employee and his wife on April 12, 1947, Clancy graduated from Loyola Blakefield, a Catholic private high school, in 1965 and then attended Loyola College. After graduating with his bachelor’s degree in English literature, Clancy went into the insurance business as poor eyesight kept him out of the military. Despite being unable to serve during the Vietnam War, military and Cold War politics remained close to his heart.
While running his own insurance agency in Maryland, he wrote “The Hunt for Red October”, which was published by the Naval Institute Press in 1984. Clancy received the princely sum of $5,000 from this most unusual venue for a work of fiction, but the book struck a nerve in the depths of the latter stages of the Cold War. The hardcover from the Naval Institute sold 45,000 copies, an amazing amount for a first novel from a publishing house peddling its first book of fiction, but the paperback (boosted by a strong recommendation from President Ronald Reagan) sold two million copies.
The book was very detailed and extremely savvy when it came to the machinations of the military and Cold War politicians. In fact, Clancy’s editor at the Naval Institute Press had him eliminate details, which trimmed the novel by 100 pages. In all, he wrote 28 books, mostly fiction but also, military themed non-fiction books. Clancy placed 17 books on the New York Times Best Seller List, many of which hit #1. His oeuvre accounted for sales of 100 million copies, making him one of the all-time most popular writers in history.
Clancy became a media industry onto himself. He was successful lending his name and ideas to video games, and his video game company Red Storm Entertainment was bought out for $45 million in 2000. Clancy-branded video games racked up sales of 76 million units. Movies adapted from Clancy’s works racked up $786.5 million at the box office.
Tom Clancy died of heart failure on October 1, 2013. He was 66 years old.
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