Thanks for always making time for me, Tom Clancy. Clint says goodbye to his favourite author.


The Red Rabbit laid some poisonous pelt down today.

Speaking, of course, about losing the great Tom Clancy to the literary agent in the sky.

My favourite author, Clancy’s had such an impression on me that his books and films (“The Hunt for Red October”, especially) aren’t just atop of my ‘favourites list’, but I went so far as to name my company after something that’s referenced in one of his hard books.

Clancy and I had spoken several times over the years, usually around the release of films adapted from his books. I’d always be interested to hear what he’d think of say, Ben Affleck playing Jack Ryan in “The Sum of All Fears” (he didn’t mind him, by the way) or how he thought Harrison Ford fared as Ryan in his brief tenure (Clancy rather disliked Ford as the CIA analyst). A reserved, but very smart and always talkative chap, Clancy always seemed none too happy to chat. He wasn’t afraid to speak the truth either, regardless of whether that truth might be then transformed into a bold quote on a website somewhere.
Clancy, a Naval man like his Jack Ryan character at the center of his books, wrote so many good books that I don’t know if I can possibly pick a favourite. From “October” to “Patriot Games”, “Cardinal of the Kremlin” and “Without Remorse”, he knew how to keep a smart – I’ll say, you do need patience and half-an-ounce of intelligence to keep up with the man’s stories – man engaged. I’ve always been good at faking a smart man.

I’ve always loved “Hunt for Red October”. Not only is it a great story, it’s a compelling, clever one, with a dashing hero you can really root for, and a villain you can really… well, root for. Complex thriller to say the least.

I loved the movie, too (even though Clancy didn’t). I especially loved Alec Baldwin’s turn as young Ryan.

Alec, at 30, just carried the role of the licorice-haired intelligence officer well – cool, calculated, convincing and, even acting opposite Sean Connery, he stole many, many moments in “The Hunt for Red October”.

I recall Gene Siskel saying something similar to that in regards to Baldwin’s turn.

While it was always likely that the sub-thriller was going to impress – after all, it was to be directed by McTiernan (“Die Hard”), based on a screenplay by Larry Ferguson of “Highlander” fame, not to mention a very solid book by Clancy, and featured Sean Connery but also an amazing support cast that featured the likes of Fred Dalton Thompson, James Earl Jones, Sam Neill, Joss Ackland, Richard Jordan, Jeffrey Jones and Tim Curry – Baldwin was the wild card that could’ve tipped the good-to-bad scales either way.

Don’t get me wrong, Baldwin had proved himself to be quite an interesting actor up til then – “Miami Blues”, “Working Girl”, “Beetlejuice”, “Married to the Mob” and “She’s Having a Baby” among his pre-”Red” credits – but Paramount were taking a huge gamble by casting Baldwin in the lead role of Ryan (even with Sean Connery playing Ramirez, the studio would normally have cast a much bigger name in the Ryan role) and everyone knew it. Admittedly, he was still, for the most part, an unproven entity, and the only other film he’d worked with Paramount on was John Hughes’ “She’s Having a Baby”, in which he’d had a memorable but fleeting few minutes as the lead’s (Kevin Bacon) horndog best bud – not really a turn to convince anyone he’s ‘the guy’ for a multimillion dollar tentpole.

Further, Baldwin had never played a role even close to Ryan before – I mean, ‘sleazebag mobster’, ‘sleazebag fiancee’, ‘sleazebag best friend’ doesn’t exactly equate to ‘squeaky-clean intelligent naval man’.

But what a catch Baldwin was. It was a risk that paid off. Baldwin was, as fans of the Clancy novel can attest to, the perfect man to bring Ryan to the big screen. And I’ll keep saying that… (right up until Phil Alden Robinson calls to argue the point)

“The Hunt for Red October” went on to become one of the biggest films of the year (I believe it was released just before Easter in Australia; I remember going to see it the very day before going to hospital to have my tonsils out!) and gave Paramount a lucrative new film franchise. It’d also seen his Baldwin’s popularity and share-price rise considerably.


I remember reading “Patriot Games” on a family holiday at the beach. While the others were swimming, I sat atop a sandy patch reading the white-knuckle thriller. It was enthralling. The movie was good too, but the book? (such a purist, right?) Significantly better .

Film wise, Clancy never much approved of the movie translations of his books. He publicly denounced “The Hunt for Red October” (though, personally, I love it) as a loyal adaptation of his best-selling book, and largely snubbed “Patriot Games” and “Clear and Present Danger” (I personally enjoyed them), mostly because he didn’t approve of Harrison Ford as Ryan, but he started to warm up on Hollywood with the feature adaptation of “The Sum Of All Fears”, praising Affleck’s performance and confirming his approval of the film by participating in an audio commentary on the film’s DVD.

Clancy even started to warm up to the idea of collaborating with Hollywood on the Jack Ryan franchise, going so far as to write the book “Red Rabbit” with Ben Affleck’s younger screen Ryan in mind. Sadly, the movie would never come to be.

But then, Hollywood started to distance itself from Clancy – and rather rudely so.

The latest movie to feature Clancy’s character of Jack Ryan is “Jack Ryan : Shadow Recruit” (the poster of which was released today), but not only did Clancy have nothing to do with it, it’s the first in the film franchise not to be based on any of his books.

A feature film version of Clancy’s “Without Remorse”, featuring the character of John Clark, is still in the works -umpteen years after it was first announced. I recall Clancy telling me that he’d have loved his friend Tom Selleck to have played the role of Clark – assumingly when Selleck was a bit younger – so can’t imagine what he’d think of someone un-Selleck’ish like Joaquin Phoenix (rumoured to be playing the role.. or is it Ryan Gosling now? I forget.. changes every week) playing the rebel.

Thanks for inspiring me to write, inspiring the name of my company, and pathing the way for one of my favourite movies. But more so, Tom Clancy… thanks for always making the time for me. That, I really appreciate.

Tom Clancy was 66.