April 12, 1947 – October 1, 2013
The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense.
For sure, his prose was not the most pretty -business-like rather than literary, but he could certainly tell a story. He wore his politics proudly, yet you didn't feel he was ramming them down your throat. Jack Ryan, his most famous protagonist, was - by the standards of American politics - decidedly centrist.
And then there was the detail. .. submarines were his first love and despite having no military experience, his ability to place you at the heart of those mighty vessels was a masterclass in immersion. Despite the sometimes overwhelming use of jargon and acronyms, his stories were pacy, exciting and epic.
Any good novel needs strong characters and Clancy's were expertly written. His primary protagonists grow believably over the course of a novel or even a series. If you want to start reading his Jack Ryan series I would urge you to read them in order. The middle-aged Jack Ryan in the middle books is not the same man as the young Ryan we meet in the first book or the older, wiser we see in latest. He has grown and evolved, whilst remaining true to the ideals set out in that first story.
And lest you think he may have neglected his secondary characters, fear not. I just finished reading the stand-alone cold-war thriller Red Storm Rising. The book is mid-eighties WW3 paranoia at its finest. Yet the Soviet leads are as nuanced and 3-dimensional as the Western allies. Sure, there are a few bits of cringe-worthy dialogue from the Brits (something he got better at over the years), nevertheless you felt these were real characters, with real histories, not just a cardboard cut-out doing the boring bits whilst the primary characters had all the fun.
So farewell to a wonderful writer. It's been a blast and in tribute, your latest bed-side table crusher has moved to the top of the to-read pile. Shouldn't take more than a couple of months to plough through...