Tom Clancy: April 12, 1947 – October 1, 2013
By Shlomo Maital
Tom Clancy died on Oct. 1, age 66. His first published novel was The Hunt for Red October, published in 1984, about a Russian submarine. More than 100 million copies of his novels are in print, and 17 became NYT best-sellers.
We can learn much from Clancy’s life. He was an insurance salesman in Baltimore, but had a lifetime fascination for the Navy and for military technology, from an early age. He read books about ships and the Navy when he has a child. In his spare time he wrote “Hunt for Red October”. It had a great many details about Soviet submarines, weaponry, satellites and fighter planes; Navy Secretary Lehman asked Clancy, in 1986, “who the hell cleared it?” The answer: Nobody. All the data came from technical manuals, interviews and published books. A lot of great intelligence simply comes from gathering openly published material.
Clancy sent his manuscript to the Naval Institute Press in Annapolis, MD. An editor, Deborah Grosvenor, was mesmerized by it, but had trouble persuading her boss to publish it. She finally got Clancy to cut 100 pages and remove some technical descriptions. The Press paid $5,000 for the book. It became a smash best seller when President Ronald Reagan said it was “my kind of yarn” and mentioned that he couldn’t put it down.
We can learn an important lesson from Clancy and his life. He was 36 when his first book was published. That means he spent long years selling insurance, while pursuing his true passion in evenings and on weekends. Clancy died relatively young – but he had 30 good years doing what he loved and doing it well. We should all pursue our true passions, after finding out what it is, and at least try to make our living from it, even while earning a living from something else. Rest in peace, Tom. Thanks for all those great books – and the movies based on them.