There’s a great urban legend about Tom Clancy in my hometown, the Outer Banks of N.C, where Clancy has had a house in Duck for years. The rumor goes that as soon as The Hunt for Red October came out, he was visited by two men in black suits who wanted to know who his source was. Obviously Clancy’s work hit a little too close to home, and the government was convinced that he had to have had help on his work. As the story goes, Clancy sat the men down for coffee, and told them he had no source, it was all him. The men drank their coffee, and left, unsatisfied.
But after every Clancy novel was published they returned. Asked the same questions, drank the same coffee, and received the same refusals.
I don’t know if it’s true. It gets passed along, told originally by someone who is a neighbor, and given that it’s the South, I have no idea buying the busy-body neighbor who knows everything you do.
When my boss asked for volunteers to write this, I couldn’t help but think of all the ways in which Clancy’s books shaped my adult life. I learned to read with The Hunt for Red October. Not actually, but his jargon intense writing forced me to learn how to read in a whole new way. I had to figure out military terminology and skim until I had a context clue to latch onto. Through Clancy, I learned about a whole new world.
And I guess part of the reason I have no problem accepting the story about the men in black is because of what an amazing analyst Clancy was. His books often seemed like psychic visions looking back. When The Sum of all Fears came out, people scoffed at the insane idea of terrorists seizing a commercial airline and crashing it into a major target. After 9/11 no one was laughing. He managed to predict the stock market crash, Chinese rise to dominance, as well as the growing role of terrorism in our every day lives.
While some readers were not happy with his latest books, as someone who fell in love with Jack Ryan, Domingo Chavez, and John Clark, I loved seeing the younger generation he continued the series with.
Clancy’s works were more than just spy thrillers, or fodder for action movies that while fun, always failed to capture the best of Clancy’s stories. Clancy’s books always seemed like a window into our future, and made me a little more aware of the world around me. His material was wide reaching- from books to video games to movies.
I will deeply miss learning what the next chapter is for these characters.
And I can’t help wondering, if somewhere out there, are some men in black suits who will miss their coffee ritual.