My first memory of any Tom Clancy work was when my parents went to see The Hunt for Red October in the movie theater. My parents didn’t go to the movies very often—only when there was something they really wanted to see, like a movie adaptation of a book they’d read. I didn’t have any idea what the movie was about, and I didn’t ask. I assumed it was something along the lines of leaves turning red in the fall.
Fast forward to junior high, when I picked up and read The Hunt for Red October. I quickly discovered it was not about the color of autumn trees after all. I had entered the world of Jack Ryan, and I loved it. Fortunately for me, my parents had several other Tom Clancy novels waiting on the bookshelf for me to read, and he kept writing new ones. I can still vaguely remember devouring one of his books, all 700-some pages, in a single day during a Christmas break.
Growing up, we normally waiting for the paperback to come out before we purchased a book. Tom Clancy novels became exceptions. They were purchased in hardcover during the first Costco trip after the book’s release. Then my mom, dad, and I fought over who got to read it first. Eventually, a younger sister and younger brothers got in line for the books too.
At some point, my parents purchased The Hunt for Red October on VHS. (Or maybe they borrowed it from someone, and then bought it after they saw how much we liked it?) I watched it on a Friday night. I wanted to watch it again the next night. And the next weekend. It was like I’d gone back to that phase most toddlers go through when they watch the same movie over and over again until everyone in the house except them hates the movie. Joining me in most viewings was my younger sister. Years later, she bought a copy of The Hunt for Red October for me, just because, even though we were both college students and neither of us had much of a budget for gifts.
I still recall one teenage birthday when my dad (normally not the parent in charge of birthday presents) brought out a copy of Clear and Present Danger (the movie version) for me before I even headed off to school. It’s another movie I’ve watched over and over again. Then, when I married my husband and we combined our movie collections, it turned out we had a single duplicate: The Hunt for Red October. We still have both copies.
I gave Tom Clancy novels up when I went to college. I knew I’d have a hard time putting one of his novels down and focusing on homework, so I didn’t even pick one up. And for some reason, I haven’t gone back. But that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped admiring him as a storyteller.
I wouldn’t say I outgrew Tom Clancy. I just outgrew that phase of life where I could spend an entire day doing nothing but reading. Now, as a writer, I admire what he was able to accomplish and his ability to reach so many readers.
Thank you, Tom Clancy, for hours of entertainment. Thank you for providing my family with dinnertime conversation and dozens of shared literary and cinematic experiences. Thank you for proving that people from any occupation can write. Thank you for writing scenes that have inspired parts of my novels. You’ll be missed, and your works will long be remembered, in my family, and in the homes of millions of readers all over the world.
Do you have a favorite Tom Clancy novel or Tom Clancy movie? A favorite scene? A favorite memory involving one of his works? Please share.