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Tom Clancy: Insurance Man Turned Mega-Novelist

Toiling by day at an insurance agency in the 1970s, Tom Clancy dreamed of writing bestselling action thrillers.

Author Tom Clancy.Unlike most would-be novelists, Clancy, who died on Oct. 1 at age 66 in Baltimore, had two things going for him. First, he had a great idea for a story (inspired by a newspaper article about Soviet sailors who’d tried to defect), in which a Red submarine captain stages a clever ploy to switch sides, with the help of an intrepid CIA agent named Jack Ryan. Second, he was a dogged researcher, reading everything he could find on submarines and talking to scores of people who’d actually served on them to make the details of his fiction vividly authentic.

In 1985 he sold The Hunt for Red October to an obscure publisher of military books for a mere $5,000. Incredibly, through word of mouth and rave reviews, the first-time novelist soared up the bestseller lists.

That was the start of the amazing career of a novelist who became a one-man industry, churning out dozens of bestselling military thrillers – some solo, others with co-authors. But Clancy became even more famous thanks to the movie blockbusters based on his novels about Ryan, who’s been portrayed by some of the biggest stars in Hollywood. Here’s a rundown:

 

Photo: Mel Finkelstein/N.Y. Daily News Archive via Getty Images

 

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