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(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Because of its success as a film, Patriot Games is one of Clancy’s best-known novels. He began writing it before The Hunt for Red October, but it was not published until after his second hit novel, Red Storm Rising (1986). Patriot Games, however, relates the earliest part of Jack Ryan’s fictional biography. Clancy has admitted that in creating Ryan he has projected an idealized version of himself.

In a departure from his other novels, in Patriot Games technology plays only a secondary role. The story opens in London. Ryan and his family are enjoying a working vacation; his wife and daughter sightsee and shop while he researches his next work of history. At the end of the day, Ryan meets his family in a peaceful London park, but an explosion a few yards away aborts the plans for a pleasant evening. A radical Irish republican faction of dedicated Marxists has just attacked the automobile carrying the Prince and Princess of Wales.

Ryan, a former Marine officer, reacts instinctively, killing one terrorist and disarming another. Ryan himself is shot. For his heroism, he is given an honorary knighthood. The terrorists vow revenge, however, and eventually attack Ryan and his family after they have returned to the United States.

There are fewer subplots than in Clancy’s other novels; Ryan remains the focus of the work. While still in a London hospital recovering from his wounds, Ryan is visited by the Prince of Wales, who feels guilty that he was unable to personally protect his wife. In American fashion, Ryan bucks up the prince, giving him renewed confidence in himself. In Patriot Games the importance of the family and all that it represents takes center place. The Windsors, who later visit...

(The entire section is 436 words.)