Tom Clancy Biography

Tom Clancy Biography

Tom Clancy is the voice of the Cold War. In the early 1980s, at nearly forty years old, Clancy became a household name with his espionage novel The Hunt for Red October. The tale of a rogue Soviet submarine with nuclear capabilities perfectly captured the pre-Glasnost tension between the U.S.S.R. and the United States. The Hunt for Red October also launched the series that would define Clancy’s career. Its hero, Jack Ryan, along with his compatriot John Clark (introduced in a later novel), is the thread running through the Clancy canon. Having an enduring hero figure is only part of what makes Clancy’s spy tales must-read popular fiction, though; his intricate plotting and detailed depiction of intelligence work have kept Clancy on best-seller lists around the world.

Facts and Trivia

  • Clancy is an avid sports fan and is currently a co-owner of the Baltimore Orioles. An attempt to acquire another team fell through in the wake of his divorce.
  • A longtime conservative, Clancy surprised many in the wake of the September 11th attacks by speaking on behalf of the Islamic faith.
  • In the mid-1990s, Clancy branched out into video games. His Red Storm Entertainment has produced dozens of games based on his work.
  • In addition to espionage books, Clancy has also authored many nonfiction works about various aspects of the military.
  • Although ghostwriting is a common practice for deceased writers, Clancy has made a fortune from this practice while still very much alive. His Op-Center and Net-Force series are ghostwritten by other authors.


Thomas L. Clancy was born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1947. His father, a mailman, and his mother, who worked in a department-store credit office, provided him with a middle-class upbringing. Toys, particularly toys featuring military technology, fascinated the young Clancy; he also became and remained a voracious reader.

Educated in Roman Catholic schools, Clancy attended Loyola College in Baltimore, majoring in English. He later said that he always wanted to see his name on a book, although he never imagined that he would become a best-selling author. While in college, he was a member of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC), but poor eyesight kept him out of the regular military, much to his regret. He married Wanda Thomas in 1969, shortly after leaving college, and the need to support his growing family of eventually four children led him away from a literary career and into a more immediately financially rewarding occupation as an insurance agent, and he eventually joined his wife’s grandfather’s insurance agency in rural Maryland.

Clancy never abandoned his quest to become a writer. He had a science-fiction story rejected, and in the early 1970’s, he began plotting a novel, a work that contained characters that would eventually populate his published books. During those years he also continued his extensive reading, particularly in science fiction and military manuals. Although he did well in business, by the end of the decade he again turned to the task of getting his name on a book jacket.

In 1976, a naval mutiny occurred on a Soviet frigate, the mutineers hoping to defect to Sweden. The mutiny failed, but the incident gave Clancy the inspiration for his first published novel. Written during several months in late 1982 and early 1983, the unknown author’s The Hunt for Red October was published in 1984 by the Naval Academy’s Naval Institute Press, which...

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Clancy is only one of many writers who have used the background of the Cold War, the threat of nuclear conflict, international terrorism, and other contemporary concerns to attract a wide reading audience. Clancy, however, has joined those fears to military technology in a manner that his rivals have not; he might deny it, but he does write “techno-thrillers.” His first story was science fiction, and it was rejected. In a sense, though, he has been writing science fiction ever since—although it is science fiction that reflects the modern world rather than a future world. However, Clancy’s wars, in spite of his reliance on cutting-edge military technology, are not always realistic. There is no fog of war, and the Americans...

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Thomas Leo Clancy, Jr.’s father was a postman, and his mother worked in the credit department of Montgomery Ward. The young Clancy read Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1872; originally published as Vingt mille lieues sous les mers, 1870) when he was in the third grade and later became an avid reader of military history. He started writing while in high school, graduating from Loyola Blakefield High in Towson, Maryland, in 1965. Clancy earned a bachelor’s degree from Loyola College in Baltimore in 1969, with a major in English literature. His fictional alter ego, Jack Ryan, also was born in Maryland and attended Catholic high schools and universities. Though he wanted to serve in the military, Clancy failed the eye examination. Ryan, on the other hand, was with the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps in college and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps after graduating. Clancy married Wanda Thomas, an insurance agency manager, in 1969, and they had four children, Michelle, Christine, Tom, and Kathleen. They were divorced in 1998. In 1999, Clancy married freelance journalist Alexandra Marie Llewellyn, a first cousin of former U.S. secretary of state Colin Powell, who introduced them.

Before Clancy sold his first novel, he sold insurance. Prior to The Hunt for Red October, his writings in professional publications consisted of a letter to the editor and an article on the MX missile, both...

(The entire section is 460 words.)