Except for Red Storm Rising, Tom Clancy’s novels feature, or are somehow connected with, the fictional character John Patrick “Jack” Ryan, who is an idealized portrait of Clancy. The novels are often referred to as the Ryanverse, or the Jack Ryan series.
Although some critics have compared Clancy to James Fenimore Cooper for writing long novels about men of action, there is an important difference between the two novelists. Cooper’s fiction, such as The Last of the Mohicans (1826), features protagonists who flee from the constraints of civil society and the obligations of matrimony and family. Clancy’s protagonists, however, have no wish to escape from society. Instead, Ryan and his friends embrace it, including its responsibilities and duties.
Clancy believes in the virtues of bravery, self-sacrifice, and individual responsibility, character traits he claims had been lacking in mainstream fiction. In particular, be argued that novels such as Gustav Hasford’s The Short-Timers (1979) and Michael Herr’s Dispatches (1977) were too negative and pessimistic. Clancy also disapproved of the portrayal of military personnel as insane or immoral, or both, in films such as Apocalypse Now (1979). Clancy’s fictional soldiers, in contrast, are competent, dedicated, and honorable professionals.
Although Without Remorse is Clancy’s seventh novel, it is the first book in the Ryanverse chronology and is set during U.S. president Richard Nixon’s first term of office. Ryan’s father, Emmett, a police homicide lieutenant and World War II veteran, is a major character in the story, and those portions of the book read like a police procedural. The novel’s main character is John Kelly, also known as John Clark, a former Navy SEAL who served in Vietnam. Kelly had already appeared as a character in several of Clancy’s books as John Clark, but this novel provides Kelly’s back story.
Without Remorse also was written in response to the Rambo series of films starring Sylvester Stallone. Although Clancy’s Kelly suffers from depression and engages in a vigilante campaign against drug dealers and pimps, he is neither a superhero nor crazy.
In Patriot Games, Jack Ryan and his family are on a combined business trip and family vacation to London when Jack foils an attempt by Irish terrorists to kidnap the prince and princess of Wales. After the terrorists come after him and his family, Ryan joins the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The premise is similar to that in John D. MacDonald’s The Executioners (1957). Both operate under the no-good-deed-goes-unpunished principle in which a good person suffers for doing the right thing.
Red Rabbit is the novel that most clearly reflects the influence of Forsyth’s The Day of the Jackal (1971). In Red Rabbit, Ryan’s first field assignment for the CIA is to assist the defection of a Russian communications officer who has discovered that the Soviet Politburo has ordered...
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