Tom Clancy Analysis

Discussion Topics

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

From his novels, is it possible to ascertain Tom Clancy’s political views?

Is Jack Ryan a surrogate for Tom Clancy?

What are the possible reasons that Clancy criticized the Iraq War in 2004?

Discuss the pros and cons as to whether Jack Ryan is a “constitutional” president in Executive Orders and The Bear and the Dragon.

Are Clancy’s religious beliefs reflected in his novels?

What are the possible factors that explain Clancy’s great popularity as an author?

Compare The Hunt for Red October and Patriot Games with two of Clancy’s later novels, such as Executive Orders and The Bear and the Dragon. Has Clancy’s work changed or evolved, considering his themes or literary style?

Are Clancy’s novels popular because of his extensive use of military technology or in spite of it—that is, can there be too much of a good thing?

Other literary forms

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

In addition to novels, Tom Clancy has written a number of nonfiction books focusing on U.S. military apparatus, including submarines, armored cavalry, fighter planes, and aircraft carriers, and on the U.S. Marine Corps, special forces, and airborne units. He also has collaborated with U.S. generals Fred Franks, Jr., Tony Zinni, Carl Stiner, and Chuck Horner on books that are part biography, part history, and part highly detailed leadership manuals. All four generals are Vietnam War veterans. The book with Zinni was written after the 2003 invasion of Iraq and became controversial because of Zinni’s criticisms of U.S. policies and decisions.


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Tom Clancy’s novel Clear and Present Danger sold more than 1.6 million hardcover copies, which made it the best-selling novel of the 1980’s, and his novel The Cardinal of the Kremlin was the best-selling novel of 1988. Clancy is one of the few authors to have sold more than two million copies on a first printing (John Grisham and J. K. Rowling are among the others). Overall, he has sold more than fifty million books. Forbes magazine reported that he earned forty-seven million dollars in 2001.

Clancy is often credited with creating the technothriller genre. These novels blend science fiction’s interest in technical and scientific detail (using technologies that should exist at the time of writing) with suspenseful military, crime, and espionage fiction. Clancy dislikes the term “technothriller,” and he credits novelist Michael Crichton for developing the genre with his 1969 novel The Andromeda Strain. Clancy likens his own novels to those in the police procedural subgenre, because of their interest in the mechanics of solving a mystery. His speciality is applying the technique to military and espionage fiction. Other examples of the technothriller written before the term was coined are Fail-Safe (1962), by Eugene Burdick and Harvey Wheeler, and The Penetrators (1965), by Hank Searls (writing as Anthony Gray).


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Anderson, Patrick. “King of the ‘Techno-Thriller’: Or, How Tom Clancy Quit Selling Insurance and Became a Very Rich Novelist.” The New York Times Magazine, May 1, 1998, pp. 54-55, 83-85. Author interviews Clancy and describes his early influences and current work.

Bishop, Chuck. “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan: Secular Catholic Hero?” Catholic New Times 26, no. 16 (October 20, 2002). Essay on the Catholicism of Jack Ryan, John Kelly Clark, and other major characters in Clancy’s books. Also compares the policies of fictional president John P. Ryan with actual president George W. Bush.

Buckley, Christopher. “Megabashing Japan.” The New York Times Book Review, October 2, 1994, pp. 28-29. Review of Debt of Honor. Analyzes Clancy’s male and female characters and his prose style.

Clancy, Tom. “An Interview with Tom Clancy.” Interview by John Mutter. Publishers Weekly 230, no. 6 (August 8, 1986): 53-54. Clancy details his early influences and novels.

Cowley, Jason. “He Is the Most Popular Novelist on Earth, Whose Images of Catastrophe Animate the American Psyche.” New Statesman, no. 130 (September 24, 2001). An essay on Clancy arguing that the main reason for his popularity is that his novels are responding to a kind of nihilism permeating...

(The entire section is 446 words.)