Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Rest in peace, Tom Clancy

Tom Clancy, whose military and espionage thrillers spawned blockbuster movies and video games, died last night at the age of 66.

I read a lot of Clancy books in junior high and high school. You'll find bigger Clancy fanatics out there--my knowledge is mostly limited to The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger, and The Sum of All Fears. I don't think I ever read the books in which Jack Ryan became president.

In junior high, my friend Kevin and I were really into Clancy. Our attention spans weren't the greatest, however, and we liked to poke fun at the insane amount of detail Clancy used in his books. Sometimes it felt like he described things in excruciating detail. We often joked that "the tank plodded across the desert, its treads flattening sand and kicking up dust as it moved across the surface." That wasn't a line Clancy ever used--and it's a poorly written one at that--but we got a chuckle out of it.

Having read all the books that were turned into movies, I think the cinematic The Hunt for Red October bears the closest similarity to the source material. I'm sure there are differences (and it's been a long, long time since I've read the book), but I remember reading the book and thinking it was somewhat close. The cinematic Clear and Present Danger and The Sum of All Fears were a lot different from the books, almost to the point where I couldn't wrap my mind as to how the movies could qualify as adaptations.

In college, I knew a guy who was absolutely obsessed with Clancy. Like, the only movie he ever wanted to watch was The Hunt for Red October (I really didn't mind that much). He could quote you passages and tell you in exacting detail how the books differed from the movies. He pretty much hated the other adaptations because they didn't stay true to the source material--seriously, he refused to watch Clear and Present Danger for this reason. He took a slightly softer stance on Patriot Games.

Clancy, for his part, wasn't entirely satisfied with the movie adaptations (to put it mildly). He loathed the casting of Harrison Ford after Alec Baldwin decided not to return for a sequel. Clancy thought Ford was "too old" to play Ryan.

So while I'm not a diehard Clancy fan, his books (and the movie adaptations, for better or worse) had an influence on my life. Maybe I should finish the rest of his Jack Ryan books.