Biography Of Tom Clancy: Main Topics

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 'Life is about learning; when you stop learning, you die' . 

This quote was not only spoken by the famous author Tom Clancy, but they are also words he lived by daily. Tom Clancy believed that everyday life provided lessons that an individual can learn from, so as long as a person was living, then an individual should learn from those experiences. Tom Clancy was a great Author, Father, Husband, and person who lived to learn many lessons throughout his life and had great success while doing so. From writing books to helping make movies and create video games, he had his hands full doing the things he truly loved. Tom Clancy’s youth, family, and life experiences all contributed to his great success, and in turn, he was able to find his passion for writing and use it to create characters and books that are a common household name. This essay is devoted to the biography of the famous writer Tom Clancy.

To accurately give credit to Tom Clancy’s success, it is important to start from the beginning because his upbringing and life experiences had great impacts on his literature pieces. On April 12, 1947, in Baltimore, Maryland a child by the legal name of Thomas Leo Clancy Jr. was born to parents Thomas Clancy Sr and Catherine Clancy (“Tom Clancy”). He was the second of a total of three children born into the family. His father Thomas L. Clancy Sr. was a postal carrier, and his mother Catherine Clancy was a store credit worker. He grew up in Baltimore, Maryland, and from a young age had a fascination with anything military and technology related. He attended catholic schools all his life. He began his educational career at a private catholic school. After his elementary school years, he then attended Loyola High School, which at the time was classified as a catholic school. In 1965, he graduated High school and continued his secondary education at Loyola College, where he studied for a Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature. While obtaining his college education Tom Clancy participated in the Chess Club, eventually becoming the President of the club. He declared himself as a Roman Catholic Conservative (“Tom Clancy” Contemporary Authors Online). He also joined the ROTC program but was ineligible to serve in the Vietnam war because of his Myopia diagnosis, which is another word for extreme nearsightedness, He eventually graduated with his degree in 1969 from Loyola College. During the time he was graduating he also married his first wife, Wanda Thomas King, an eye surgeon in the same year 1969 (“Tom Clancy” Newsmaker).

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After graduating it was time for Tom Clancy to enter the real world and begin working to provide for himself and his family. He first began working for an insurance company in Hartford, Connecticut where he continued working for 4 years until he moved back to Maryland. It was at this time that he began working for a small insurance company in the town of Owings, Maryland which was in the year 1973. The small insurance company was a small family insurance business that his wife’s grandfather owned. It was not long after beginning work there that he bought the company. It was this investment that allowed Tom to work for himself, which also allowed him more time to invest in writing in any spare time he had. This was the beginning of Tom being able to fulfill his true dream and passion of becoming an author.

Tom Clancy’s literary career officially started in 1982 when he wrote “The Hunt for Red October” which he sold for publishing for $5,000 to the Naval Institute Press. He had hoped to sell around 5,000 copies but it ended up being around 45,000 copies that were sold at first (“Tom Clancy” Contemporary Authors Online). But then something unexpected and big happened. President Ronald Reagan praised the book on how great it was, which in turn caused the sales to rocket (Holloway). Tom Clancy was a hit in Ronald Reagan's White House before he became a hit with the public--the president called “The Hunt for Red October” a 'perfect yarn,' and his voluntary personal endorsement helped catapult Tom Clancy’s a remarkable literary career at a fast and furious pace (“Tom Clancy” Encyclopedia). The book ended up selling about 2 million paperback copies and about 300,000 hardback copies making it a national bestseller (“Tom Clancy” Newsmakers). This was only the first of many books he would later write. It was during this time he and his wife had children, 4 to be exact which included 3 daughters and 1 son, Michelle, Christine, Kathleen, and Thomas Leo III. He went on to write other books including Patriot Games (1987), Clear and Present Danger (1989), and The Sum of All Fears (1991) (“Tom Clancy” Encyclopedia). 

What was unique about all of these books is that they were all part of a series of books that included the now famous character he created named Jack Ryan. Also, all of these books had some sort of military theme in them which reflected his love and interest in the military. Tom Clancy was best known for his detailed military-science storylines set during and after the cold war era. He was often acknowledged for his realism in both military procedures and decisions, which were very close to how it would happen in real life, which was uncommon for someone with no true military experience (“Tom Clancy” Contemporary Popular Writers). Amazingly, 17 of Tom Clancy’s novels are best sellers and he has over 100 million copies sold of all his novel (“Tom Clancy” Newsmakers). 

In 1996, he separated from his wife, Wanda, then later in 1999 he officially divorced her. Later that same year he remarried Alexandra Marie Llewellyn, a freelance journalist (“Tom Clancy” Newsmakers). He then lived with her and her daughter and continued to write novels such as “Locked On” and many others. Not only was Tom Clancy the author of many novels, but he also tried his hand at creating video games, as well. Although his first attempt was unsuccessful, he kept trying and eventually made the company Red Storm Entertainment (“Tom Clancy” Newsmakers). He also stepped into the film industry by helping create films based on some of his most popular books. Tom Clancy was an all-around person in the entertainment industry. By this time having written a lot of books and created films and video games along the way, it seemed like he was on a role and life was treating Tom Clancy well with all his success. Unfortunately, Tom would experience an uneventful death on October 1, 2013. At the age of 66, he died of heart failure at the John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland.

Although Tom Clancy is no longer alive, his legacy still lives on in many ways, for example, they are starting a new TV series “Jack Ryan” based on his books, and a video game company. Ubisoft is now using his name in many of its games. Penske Business Media said “One of the top-selling authors of the modern era, Clancy wrote more than 100 books. Though he wasn't considered a masterful writer, his fans appreciated his attention to the technical details of military and intelligence topics.” He had many fans of his writing which is evident from well over 50 million copies being sold. Most notably, all of Tom Clancy’s novels are based on the military-science theme, with most of them having at least one of the two now famous characters he created in his writings. First, is Jack Ryan, who is a CIA agent or a retired CIA agent in his novels. Jack Ryan is always trying to stop the antagonist in some sort of way and the novels are always action-packed. The second is John Clark, who is a former navy SEAL and now works for the CIA. These two characters are the main protagonist in all of Tom Clancy’s novels that he wrote. These characters are so well known that most random people on the streets if asked about Jack Ryan or John Clark will know about at least one of them or acknowledge they have heard the names before. Tom Clancy still lives on today through his novels in many ways. For example, there is a new TV series coming out called Jack Ryan, the same Jack Ryan that Tom Clancy wrote about and made is now being made into a TV series. The same character has already been made into a movie sequel which will also carry on Tom Clancy’s name through the film industry as well as the literature and video game industry. It is safe to say that Tom Clancy has made a name for himself while he was walking on this planet from his personal life as a son, husband, and father, to being in the insurance business and moving on to the entertainment business.

Overall, Tom Clancy is a well-respected author and person who had many great accomplishments throughout his lifetime. From his action-packed novels to the movies he helped make and the video game company he established, his legacy will live on forever through his work and literary creations. As novelist James Phelan wrote in the “Sydney Morning Herald”, “To sum up why his books, in fiction and non-fiction, sold so well, it’s because they worked on so many levels. They entertained. They teach about geopolitics, the military, espionage, and tradecraft. He wrote about families, and those lives reflected the broader American family” (“Tom Clancy” Contemporary Authors Online). Although Tom Clancy no longer lives among us, his mark has been forever embedded as a successful and well-known author of the modern day.

Work Cited

  1. Clancy, Tom. “Life Is About Learning; When You Stop... - Quote.” AllAuthor,
  2. Holloway, Kimberley M. “Tom Clancy.” The 1980s in America, edited by Milton Berman, Salem, 2008. Salem Online,
  3. 'Tom Clancy.' Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2014. Gale In Context: Biography, Accessed 17 Nov. 2019.
  4. 'Tom Clancy.' Contemporary Popular Writers, edited by Dave Mote, St. James Press, 1997. Gale In Context: Biography, Accessed 17 Nov. 2019.
  5. 'Tom Clancy.' Encyclopedia of World Biography Online, Gale, 1998. Gale In Context: Biography, Accessed 17 Nov. 2019.
  6. “Tom Clancy.' Newsmakers, Gale, 1998. Gale In Context: Biography, Accessed 17 Nov. 2019.   
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