In 1975, a Soviet naval officer staged a mutiny aboard a nuclear submarine. His motives were unclear, but in Tom Clancy's mind - who used the story as the foundation for his best-selling novel, The Hunt for Red October - the man, Captain Valery Sablin, had intended to defect to Sweden, taking his submarine with him. Perhaps that's true. Unfortunately, it didn't work out for Captain Sablin. His mutiny failed, and he was executed.
Mr. Clancy decided to give his fictional version of the tale a rosier ending. In The Hunt for Red October, the mutinous submarine captain deftly maneuvers his way through a series of claustrophobic ship-board adventures, harrowingly authentic underwater engagements and dizzying political intrigues before being rescued from a near-certain death by a dashing, young government agent intent on rescuing both the submarine captain and his experimental submarine. The novel ends with the Russian and the American sailing the stolen submarine together up the Penobscot River in a glorious display of pre-glasnost Cold War defrosting.
Action, heroism and obsessive attention to technical detail; this is the Clancy formula. The Hunt for Red October sold at least 6 million copies world-wide, spawned a videogame and a feature film and turned the former insurance salesman and Maryland native into a brand - a multimedia empire glorifying the right of American military might.
Some have suggested over the years that Tom Clancy and Jack Ryan may be one in the same; that Mr. Clancy is actually a former military or CIA man who's turned his classified adventures into almost-treasonous knuckle-biting fiction, ala Ian Fleming's James Bond. One supposes that these rumors would suit the secretive Mr. Clancy and his Jack Ryan Enterprises just fine, but according to all reputable sources (including Mr. Clancy himself), there's no truth in them. Jack Ryan, the hero of The Hunt for Red October and many of Clancy's other novels, is a complete work of fiction and the technical details filling the thousands of pages of prose bearing Mr. Clancy's name are all acquired through publicly available research sources, not (as some have suggested) from secret, classified documents.
Yet, whether the story is fact or fiction, the name on the cover is what's important; more so than who's actually written it. Two decades after The Hunt for Red October introduced the world to the techno-thriller, Tom Clancy is presenting more stories than he's writing. His 12 follow-ups to Red October have each made the best-seller list, enthralling millions of airline travelers each year, but the popular NetForce, Op-Center and Power Plays series which also bear his name are all penned by somebody else. Several somebodies, in fact. You can find their names near the bottom of the book covers, underneath the gigantic Tom Clancy's and the book's title, and another credit for Mr. Clancy (and the cover illustration). That many readers have overlooked this fact over the years is in no way surprising, but has apparently gotten under the skin of some Clancy apologists.
"For the umpteenth time in this forum," says one newsgroup poster, quoted from ClancyFAQ.com "[This] has been common in the publishing world for over four decades (that I know of) to indicate that the book has been written using a concept, or characters, or whatever, from the named author, by another writer, who is usually credited on the cover under the title, but not always."
"Terrorists devise a scheme to take over a generic industrial compound for ransom under the watchful eye of corrupt US diplomats. The plot twists when the Terrorists hijack a shipment of nuclear warheads even after their demands are met, unless a rookie CIA agent eager to prove his worth can overcome his brooding self-doubt and stop the Terrorists once and for all. The movie ends with a mildly comical and/or ironic scene in which the Terrorists blow up or go to prison. Another satisfying tale of political intrigue and personal redemption closes, and we all walk away from this [book/videogame/movie] a little wiser."