Tom Clancy, prolific author of military thrillers that turned into box office gold with movies such as "The Hunt for Red October" and "Clear and Present Danger," died Tuesday at the age of 66 in Baltimore, Md., his publisher Penguin Group confirmed in a statement Wednesday morning.
"I'm deeply saddened by Tom's passing. He was a consummate author, creating the modern-day thriller, and was one of the most visionary storytellers of our time," Penguin executive David Shanks said in the statement. "I will miss him dearly and he will be missed by tens of millions of readers worldwide."
Born in 1947 in Baltimore, Md., Clancy rose to prominence as a writer with his Soviet-era novel "The Hunt for Red October," which he sold to the Naval Institute Press for only $5,000 while working as an insurance salesman. After President Reagan publicly expressed his admiration for the novel, Clancy's ascent to the ranks of literary stardom was swift.
His fast-paced thrillers demonstrated Clancy's acute knowledge of the technical intricacies of Soviet weaponry and were mainly concerned with espionage and military tactics employed during and in the wake of the Cold War. An avid reader, Clancy harbored an enduring interest in the military throughout his childhood, but was barred from participating in it because of nearsightedness.
The author penned 17 No. 1 bestselling novels throughout his career. Jack Ryan, a patriotic CIA agent-cum-politician, was the star of 12 of those books, and his fictional career reflected many of the changes in American foreign policy during the last three decades. The character managed to transcend the world of books through on-screen portrayals by Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck.
Clancy appreciated the mass appeal of his books.
''Literature means a hundred years after you're dead they make kids read you in high school,'' he told The New York Times in 1988. ''I'm in the entertainment business, like John D. MacDonald, Jack Higgins and Freddie Forsyth. Our mission is to take people away from driving trucks or fixing toilets or whatever they do, away from their drudgery. That's a good enough purpose for any man.''
His latest book, the techno-thriller "Command Authority," is due to hit bookshelves on Dec. 3.
This story was originally published at 10:50 a.m. ET on Oct. 2.