Will the Real Author of Tom Clancy's Books Please Stand Up

I don’t get this whole Tom Clancy thing. Did he write his books – or did someone else?

And, how can there be a “new release” when the author has been dead for four years? To me, it’s a combination of “Who’s on First?” and “I really didn’t say everything I said,” the latter being the subtitle of The Yogi Book by Yogi Berra.

Tom Clancy is well known for a number of high-tech espionage thrillers, including The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger. You could argue that he invented the genre of military fiction. His books were made into movies featuring such actors as Ben Affleck, Alec Baldwin, Sean Connery, Harrison Ford and James Earl Jones. His most famous fictional character is Jack Ryan. His second most famous was John Clark. As far as I’m concerned, both characters could each run for President of the United States with names like that because American voters like to elect candidates whose names are easy to spell (with Eisenhower being about the only exception).

Clancy hit it big in 1984 with The Hunt for Red October. He thought he would sell 5000 copies of it. He sold over 45,000. Then President Ronald Reagan endorsed it, calling it “a great yarn.” It sold over 50,000 copies in hard cover and over 300,000 in paperback. It was acclaimed as being very accurate and afforded him meetings with high ranking officials in the U.S. Military.

It appears, however, that there are several Tom Clancy’s. Or, at least, a number of people who write for him. Here are a few of them:

Mark Greaney – Greaney collaborated with Clancy on his final three novels. He continued the Jack Ryan character and “Tom Clancy universe.” The story goes that it was the publisher’s decision to feature Clancy’s name at the top of the cover in massive letters and Greaney’s name in smaller letters at the bottom. Greaney’s comment on the matter was “It really feels like a humongous honor to do it. I get a pretty good billing. The Tom Clancy name is one thing you can put on your book that will make it stand out from across the room.”

So there you have it. It’s about branding. No surprise there.

Greaney stepped down in 2016, perhaps feeling like his name was appearing in teensy-weensy print while Clancy’s was HUGE. When Greaney’s editor, Tom Colgan, asked him for a replacement, he gave him the name of Marc Cameron, because he was presently reading Cameron’s book, Field of Fire.

  • Marc Cameron – Marc Cameron, a former uniformed police officer, mounted (horse patrol) officer and detective who lives in Alaska, took over the brand from Greaney last year. Although he’s been around some pretty foulmouthed villains in his life, he tries not to use salty language in the books because his mother reads them aloud to her husband (the author’s father has glaucoma). Clancy, too, had challenges with his eyes and his nearsightedness kept him out of being a soldier. Anyway, he said he couldn’t bear the thought of hearing his mother utter those profane words.
  • Grant Blackwood – Blackwood penned three books in the Jack Ryan series, including Duty and Honor. He also used the alias “David Michaels” when writing Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Checkmate and Splinter Cell: Fallout.
  • Mike Maden – Known for his Troy Pierce series, including last year’s Drone Threat,Maden has also written for the Jack Ryan series.
  • Dick Couch – The book, Out of the Ashes, says on its cover “Created by TOM CLANCY and STEVE PIECZENIK,” and then, on the line below it, “Written by DICK COUCH and GEORGE GALDORISI.”

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So, we know Clancy invented what have become known as “apostrophe books.” While he was living, he didn’t give many of his actual writers credit for writing the books. But he did acknowledge them in the headnotes for their “invaluable contribution to the manuscript.”

Clancy graduated from Loyola University in Maryland in 1969 (back when it was known as Loyola College). He was on the chess team and was very much interested in ROTC. There was an urban myth that an English professor there, Dr. Abromaitis, failed him. That never happened, she insisted.

Clancy later became part owner of the Baltimore Orioles. He once owned a home in Calvert County, Maryland, which had 24 rooms and featured a World War II-era M4 Sherman tank. It was a Christmas gift from his first wife. Not only did he make a lot of money off of his books but off of videogames, too, which also had his name on them.

Clancy was well known to have employed a bevy of ghostwriters – but those listed above actually got cover credit. Seventeen of his books are bestsellers and there are more than 100 million copies in print. The latest book is Power and Empire, which Cameron wrote. So, I guess the brand still has legs. And, even though Clancy, who died in 2013, isn’t around anymore, the spy-thriller novel he invented, is.