Tom Clancy, whose high-tech, Cold War thrillers such as "The Hunt for Red October" and "Patriot Games" made him the most widely read military novelist of his time, has died in the US aged 66.
Publishers Penguin Group (USA) said he died on Tuesday in Baltimore. They did not give a cause of death.
Tall and thin, with round, sunken eyes that were often hidden by sunglasses, Clancy had said his dream had been simply to publish a book, hopefully a good one, so that he would be in the Library of Congress catalogue. His dreams were answered many times over.
His novels were dependable best sellers, with his publisher estimating that worldwide sales top 100 million copies. Several, including "The Hunt for Red October," ''Patriot Games" and "Clear and Present Danger," were later made into blockbuster movies, with another based on his desk-jockey CIA hero, Jack Ryan, set for release on Christmas. Alec Baldwin, Ben Affleck and Harrison Ford were among the actors who played Ryan on screen.
A political conservative who once referred to Ronald Reagan as "my president," Clancy broke through commercially during a tense period of the Cold War, and with the help of Reagan himself. In 1982, he began working on "The Hunt For Red October," basing it on a real incident in November 1979, in which a Soviet missile frigate called the Storozhevoy attempted to defect. He sold the manuscript to the first publisher he tried, the Naval Institute Press, which had never bought original fiction.
Someone thought enough of the book to give it to president Reagan as a Christmas gift. The president quipped at a dinner that he was losing sleep because he couldn't put it down - a statement Clancy later said helped put him on the New York Times best-seller list.
Clancy was admired in the military community, and appeared - though he often denied it - to have the kind of access that enabled him to intricately describe anything from surveillance to the operations of a submarine. He often played off - and sometimes anticipated - world events, as in the pre-9/11 paranoid thriller "Debt of Honor," in which a jumbo jet destroys the US Capitol during a joint meeting of Congress.
Earning million-dollar advances for his novels, he also wrote non-fiction works on the military and even ventured into video games, including the best-selling "Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Future Soldier," ''Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Conviction" and "Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Double Agent." His recent Jack Ryan novels were collaborations with Mark Greaney, including "Threat Vector" and a release scheduled for December, "Command Authority."
The new "Jack Ryan" movie stars Chris Pine with Kenneth Branagh directing. Keira Knightly plays his wife and Kevin Costner plays his mentor at the CIA.
Born in Baltimore on April 12, 1947 to a postman and his wife, Clancy went to college to study major, but switched to English. He later said that he was not smart enough for the rigours of science, although he clearly mastered it well enough in his fiction.
Clancy stayed close to home. He lived in rural Maryland, and in 1993 he joined a group of investors who bought baseball's Baltimore Orioles.