RIP Tom Clancy

October 2, 2013

Author Tom Clancy passed away yesterday at the young age of 66. Here is a look back at how The Hunt for Red October became a best-selling thriller.

Tom Clancy The Hunt for Red OctoberIn 1984, a Maryland insurance broker named Tom Clancy wrote The Hunt for Red October, a naval thriller about a Soviet submarine captain who tries to defect to the United States.

Clancy, a military buff, had never published a book before—his only “author” credits were for a three-page article on the MX missile, and a single Letter to the Editor. And the Naval Institute Press had never published a work of fiction. But they liked Clancy’s manuscript, so they bought it and printed 14,000 copies.

A Friendly Hand: President Ronald Reagan read The Hunt for Red October after it was recommended to him by a friend.. .and that’s when a reporter just happened to ask what he was reading. Reagan praised the book as “the perfect yam” and “non-put-downable.”

That did the trick. The Hunt for Red October, which until then had received little attention and was selling slowly, shot up the bestseller lists. Ultimately, it sold more than 5.4 million copies, setting Tom Clancy on a course to become one of the best-selling authors of the 20th century.

Article first published in Uncle John’s All-Purpose Extra-Strength Bathroom Reader.