Monday, February 13, 2012


Since he was first published, I have read pretty much everything written by Tom Clancy.

In case you're not familiar he is essentially the developer of a new genre of novel, now pretty generally called the "technothriller."

Clancy has always had a remarkable ability to learn about military equipment and tactics, despite operating under the handicap of not having ever served his country or been exposed to hostile fire. That is a gift and I give him credit for it. Still, I have always wondered if he was afraid of combat, medically impaired in some way or just couldn't wait to get the insurance business (which is what he did before his novel started selling.)

In his writing he is essentially a one trick pony. He will take the cruelest or most brutal event and describe it in such technological and anatomical detail that seems more schematic than gory. He will tell you exactly the weight of the bullet fired from a sniper rifle, the exact elapsed time until it reaches the victim of the assassination and precisely what portion of the victim's brain is removed by the bullet. He will then go on to describe what the function of that portion of the brain we have been before was removed by the bullet. It is an interesting style, if a predictable one.

None of that is the reason I have bought my last Clancy book. Clancy's books have always broadcast a simplistic view of American defense and foreign-policy. If I had to describe it in shorthand I would call it "Dick Cheney in the ninth grade." It is always been there and I have always overlooked it.

To be fair to Mr. Clancy, he has had a pattern of bringing and co-authors and then changing co-authors. I believe I have read in the national media that he has done the same thing with wives. Whether through him or his most recent co-author, his two most recent books, almost endlessly, ask the reader to absorb the above philosophy all too frequently. It might be a gratuitous shot at MSNBC or simply the suggestion that all Democrats live to dismantle the CIA's operations directorate. Oh, and don't forget that all Democrats cover up to save their asses and all Conservatives and/or Hawks are stand-up guys who take the consequences. (Yes, grudgingly, one of his heroes is a Democrat but he only did the right thing because Clancy's SuperHawk protagonist told him to.)

To be clear, my beef is not particularly that I disagree with any of this philosophy. Heck, I read and listen to a lot of conservative and and foreign-policy adventurous philosophy. No, my problem with it is that I paid my money to his vendor to be entertained by his books. To say the same thing a different way, I buy the books for enjoyment. It is no more enjoyable to be battered by half-baked personal beliefs in the novel that is to have to listen to them at the table next to you in a restaurant.

To some extent the loss is mine. Mr. Clancy writes his books serially, so the end of one invariably leads into the beginning of the next one. And the next one looks like it will be a humdinger. But it will hum and ding without me.


At 2:42 PM, February 14, 2012, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your choice to miss a hum-dinger, but now you may understand how many of us feel about MSNBC,CNN and the rest of the left leaners.

At 9:10 AM, February 15, 2012, Blogger UMRBlog said...

TYFCB but your answer kind of misses my point. If I tune to a purveyor of news/opinion (whether it be Fox, Current, or Al Jazeera). I am signing up for that exposure. When I buy an entertainment book, I am not. Over the years with Clancy, it has gone from occasional whispers to a drumbeat of heavy breathing.

Just a theory, but maybe if he'd actually served and seen the nuances of combat and combat-related intelligence, he wouldn't feel the need to extol the superpatriot line. Of course, I choose to put a happier face on it and blame the new coauthor.

Again, TYFCB.


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