Best-selling thriller author Tom Clancy has died at the age of 66, according to his publisher.
While the president of G.P. Putnam’s Sons did not indicate a cause of death, The Baltimore Sun reports that Clancy died “after a brief illness at the Johns Hopkins Hospital,” in Baltimore.
Clancy has been credited for expanding the thriller genre so that, according to Pulitzer Prize–winning film critic Stephen C. Hunter, “a lot of [writers] were able to publish such books who had previously been unable to do so.”
Seventeen of Clancy’s adrenaline-packed thriller novels were No. 1 New York Times best-sellers, and four of those were adapted into Hollywood feature films.
Clancy’s most popular character, Jack Ryan, has been portrayed by Alec Baldwin (Red October), Harrison Ford (Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger), and Ben Affleck (The Sum of All Fears), the former of whom released a statement this morning upon learning of Clancy’s death.
“Spending time with Tom prior to shooting was the best part of that whole experience for me,” Baldwin told E.W., referring to the making of Red October. “Tom was smart, a great story teller and a real gentleman.”
Born in Baltimore to a mail carrier and an insurance-agency manager and eye surgeon, Clancy once described himself as “a little nerdy but a completely normal kid.” After taking R.O.T.C. classes at Baltimore’s Loyola College, The New York Times notes, Clancy was working “as an insurance salesman when he sold The Hunt for Red October to the Naval Institute Press for only $5,000.”
After cutting nearly a hundred pages because of the Naval Institute’s concern over his technical descriptions, the book was famously endorsed by President Reagan, who called the book “my kind of yarn.”
In a statement, Penguin executive David Shanks, who collaborated with Clancy for decades, explained that the author “became obsessed by naval history from a young age, reading journals and books whose intended audience was career military officers and engineering experts. . . . He harbored ambitions to join the military, but his eyesight was too poor.”
Clancy has another novel slated for release later this year—Command Authority, which is scheduled for December 2013 publication. Meanwhile, another film adaptation of Clancy’s work, Jack Ryan: Shadow One, starring Chris Pine, Kevin Costner, and Keira Knightley, is due in theaters on Christmas.