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If you like Tom Clancy's story, you might also like:
Stephen Ambrose,
George H.W. Bush,
Shelby Foote,
John Grisham,
David Halberstam,
David McCullough,
James Michener,
Colin Powell,
Norman Schwarzkopf,
James Stockdale,
Michael Thornton,
Bob Woodward
and Chuck Yeager

Tom Clancy also appears in the videos:
So, You Want to Be a Writer Vol.1
So, You Want to Be a Writer Vol.2

Prepared lesson plans featuring Tom Clancy:
So You Want to Be a Writer

Tom Clancy's recommended reading: The Two-Ocean War

Related Links:
TomClancy.com

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Tom Clancy
 
Tom Clancy
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Tom Clancy Interview

Best-Selling Author

October 24, 1991
Huntingtown, Maryland

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  Tom Clancy

Is there a scene in one of your books that is your favorite, that means the most to you personally?


Tom Clancy: Maybe the best scene I ever wrote is in Patriot Games, where Jack Ryan's daughter is in the hospital and she's been seriously injured in a murder attempt. Jack is downstairs, waiting to see if she's going to survive or not. The scene shifts to the doc. He gets the printout from the blood gas analyzer, checking on liver function, to see if her liver is going to survive the trauma or not. He hands the printout to the nurse practitioner and says, "You want to go tell the family?" The doc walks out of the critical care recovery unit to the stairwell, trudges up the stairs to the roof of the shock trauma building in Baltimore, and he pulls out a cigarette and lights it. He looks north, and north of that hospital in Baltimore is the home of Edgar Allan Poe. And it turns out that this doctor is a tiny bit crazy. He's in a high-stress profession where he deals with trauma patients on a daily basis. And he has this little mental game he plays with himself, that his enemy is embodied by Edgar Allan Poe, who wrote principally about untimely death in just about everything he put on paper. So he looks at the house where Poe lived, and down at the street where Poe collapsed drunk, in a gutter, and ultimately caught pneumonia from which he died. He looks at the house, and he says, "You son of a bitch! You don't get this one. This one goes home." He flips away the cigarette, goes back downstairs to get some sleep. I've had more people call me, particularly doctors, that tell me they cried when they read that. Which is about the best compliment that anybody can give you. Because it is a fight between good and evil, and I'm just one of the people who happens to believe the good ultimately wins, because good is ultimately stronger. And if that were not true, how come we are not living in caves?


That scene touches on the passion the doctor has for his work, the passion that you have for many of the things you talk about. How important is that in succeeding at what you do?


Tom Clancy: You've got to believe in what you're doing. The people I write about -- soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, cops, special agents of the FBI, field officers for the CIA -- are very often people who are in the business of risking their lives for other people whom they do not know. And the fact of the matter is that a person does not risk his life very often for things in which he or she does not believe. You do not risk death for money very often. You do not risk death for things in which you do not believe very often. The reason you put it on the line is because you think you're making the world a better place for having done so. Probably the most useful people in the world are the romantics, the people with the mindset of a poet, who see the world the way they wish it to be and try to make it so. If you examine people who have the Medal of Honor, you will find very often that what drove them was not courage as we understand it, but rage. They simply would not accept things as they were, and did everything in their power to change it. Probably the people I most admire in the world are the docs and the nurses who take care of critically ill children. That probably requires more courage than anything I have ever encountered. I have had the privilege of meeting seven people with the Medal of Honor and those are pretty special fellows. But not one of them did something that required more than a few hours of great, courageous effort. I know docs who've been treating critically ill children for 20 years. And they're not just risking their lives, they're risking their souls. They're risking their faith in God, their sanity, to do what they do. And yet they press on, because they have a very precise sense of mission. Their mission is to keep children alive. They enter into this employment in the knowledge that very often they will fail. Despite which, they press on. That's passion. That's believing in what you are doing. That's knowing that what you are doing is important. That even if you just save the life of one child, you've done something worth doing.

[ Key to Success ] Courage


All modesty aside, how would you describe the contributions you've made?


Tom Clancy: Fundamentally, I'm in the entertainment business. My function in life for the most part is to take people out of their lives and put them somewhere else -- people who drive trucks, or sell real estate, or transplant hearts, or practice law, or do accounting, or any profession you care to name. My function is to take them out of their lives and put them somewhere else where they can vicariously experience another life. Along the way, I try to educate, I try to enlighten. I try to tell people about things they don't know about, and do so in a factual and realistic way. That's an honorable tradition. William Shakespeare did it, a whole lot of people do it. And I'm quite comfortable with that. Along the way, I've done a little educating. Maybe I've helped people think a little bit more deeply about certain important issues. President Bush was once kind enough to say I've had a positive effect on U.S. national security. That aside, the fact that I entertain and enlighten a few people is sufficient to the moment.

[ Key to Success ] Integrity



Back in 1986, when I went to England for the first time to research Patriot Games, I had breakfast with Jack Higgins. His real name is Harry Patterson. He was an instructor in literature at Oxford University, and he's a heck of a nice guy, very smart guy. He liked Red October so he wanted to meet me. We have the same publisher in England. In the course of breakfast, he said, "You know, kid." I had one book under my belt, and he was the old pro telling the youngster how to do things. He said, "I'm going to tell you something, kid. Something happened to me and I hope you learn from it, because it's sure as hell going to happen to you." As he was walking down either Piccadilly or the Strand, a fashionable street in London, this elderly lady bumps up to him and says, "You're Jack Higgins!" "Yes Ma'am." "You saved my life." "Excuse me?" And then the lady explained that she had been in the hospital. She had cancer. She was in for a major surgical procedure. She was, of course, not feeling terribly well, she was quite depressed, contemplating death. One of the nurses, or somebody -- some social worker in the hospital -- gave her a book to read and it was one of Jack's books, Harry's books. She liked it and she read another one, and another one, and another one. Reading those books allowed her to escape from where she was, to think about things other than her own misery, and as a result of that she said that she survived something she otherwise would not have survived. And Jack says, "I just didn't know what the hell I was supposed to say to her, except, 'I'm glad that I was of service to you.' Tom, its going to happen to you and you better think about it ahead of time, you'd better know what to say." Well, he was right. I've gotten letters like that, I've had people come up to me and tell me that, and that is what convinces me that I'm in an honorable profession that does useful things.


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