With Tom Clancy's first hardcover novel, the August 7, 1986 Red Storm Rising, Clancy catapulted his name onto the list of bestselling authors. And he has yet to step down off of his throne as the "king of the tec
hno-thriller" as he was lauded by Patrick Anderson of the New York Times Magazine. Between the arrival of Clancy's first novel, the 1984 softcover The Hunt for Red October, and July 13, 1998, he had sold 80 million books. Furthermore, between 1992 and 19
98, Clancy had all five of his hardcover novels published during the period land on the Publisher's Weekly Hardcover Fiction Bestseller List. Each of the five grabbed the top spot for at least a week. So, when his seventh novel was published in 1993, the
re was a near certainty that it would follow its predecessors to the top of all the bestseller lists. Because of this anticipation of huge sales, Putnam paid a previously unmet sum of between $13-14 million for Without Remorse and then produced a 1.25 mil
lion first printing. Without Remorse would meet all of these expectations. It opened #2 on Publisher's Weekly Hardcover Fiction Bestseller List during the week of August 23, 1993. The next week it took over the top spot and the novel stayed on the list f
or 24 weeks. By the end of its first year in publication, it had sold 1.8 million books and continued the Clancy tradition of bestsellers. Like other Clancy novels, Without Remorse made the bestsellers lists for a number of reasons including its character
s, its plot, and the depth with which it approaches and describes military technology.
As the Kirkus Reviews writes Clancy sells to "the millions of midlevel, desk-bound, action-loving bureaucrats whose adventurous wishes Clancy so faithfully fulfills". But many other writers write to these people. Why has Clancy been able to grab such a l
oyal audience out of this group? One reason is his characters. All of his books except for Red Storm Rising tell part of the story of Jack Ryan, a man who Clancy somehow allows us to believe is one of us, a normal person placed in an abnormal job. But in
reality, Ryan is a hero in every sense of the word. He defeats terrorists trying to harm his family, he averts nuclear war, and he becomes the President every person wishes would occupy the oval office. With Ryan, Clancy has given his readers a hero to fo
llow and thus brings them back with each book sharing a little more about the multifaceted Ryan. However, Ryan is not the only reoccurring character. With Without Remorse Clancy tells the story of John Kelly (also known as Clark), the sometimes bodyguard
of Ryan and the CIA agent who does America's dirty work in Clancy's novels. In essence, he has been Ryan's right hand man during some of Ryan's toughest moments. As secretive as his background is kept in other Clancy novels, Without Remorse truly open
s the vault of John Kelly. It is the story of what drives Kelly, where he has been, and what has happened to him to turn him into CIA agent Clark. Surely, just as the lure of a Ryan story brought Clancy loyalists to the bookstores, so an examination of Jo
hn Kelly did the same. As they followed the exploits of Jack Ryan, they also followed the exploits of John Clark. Just as an interest in Ryan brought readers back to Clancy for books such as Executive Orders and The Sum of All Fears, so an interest in Cla
rk brought readers back to Clancy for Without Remorse. In essence, Clancy grabs readers much in the way a sequel to a movie grabs moviegoers who enjoyed the original film. If Clancy can get someone to read one of his novels, he can get him to read more. O
ther bestselling authors have captured readers with the use of characters in more than one book. Patricia Cornwell, for example, has landed consecutive books on the bestsellers lists in the 1990's with her Kay Scarpetta novels.
Amother aspect of his novels that bring back readers is the depth with which he goes into to describe military technology and military situations. His descriptions are so accurate on such state of the art technology that he has often been accused of obta
ining classified information. Whether its a description of the interior of a nuclear submarine or a description of a fictional air battle off the coast of Iceland, Clancy accurately describes in amazing detail the players and their toys, and subsequently,
he makes the scene that much more real and the action that much more possible. Marie Arana-Ward of The Washington Post Book World calls Clancy's descriptions "a meticulous chronicle of military hardware." He continues this focus in Without Remorse. For
instance, he describes the silencing of a rifle,
The chief walked the barrel over to a drill press. The proper bit was already in place, and under the watchful eyes of Kelly and two petty officers he drilled a series of holes in the forward six inches of the hollow steel rod.
"Now, you can't silence a supersonic bullet all the way, but what you can do is trap all the gas, and that'll surely help." ....The rifle barrel went onto a lathe, which cut a shallow but lengthy series of threads....The
chief held up a cantype suppressor, fully three inches in diameter and fourteen inches long. It screwed nicely onto the end of the barrel. A gap in the can allowed reattachment of the front sights, which also locked the suppressor fully in place.
Clancy takes special care to be accurate with these descriptions often interviewing top military personnel and doing research through hundreds of military unclassified files. And this accuracy lures readers back to his books by creating a genuineness to h
is novels that are often missing from other war,military, and spy books. In a similar manner, while Clancy readers are drawn to Clancy's descriptions of the military world, so are John Grisham's fans drawn to his descriptions of law situations, somethi
ng he knows well due to his previous job as a lawyer. Also, just as Clancy fans read his books due to the amazing detail with which his research produces, so are James Michener fans drawn to his descriptions of historical places and situations. All three
writers draw readers by becoming experts about a certain field through research or practice and then becoming a journalist and depicting what they have found to their readers.
Perhaps the largest reason for the large number of loyal Clancy readers is his large complicated plots that always conclude in a flurry of action. Arana-Ward describes the plot of Without Remorse as "a vertiginous plot that dutifully tracks dozens of see
mingly disparate strands to a pyrotechnic finish". All of his books include political intrigue, military actions, and international espionage on a global scale. For instance, Red Storm Rising tells the story of World War III. Clear and Present Danger tell
s the story of American efforts to crumble drug trafficking coming in from Colombia. Without Remorse tells the story of one man during the Vietnam War who ultimately is sent in to free American POWs imprisoned in North Vietnam. And these expansive plots c
aptivate his audience.
Furthermore, like many other bestsellers,Clancy tells a realistic story that is always relevent to his readers at the time of its initial publication. For instance, his first two novels, The Hunt for Red October and Red Storm Rising, which deal with U.S.
/ Soviet relations, were published during the last remants of the cold war. The Sum of All Fears, which tells the story of a terrorist bombing of the Super Bowl, preceded the Oklahoma City bombing by only a few years with its publication in 1991. Furtherm
ore, its focus on Middle Eastern terrorists came at a time when the United States had just fought the Persian Gulf War and its interests towards that region had grown dramatically. Soon after the publication of Debt of Honor in 1994, which details an econ
omic war between the United States and Japan, a similar episode occurred between the two superpowers. At the time Japan was perceived as more of economic threat than it ever had before. Executive Orders carried Clancy hero Jack Ryan through the rigors of
politics by becoming the President when in the real world public approval of the political process was diving. Thus, Clancy creates a very real fictional world by using a plot filled with modern imagery and allusions to modern day problems. With Without
Remorse Clancy strays somewhat from this assemblage of plot. Instead of a modern problem, he sets the novel amid the Vietnam War, which, while an occurrence of the past, has always been a hotly debated topic. Without Remorse, though, really focuses on the
drug trade that haunts America's streets. Thus, Clancy again uses a modern day problem and Without Remorse focused on an aspect of the world that many people would want to know more about. If one scans the nonfiction bestsellers, one sees that focusin
g on a current topic often helps a book become a bestseller. In 1992 General Norman Schwarzkopf's autobiography landed at #2 of the bestsellers list not long after he had led the United States to a victory in the Persian Gulf War. During the time of Worl
d War I the bestsellers list added an extra list called the War Books list. The war had so captivated America that its readers were lured to books of that kind. Even on the General non-fiction bestsellers list of 1918, the top two books (Rhymes of a Red
Cross Man by Robert W. Service + Treasury of War Poetry by G.H.Clark) have war subjects. During the second World War a similar pattern erupted with books such Berlin Diary by William Shirer; See Here, Private Hargrove by Marion Hargrove; Under Cover by Jo
hn Roy Carlson; and Brave Men by Ernie Pyle topping the nonfiction bestsellers list. In a similar manner Clancy captures his audience by telling stories about current situations they wish to explore or know about.
Without Remorse became the number one selling hardcover book in the country in its second week of publication. It sold millions of books for the same reasons the rest of Clancy's books sold well. In part, the serialization of a core group of characters
has helped Clancy draw and keep a loyal group of readers. In part his popularity is due to the interladed quality of his plots and their connections to current events. And in part it is due to the journalistic aspect of his writing that focuses on modern
issues and describes military technology so vividly that he appears more reporter than storyeller. If one puts them together, there simply isn't one discernible reason for his success.