Writer’s Desk: Clancy’s Rules


The late and arguably great Tom Clancy—born this past week in 1947—was never going to be remembered as a stylist. The characters in his techno-thrillers like The Hunt for Red October and Patriot Games generally talked alike (unless they were villains) and he was never good at setting a scene.

However, before bestseller bloat started turning his ever-denser plots into 1,000-page bores, he could crank out a perfectly good wargame scenario for the kind of readers who liked theorizing over who would win in a firefight: Delta Force or Spetsnaz?

Here are some of Clancy’s rules for writing and life. Take them as you will:

  • Tell the story
  • Writing is like golf
  • Make pretend more real than real
  • Writer’s block is unacceptable
  • No one can take your dream away

Perhaps not to everyone’s liking. But, then, not everyone has written the (still very readable) Red Storm Rising, which was seen as so plausible a World War III scenario at the time that Reagan read it to prep for his Iceland summit with Gorbachev.

Weekend Reading: May 29, 2015


New in Theaters: ‘Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit’

Chris Pine exploring a post-Cold War Moscow in 'Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit'
Chris Pine exploring a post-Cold War Moscow in ‘Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit’

Jack_Ryan_Shadow_Recruit_posterTom Clancy’s Jack Ryan was your basic all-around Cold War fighter, able to lead men into battle and synthesize data with equal ease; an analyst who knew his way around a battlefield. Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, and Ben Affleck have played him in the four movie adaptations of Clancy’s bestselling novels. Now, just a few months after Clancy’s passing, Kenneth Branagh’s new take on the series hits screens with Star Trek‘s Chris Pine in the starring role and a wholly new storyline “inspired by” the Ryan books.

My review is at Film Journal International:

For this second reboot after 2002’s unloved Ben Affleck vehicle The Sum of All Fears, the Cold War franchise is repurposed for new threats with a dramatically younger-seeming hero. It’s a high-action and chase-heavy origin story in the more self-aware Casino Royale mold, with brisker action and nods at its hero’s vulnerabilities. Chris Pine is now the fourth actor to strap on the security badge as Jack Ryan. With his glowing blue eyes and the demeanor of a just-barely-reformed frat guy fresh out of college, he’s by far the most schoolboy of the lot, though at 34 he’s actually older than Alec Baldwin was when inaugurating the character in 1990’s The Hunt for Red October. Pine isn’t the worst choice for the role, he has a whippet physicality and a crafty gleam, but it’s hard to see him growing old in this role…

Kenneth Branagh and Keira Knightley get friendly
Kenneth Branagh and Keira Knightley get friendly

You can see the trailer here: