Top 10 Living Authors To Carry On Tom Clancy’s Writing Legacy

Tom Clancy’s passing came as a blow to the writing community. The author of such novels as The Hunt For Red October, Clear and Present Danger, The Sum of all Fears, and Patriot Games redefined the way that technological thrillers were written. The novels not only had to have a compelling narrative, they also had to be accurate in today’s world. In that, Clancy set a standard. Quietly, Clancy also lent his name to a series of video games that gave other first person shooters and soldiering games a measure to go against. Clancy’s passing will leave a hole in the literary community. As a country song was fond of asking “Who’s going to fill their shoes? Who’s going to stand that tall?” We have a list of answers.

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10. Mark Greaney

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In any discussion about successors to Tom Clancy, you would have to include Mark Greaney. Why? Greaney helped Clancy write the 2011 novel Locked On. In Greaney’s own right, he has written the Gray Man series of novels starting appropriately enough with The Gray Man. The Gray Man is actually a nickname given to former CIA operative Court ‘The Gray Man’ Gentry. Gentry is known for hitting a target and then fading away. The Gray Man series focuses on situations in which Gentry has outlived his usefulness to employers possibly more lethal than Gentry himself is. It certainly sounds like Clancy because Greaney and Clancy were collaborated in Clancy’s later life.

9. James Rollins (James Paul Czajkowski)

James Rollins

James Rollins is the pen name of James Paul Czajkowski. Czajkowski is a former veterinarian who now makes his living as a full time writer. It is notable that Rollins wrote the novelization to the 2008 movie Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Beyond that, Rollins is the author of a series a novels that have been dubbed the SIGMA Force series. In Rollins’ world, SIGMA Force is a division of DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) that takes on missions from a subterranean basement in the Smithsonian Institution. For example in the Judas Strain, the novel reads like what a potentially good G.I. Joe movie might look like. The action follows the team of Special Forces and scientists throughout the world to battle the release of a plague. The locations even include the Vatican. Imagine the team as a bunch of your Lucius Fox’s from Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. The Jack Ryan-analogous character is named Painter Crowe. Rollins work may one day translate into the silver screen on its own.

8. Matt Reilly

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Matt Reilly is an Australian author who self published his first book Contest at the age of 19. Reilly then took out a bank loan in order to get 1000 copies of Contest onto the shelves. Contest caught the attention of a book publisher and Reilly was on his way to a career in writing suspense novels. Reilly’s Clancy-esque go-to action hero is named Shane Schofield. Schofield is a former United States Marine officer who basically fills the “military tough guy on an adventure” mold. Through Schofield, Reilly wrote Scarecrow and the Army of Thieves. Schofield is referred to as Scarecrow because of scars as a result of torture to his eyes. In Army of Thieves, Schofield is portrayed as being broken and reluctant. However, the threat of a “Tesla Machine” which could unleash a hemisphere wide firestorm. Reilly is definitely writing in the Clancy mold.

7. Ralph Peters

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Ralph Peters (who sometimes writes under the pen name Owen Perry) is the real deal as far as Clancy-esque writers. Peters is a retired Army Colonel. Peters states that the United States is in a constant mode of belligerent engagement with the rest of the world. Peters has also personally been involved in most of the US’s major military conflicts for the last 25 years. In 1991, Peters wrote the book The War in 2020 which envisioned an alliance between Russia and Japan threatening freedom everywhere. In some ways, Tom Clancy may have envied Ralph Peters. Two years ago, Peters advocated the assassination of Julian Assange for the documents in the WikiLeaks website and treason.

6. Ted Bell

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Ted Bell is mostly a writer of time travel novels as evidenced by his signature novel Nick of Time. For a period of time, Bell was also an advisor to the United States State Department. Bell has written a series of suspense novels starring the character Alexander Hawke. His writing is mostly based in an English background and not military. Bell did write the novel Tsar which postulated about the re-rise of the KGB as well as a new “Evil Empire”. Tsar is not only the type of novel that Tom Clancy could have written. It features a conspiracy that Clancy may well have thought had the potential to be real. Bell’s Hawke is a spiritual successor to Jack Ryan but time travel adventures may overshadow this aspect of Bell’s work.

5. Brad Thor

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Brad Thor is another person who would fall into the category of “true believer”. When Thor is not writing techno-suspense novels, he is a contributor to Glenn Beck’s radio program and news network. Thor also regularly blogs for Andrew Breitbart’s website network. Thor uses the genre of techno-suspense to issue warnings to the American people on the dire fate that awaits them if they do not turn away from liberalism. On the flip side, Thor can tell a rollicking action adventure yarn. This is evidenced by the fact that Warner Brothers has bought the rights to his character Scott Horvath as well as his Athena Project series of novels. The Athena Project, in Thor’s Universe, is a group of elite female warriors tucked away in a remote corner of Ft. Bragg.

4. Nelson DeMille

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Nelson DeMille is a native New Yorker. DeMille served in the Vietnam War. DeMille is also a member of MENSA. DeMille has created several characters who are in the mold of Jack Ryan. One of the characters that DeMille created was a military investigator named Paul Brenner. Paul Brenner was the main protagonist in the novel The General’s Daughter. No less an actor than John Travolta would play Brenner the cinematic version of The General’s Daughter in 1999. DeMille often sets his novels in New York. DeMille will also often tell his stories in the first person. Many of DeMille’s lead characters are investigators of some sort of military or terrorist crime.

3. Larry Correia

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In the world of Larry Correia, there are werewolves, vampires, and monsters of every shape and size. Why on Earth would Correia’s writing rank so high on a list about spiritual successors to Tom Clancy? The reason is that in Correia’s novels (especially the Monster Hunters series), there is an accuracy demanded in everything that has a human element. The places are real. The guns down to the make, model, and ammunition are real. If there ever was a Zombie Apocalypse, the novels of Larry Correia should be required reading as a field guide. It is that type of accuracy in the real world leading to a confrontation with a fantastic situation that are really the best part of the Tom Clancy experience in novels. In Clancy’s work, there may not necessarily be a renegade sub, but the information about the sub had absolutely better be technically correct. In that aspect, Correia absolutely gets the detail right.

2. Tom Kratman

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Tom Kratman was a native of Massachusetts. Kratman served with the 101st Airborne division in Panama. Kratman also served with the 5th Special Forces group during the Iraq War. Kratman is also a lawyer in addition to being a militaristic science fiction writer. Kratman often writes in a type of futuristic universe of war based on real principles. If Tom Kratman had written about the Space Marines in the movie Aliens, he would have probably written a training manual and put the actors through basic training. Kratman will often use futuristic settings to address issues of the day. The difference is that Kratman will often use it to espouse conservative views such as in his Polseen War sidestories of the Legacy of Aldenata series by John Ringo. Try to think of Tom Kratman as kind of an anti-Gene Roddenberry. If Tom Clancy had been born in about 200 years, he would be Tom Kratman.

1. Stephen Hunter

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Stephen Hunter approaches novel writing from a journalistic background. Hunter was a reporter for the Baltimore Sun in the 1970s. Hunter also was a film critic for the Washington Post. Hunter’s great Clancy-eque character is former sniper Bob Lee Swagger. Swagger stars in Hunter’s work Point of Impact. Point of Impact was made into the movie Shooter starring Mark Wahlberg. Unlike the movie, Swagger was a Vietnam war veteran in the novels. Vietnam was almost a character in the books. Hunter possesses a techno-geek level inaccuracy when it comes to weapons as well as political intrigue. Many of the Swagger novel could have Jack Ryan on the same case. Of course, Swagger has a greater distrust of the government. Ryan has more reason to distrust the government having worked in the CIA. Hunter also shares Clancy’s somewhat hit and miss representation by Hollywood.

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14 Responses

  1. David at |

    The only author on this list that I have read is Matt Reilly. His books are great action adventure stories, but he did kinda pissed me off in one of his books, and I haven’t read anything he has written in a while. I won’t say what he did, but it was meaningless, and a waste space on the page. His work lends itself well to the TC genre of military thrillers.

    Reply
    1. George at |

      What was it? I have read all of his books and enjoyed them all. Some parts annoyed me a tad bit but not enough to quit reading his books.

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      1. David at |

        When they killed his girlfriend to make sure Scarecrow would come to them… even though he was already on his way. It pissed me off because it served no purpose.

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        1. George at |

          Yeah I will admit that part was messed up. He didn’t draw it out or have her die heroically or die in Scarecrow’s arms later. It was wham bam and she is dead just like that. I was reading an interview where he said he did that to show that no character was safe and all of them could die at any time. I don’t think he understands how people fall in love with characters like they are family.

          Reply
  2. Tom Kratman at |

    Why, thanks. That was…pretty good. You realize, right, that every time Patricio Carrera had a moral quandry I asked myself, “What would Jack Ryan do?” and then had Carrera do the opposite?

    Reply
  3. Tom Kratman at |

    Oh, addendum: I served in the 101st, but not in Panama. In Panama I did two tours with the old 193rd Infantry Brigade. I was attached to 5th SF but it was for the liberation of Kuwait, in 91, not the current Iraq War. I was in Iraq, for the Kurdish rescue, Operation Provide Comfort, also in 91.

    Reply
  4. Jon LaForce at |

    Reilly isn’t bad, but he needs a marine to go over the things he writes. Schofield comes far too close to being a Mary Sue (IMO) and certain characters are entirely unbelievable. It’s good pulp though, when your pregnant wife is puking again and you need something to read while holding her hair above her head.

    Reply
  5. Matt at |

    Great article, one nitpick/passing-on-a-bit-of-trivia:

    On Number 2 – For the movie, Aliens, James Cameron (writer/director) hired a military consultant who was a former drill sargeant, and actually put the actors through basic training for the film.

    Reply
  6. Stan Bundy at |

    Mentioning Correia so high on the list but only mentioning his MHI books is a bit of a disservice.

    He already DOES have non-SF Military fiction in print: “Dead Six”, and its brand new sequel “Swords of Exodus”) with his co-writer Mike Kupari.

    As for Kratman, it took the man himself to mention his Terra Nova/Carrera series.

    Kratman’s stuff in Ringo’s Posleen/Aldenata universe is good, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the Carrera books, which are set on a colony world where most tech is 20th-21st century (and its interactions with the Old Earth UN, who is in orbit with its slowly failing “Peace Fleet”) – it actually started out as a NON-SF series of manuscripts set on Earth (Balboa = Panama, FSC = USA, etc.) but it got changed into a future allegory of where the Earth is heading, and people trying to avoid it. In fact, in one or two spots in the five book series, there were instances where place names accidentally didn’t get changed from Earth placeholders to their Terra Nova counterparts.

    And, that’s not even going into the Countdown series, which is his non-SF milfic series most comparable with Clancy (and even then, more like Rainbow Six than the Jack Ryan books).

    Reply
  7. Voorhees at |

    Also i would add James Barrington to that list, his book Overkill is excellent.

    Reply
  8. Stuart Faulds at |

    No Larry Bond? No Stephen Coonts? Kratman instead of Ringo? An interesting list, sure, but I would have liked to hear more reasoning on your choices, and your omissions.

    Reply
    1. Aimee at |

      Kratman instead of Ringo because RIngo almost always has an element of Handwavium in his novels. Plus he’s so prolific that people can’t believe he can write well and fast at the same time.

      Plus, “Oh, John Ringo No!” may have had something to do with it…

      Reply
      1. Tom Kratman at |

        I suspect you’re right, Aimee, not about the handwavium -not that John doesn’t use it; ALL sci fi authors use it – but the underlying prejudice against Ghost, et seq.

        Reply
  9. JohnD at |

    To place Ted Bell on that list is an insult to Tom Clancy and the other writers. Bells books are riddled with inaccuracies that any half-alert author would have caught.

    Reply

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