The Rogues could not be more delighted than to hear
Admittedly, I have kind of a mean-mug, but my wife is accustomed my face, senses my moods, knows when something is terribly wrong. And that day in October of 2016 when I got that call from my agent, Robin Rue, something was…terribly wrong…and terribly right. Either way, it was terribly frightening.
We were on the beach in Florida, taking a break from research I was doing for my first Arliss Cutter novel, when Robin called to tell me Mark Greaney had decided to step away from the Tom Clancy/Jack Ryan franchise after seven books to pursue his own projects—and he had recommended me to take over the series.
Standing there with my toes in the sand and shells of Manasota Key, I ticked off a long list of reasons why this was such a very bad idea. I was under contract for three more books with Kensington. I had a Jericho Quinn manuscript due in just a couple of months. Writing a Jack Ryan novel would have me trying to step into the shoes of not only Tom Clancy, but Mark Greaney, who had done such a terrific job with the legacy Clancy characters. Readers just wouldn’t’ have it. My agent listened patiently, and then kindly told me to suck it up. This was Clancy. I could not, not do it. Period.
I’d been a Tom Clancy fan since I read THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER. I enjoyed the movies, but I reveled in the books, took them on assignment with me, and lived vicariously through Ryan and Clark and Chavez.
I met Mark Greaney for the first time at a Bouchercon convention in Long Beach, and was more than a little envious that he had the Clancy gig. I remember him pointing out to a group of other writers quizzing him at the hotel bar, that, contrary to the Hollywood depiction, Ding Chavez wasn’t a sniper in the books. I knew then that Greaney was the real deal.
In truth, the idea of writing a Tom Clancy at once terrified and appealed to me. Early in the process I told my editor, Tom Colgan, that if I hadn’t been terrified at the prospect, I would have been the wrong person for the job. Clancy readers tend to be incredibly smart—and incredibly interested in the details. I still imagine readers with TI graphing calculators checking my figures when I discuss something like missile speeds or satellite trajectory.
My first Clancy novel, POWER AND EMPIRE, gave my wife and me the perfect excuse to run away to our favorite island of Rarotonga in the South Pacific for a couple of months and put ourselves through a mini Tom Clancy university, reading and re-reading the entire Jack Ryan canon. We went back again to write the bones of both OATH OF OFFICE and CODE OF HONOR. It would feel wrong if I didn’t hear screeching myna birds or the periodic thud of a falling coconut while I write my early drafts.
Coworkers from my previous job as a deputy US marshal often kid with me about my cushy retirement gig when they see photos of me on a motorcycle trip, at a restaurant in some foreign land, or on the beach in the Cook Islands. Okay, I am blessed with an idyllic life, but know this: The luggage on that motorcycle, the pocket of my jacket at that restaurant, or the table next to the beach chair in the South Pacific, all hold a notebook or computer.
Writing an iconic character like Jack Ryan, hoping to do him justice, is a little like finally getting to ride the ginormous rollercoaster you’ve been driving by for years. It seems a great notion from the road, but can become overwhelming when you actually buy the ticket. Tension builds as you move up in line, but you finally settle in, buckle up, and think, you know, this might be fun.
And then the car starts to careen down the tracks.
Like the first two, writing Tom Clancy CODE OF HONOR was great fun—exhilarating, thrilling, adrenaline-inducing. But, I’d be dishonest if I didn’t admit that nausea, whiplash, and a lot of terrified screaming, were a large part of the experience.
Time passes though, and, for the most part, only the thrill remains. By this January when we head back to Rarotonga, I’ll be ready for another ride.