Now, here we are almost five years later, and Maden is gearing up to release his final contribution to Clancy’s iconic franchise, FIRING POINT.
Those paying close attention might have caught the announcement a couple of weeks ago that Without Sanction (2019) author Don Bentley would stepping in for Maden, taking over the Jack Ryan Junior books starting in 2021. While Bentley is a terrific choice, and one heck of a fine writer, there’s no question that Maden’s presence will be missed. It’s also clear that Maden will leave the franchise better off than he found it, which is really saying something.
Maden’s first Clancy thriller, Point of Contact, came out in 2017 and marked a subtle shift in the tone of the books. Whereas Blackwood found success staying true to the style often seen in traditional political/techno thrillers, Maden infused more action into the stories—which was evident from the first chapter on, when he opened his first Jack Ryan Junior book with a Brad Thor-like action sequence that set the tone for the three books to follow.
Now, with this one, Jack Junior sees his dream vacation morph into a nightmare when a suicide bomber blows up a café moments after Jack runs into an old classmate and former lover. With her dying breath, she leaves Jack a vague clue that he can’t help but follow up on in his quest to track down the group behind the attack. As always, though, it soon becomes clean that there’s more to the story than what originally meets the eye, and it’s up to Jack Ryan Junior to put all the pieces together before it’s too late.
Consider this Maden’s mike drop of a moment, as he exits the Clancy universe with another high-flying thriller that’s not to be missed.
RESEARCHING A TOM CLANCY NOVEL
by Mike Maden
One of the questions I’m asked most often on book tours and media interviews is how I go about researching the wide variety of subjects in my novels including economics, politics and of course, military technology.
The hallmark of all great Tom Clancy novels is the depth of knowledge he displayed in his work, particularly in regard to military technology. He was so good at it that he was able to elevate the technology itself to “character” status and his ability to do this is why I argue that he single-handedly invented the modern techno-thriller genre as we now know it. Before Tom Clancy, a woman had a pistol in her hand. After Tom Clancy, she held a Glock 19 with fifteen rounds in the mag, the polymer grip slick with the sweat of her palm.
Readers marveled at the early Tom Clancy novels in particular. It appeared as if he had access to top secret information that no civilian should have. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had current or retired military personnel approach me at book signings and tell me variations of this story: “I was reading a Tom Clancy novel while on duty and was shocked to discover he was discussing a weapons system that I had only just heard about because of my TS clearance.” Tom Clancy was totally analog, and completely brilliant.
So let me sidebar here and say this: as great as a storyteller as Tom Clancy was, I think his real gift was his ability to do research. It’s not hard for me to look like I know what I’m talking about because I have the internet and search engines. But back in the day when Tom Clancy was first writing, he was hanging out at the public library, digging through card catalogs and microfiche. (If you aren’t personally familiar with those ancient artifacts, Google them.)
Because I write in the techno-thriller genre, I spend a great deal of time researching combat systems and particular weapons technologies. But techno-thrillers are ultimately about organized violence either by governments or individuals. If I’ve done my job well, the reader roots for the good guys with guns who take out the bad guys with guns. But for me, these stories are only interesting (and I’m only able to touch upon the “truth” embedded within them) when I ground the characters in their political, historical and cultural contexts. Why are the “bad guys” bad? What motivates them? Why do they think they’re the “heroes” in their own stories? My research helps me to get to these truthful moments in my fictional writing.
So, yes, I invest many long hours on internet searches ferreting out all kinds of information and I work very hard to get it right. But there are some facts you simply can’t get on an internet search and that’s why I also travel to as many of the places I describe in my novels as I can, including a trip to Spain (and in particular, Catalonia) for my current novel, FIRING POINT. It’s important for me to tell the best story and I can and even though I’m writing fiction, I’m also trying to tell the truth about my characters and the worlds they inhabit if for no other reason than my desire for authenticity.
While it’s never possible to become an expert in matters of history and culture in a short period of time, you can get a taste of these things. Speaking of which, I do want to assure my readers that if one of my characters in FIRING POINT indulges in a glass of tangy, bubbly cava or relishes the soft crunch of a deep fried bomba, well, let me tell you, that was the kind of authentic research I was happy to conduct…and verify…and test again, just to be sure, ya know?