Tom Clancy brings back his master of secret ops
(CNN) -- His first book, "The Hunt for Red October", catapulted onto The New York Times bestseller list 14 years ago after President Reagan pronounced it "the perfect yarn" and "non-put-downable."
Since then, Tom Clancy has become the master of the techno-thriller, establishing himself as a master at building realistic fictional scenarios by "turning up the volume" on current events and foreign relations.
He recently spoke with CNN anchor Bobbie Battista about his latest book, "Rainbow Six".
CNN ANCHOR BOBBIE BATTISTA: One of the first things I think readers of yours will notice when they read this book is in the very first sentence: that it's not about Jack Ryan, it's about his associate, John Clark, and I just wonder if there's any reason why this is the second book you've done now that's not about Jack Ryan, or if you just felt that...
CLANCY: Actually, the third book.
BATTISTA: Third? Okay. Or it was just a creative urge to go elsewhere with John Clark.
CLANCY: Well, Bobbie, this is just a book I wanted to do this year. I mean, I've done books with John as the main character, and I just felt like it was time to do it again.
BATTISTA: The book is also about environmental terrorism, and even though the...
CLANCY: Well, terrorists who are environmental wackos, but yeah.
BATTISTA: Yes, you did make them extremists in the book. Nonetheless, do you still think that is a very real threat today?
CLANCY: Well, I don't know how real the threat is, but there are people like that out there. And these people, they say things like human beings are a parasitic species on the face of the planet, and that we can serve the planet best by killing ourselves and going away. Now I think that's a little extreme, don't you?
BATTISTA: Yes, I do, but it makes for good copy. So I guess that's why you chose that?
CLANCY: Yeah, it makes for a pretty good novel, too, Bobbie.
BATTISTA: In the post-Cold War era, is it more difficult to come up with plot lines that are realistic? Or are there just that many more threats out there that are almost as sinister?
CLANCY: Well, the bad guys haven't completely gone away, and I would remind you that the last book I did where the Russians were the bad guys was "Red Storm Rising" back in 1986. So it's been 12 years I've been doing other stuff now.
BATTISTA: But still, I think it gets harder and harder, doesn't it, without a designated enemy?
CLANCY: Not for me.
BATTISTA: You're just so creative. Your books are known, though, for their realism. Some -- I did not know that some are actually considered required reading at some war colleges which is a pretty good accolade for you. How did you work your way into the whole military chain, and what kind of access do you have to military intelligence?
CLANCY: Well, to military -- I don't have any more access than -- probably less access than Wolf Blitzer does because I don't deal with these people on a daily basis. I'm not a reporter. I don't have confidential sources. Nobody ever gives me classified information. But I do have some friends who wear a uniform or who used to wear the uniform, and we talk about things on an unclassified level only, and I get answers to my questions, and that's really all there is to it.
BATTISTA: Does that -- would everybody get that kind of access, though? Is it just because you focus on books of a military nature?
CLANCY: Well, I mean, I don't really do that. There are other -- you know, I focus on intelligence gathering in medicine and lots of things, but I try to get my facts straight, and if you call, you know, the guy who makes lefthanded widgets and say, "look, I'm doing a book on lefthanded widgets and I hear you're the world's expert on that," as you know as a reporter, the hard part is shutting him up after you tell how smart he is.
BATTISTA: That's true. But the U.S. military isn't always an easy nut to crack.
CLANCY: Well, treat them decently. Treat them fairly. And report the way they really are, and they're nice to you.
BATTISTA: Which you do in most of your books.
CLANCY: I try.
BATTISTA: You treat the U.S. military very well in your books. How effective do you think today's military is, if we can kind of get off the fiction topic there.
CLANCY: Oh, they're still the best in the world. There's no doubt about that because of the training and the weapons and the support they have. There's just no doubt about it. They're the class of the world.
BATTISTA: Okay, let me phrase it this way. Do you think -- or what do you think might be the biggest threat to our military effectiveness today?
CLANCY: The only -- you know, the biggest threat to our military effectiveness is here in Washington. If Congress doesn't continue to fund them to give them the tools they need and the training to practice using those tools, then their effectiveness is going to -- it will plummet. But as long as you let them train and you give them the right tools, they're going to be just fine.
BATTISTA: What about the Y2K bug? Does that concern you?
CLANCY: Oh, God, no.
BATTISTA: That's a whole other book, don't you think?
CLANCY: Actually, I think somebody just made that up, and if the Y2K problem, you know, the Year 2000 computer problem is real, nobody's proven it to me yet.
BATTISTA: Oh, OK, that's interesting because we did have a huge debate on this show just a couple of weeks ago between two guys who militarily were at opposite ends of this. One had us at Armageddon in the year 2000.
CLANCY: Was it (Chicken Little), the one who said the sky's falling? I mean, come on.
BATTISTA: Let's hope not, OK.
CLANCY: Yeah, the worse thing happens is we shut down all the computers. You know, we can still live without computers. I can remember living in a world that had no computers at all.
BATTISTA: That's true. I remember that, too. Do you ever feel about writing about anything else than the techno-thriller? I mean, obviously, it's been -- that genre has been very good for you. You've established that, but...
CLANCY: Well, I suppose I could do a romance, but I don't want to encroach into Danielle Steele's territory.
BATTISTA: No, well, you know what I mean. I don't mean a romance, but maybe a Charles Frazier, a "Cold Mountain," or you know, something just a different genre outside the geo-political.
CLANCY: No, I think I'll stick with what I'm doing because it's been reasonably successful, and the money's pretty good.
BATTISTA: Okay, then will Jack Ryan be back?
CLANCY: Oh, Jack's not dead yet. He'll be back.
BATTISTA: One more question.
CLANCY: Yes ma'am.
BATTISTA: Will you make another try for a pro football team or no?
CLANCY: Oh, that's a possibility, but, you know, I made a bid for the Vikings. Unfortunately, it didn't quite work out which was kind of disappointing, especially for the fans in Minnesota who were very supportive of me. Will I try again? Maybe somebody, but you know, you just have to wait for the opportunity to present itself.
BATTISTA: All right, well, better luck next time, and thanks very much for joining us today.
CLANCY: My pleasure, ma'am.
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