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Clancy's Ryan may live on after author's death

| Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Novelist Tom Clancy died two months ago at 66, but his best-known character, Jack Ryan, a former CIA operative who becomes president, lives on in bookstores and movie theaters.

The last novel completed before Clancy's death, “Command Authority,” written with Mark Greaney, was released Dec. 3. In 739 pages, it features President Ryan and his son, Jack Ryan Jr., an analyst for The Campus, an off-the-books intelligence agency. Father and son join to match wits with a new Russian leader with a dark secret.

Arriving in theaters Jan. 17 is “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” starring Chris Pine. Conceived and written by Hossein Amin, it's a prequel to Clancy's 1984 debut, “The Hunt for Red October,” which introduced Ryan and launched Clancy as a publishing sensation.

That raises a question: Will Clancy's publishing franchise continue after his death?

His publisher declined to be interviewed, but in a statement hinted that the Ryan adventures may not be over.

Ivan Held, president of Putnam, says, “Tom Clancy left us an incredible group of characters and a truly phenomenal record of fictional plots that sometimes preceded world events. ‘Command Authority' shows his characters in just the kind of dire world situation that Tom's fans came to expect. And of course we hope Jack Ryan and The Campus team can live on.”

That's been done before. Writers have been recruited and authorized to write new stories using characters created by authors who have died, such as Ian Fleming (James Bond), Robert Ludlum (Jason Bourne) and Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes).

Whether Clancy will be published from the grave may be up to his estate. (He's survived by his widow, Alexandra Llewellyn Clancy, and five children, who could not be reached.)

During his lifetime, Clancy wrote 15 Ryan novels, the last four with co-authors. Six hit No. 1 on USA Today's best-selling books list. Four were turned into popular movies, starring Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck as Ryan.

Clancy also was involved with numerous spin-offs, including video games and books.

In an 2002 interview with USA Today, Clancy acknowledged that “Tom Clancy's Op-Center,” a series of books (adapted as a NBC miniseries), were actually written by a collaborator, Jeff Rovin.

Clancy's explanation: “George Lucas didn't write all the Star Wars books. Gene Roddenberry didn't write all the Star Trek books.”

Bob Minzesheimer is a staff writer for USA Today.

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