Saturday, January 16, 2016

Better Dead Than Alive

Thriller Guy would like to apologize for being so remiss in posting lately. Most of his blogging energy was used up by Allen Appel over at his memoir blog at That blog is about to go on hiatus, so TG will be back pissing and moaning and bitching about books, authors and the Writing Life again right here.

Thriller Guy was reading a thread about, what else? thrillers on Facebook where a lady,
complaining about how so many big time authors seem to have faded recently, said, “I’ve stopped reading Tom Clancy, he’s just been phoning it in for the last few years.” TG thought this was a tad unjust, seeing as the man has been dead since 2013. And in fact, TG thinks the lady is flat out wrong: Tom Clancy’s book are far better written since he stopped writing them. And TG believes this is true in the majority of cases where a beloved, mega-selling author has brought in hired help to actually write his books for him. Generally, these co-authors or ghosts are better writers than the originals ever were, dead or alive. Full disclosure, TG’s alter ego Allen Appel and several of his friends have ghost-written a number of books, though never for anyone as famous, at least as famous in the fiction world, as Clancy.

Mark Greaney is the current author of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan series and has written, or
co-written, six of Clancy’s novels. Clancy’s first co-author was Larry Bond, who is one of the top military fiction authors in the world today. Other authors who have penned Clancy novels are Grant Blackwood and Peter Telep, both excellent novelists in their own right. These guys are said to make between $40,000 and $70,000 for writing a top author’s books. This is “work for hire,” they generally do not share in royalties.

Greaney has nothing but nice things to say about writing the Clancy series. He started doing it a couple of years before Clancy died, so he had actual contact with the man who he was writing as. TG spoke with Greaney and asked him if he was consciously trying to write in Clancy’s style and he said not really, but that writing in Clancy’s “world” made his work different than when he wrote his own books.

Greaney writes a series known as the Gray Man novels. TG reviewed the most recent book
in the series, number five, Back Blast, and thought it was terrific. Greany can write Clancy better than Clancy could write Clancy, but he really comes into his own when he, well, comes into his own. Greaney’s hero, Court Gentry, The Gray Man, is back in the US trying to find out why the CIA has a standing kill order out on him. To get answers he has to out-think and out-gun the scores of folks from various agencies who are trying to kill him. Gentry is a far more interesting protagonist than Clancy’s Jack Ryan or Jack Ryan’s son, who has taken over the action role in the series. TG recommends readers of these types of thrillers start with Greaney’s latest and if you like it, go back and read the entire series. As far as his Clancy-inspired books go, if you liked them when they were written by Clancy, don’t shy away from them now. You’ve still got many of the old Clancy characters, the plots are huge and Greaney does a great job of hunting down and inserting all the tech and military details that Clancy pretty much trademarked while he was writing the books.

So, to that lady who complained that Tom was phoning them in, give him another chance. He may be dead, but his writing is better than ever.