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This past weekend I watched the final two episodes of the final season of “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan” on Amazon Prime Video.
I enjoyed the four seasons of the series, which rebooted the Jack Ryan character, much like the 2006 film “Casino Royale” rebooted Ian Fleming’s James Bond character.
I’ve been a fan of Tom Clancy (seen in the above photo) and his Jack Ryan character since the publication of his first novel, “The Hunt For Red October,” in 1984. The Naval Institute Press published the thriller, which was the first fiction the publisher had ever published.
Clancy, an insurance salesman who loved naval history but had no military experience (he had bad eyes and wore thick glasses), based his debut novel on extensive research and the stories he heard from his neighbor, a retired Navy submarine captain.
Clancy’s novel introduced Jack Ryan, a former Marine and CIA analyst who is an expert on Marko Ramius, the Soviet submarine commander who wished to defect to the United States, bringing along his submarine, the Red October, with him.
I was especially interested in reading this submarine spy novel, as I served two years on a Navy harbor tugboat at the U.S. nuclear submarine base at Holy Loch, Scotland in 1974 and 1975 after serving two years on an aircraft carrier during the Vietnam War.
I bought the novel but put off reading it as I wanted to read it while on vacation in Jamaica with my wife. After a bout of freediving in my mask and fins in the clear and warm water off Ochos Rios in Jamaica, I grabbed a drink and settled into a chair on the beach next to my wife and began to read the novel.
I was enjoying the military “techno” thriller until one passage made me pause. Tom Clancy described the underwater telephone that surface boats and ships lowered into the ocean to communicate with submerged American submarines. He even got the nickname the American sailors called the communication device right.
I knew of the device, as the tugboat I served on often went out into the Irish Sea and operated with submarines on classified missions, and we used the device during those operations. I was aghast as I read the passage, as the communication device was Top Secret.
Years later, I interviewed former Secretary of the Navy John Lehman, a Philadelphia native, who told me he too thought Tom Clancy had published classified information. He had someone check it out, and he was told that the communications device had been declassified.
As Tom Clancy, a dedicated American patriot like his character Jack Ryan, said later, “If someone gave me classified information, I’d call the FBI.”
“The Hunt for Red October” launched Tom Clancy’s career, especially after President Ronald Reagan read the novel and publicly praised it, much like President John Kennedy aided Ian Fleming’s sales in America after praising Fleming’s “From Russia With Love” in the early 1960s.
As a young teenager in the 1960s, I was a huge fan of the James Bond films with Sean Connery as Bond, which led me to read the Ian Fleming novels. I was pleased to discover that Fleming’s Bond novels were darker and more complicated than the films, and I’ve been an Ian Fleming aficionado ever since.
Unlike Bond, a sophisticated, debonair, womanizing bachelor, and a ruthless intelligence operative with a license to kill, Jack Ryan is more of an average, decent guy, a cerebral intelligence desk analyst who is happily married with a daughter. Circumstances forced Ryan to become a field operative and engage in close combat with America’s enemies.
Tom Clancy bucked the trend in most spy novels, films and TV shows that portrayed the CIA in a negative light, with duplicitous, corrupt and amoral men working for self-satisfaction and against the best interest of the American public.
Tom Clancy‘s Jack Ryan is a dedicated CIA officer whose primary mission was protecting the American public from terrorists, international criminal organizations and foreign spies. In Clancy’s novels, the CIA is a force for good.
Jack Ryan was first portrayed by actor Alec Baldwin in the fine 1990 film adaptation of “The Hunt For Red October,” with the late, great Sean Connery as Marko Ramius. Tom Clancy liked the film, although he picked out two errors.
Harrison Ford took over the role in the 1992 film “Patriot Games” and 1994’s “Clear and Present Danger.” Ben Affleck portrayed a younger Jack Ryan in 2002’s “The Sum of All Fears,” and Chris Pine portrayed Ryan in a reboot of the character in 2014’s “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.”
Although I dislike actor Alec Baldwin personally, as he appears to be an arrogant, angry man, I think he was the best Jack Ryan.
Tom Clancy, who died in 2013 at the age of 66, also liked Alec Baldwin as Jack Ryan.
In 2018, Amazon Prime Video aired “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan,” with John Krasinski as a rebooted Jack Ryan. Krasinski was the fifth actor to portray Tom Clancy’s character.
Krasinski, most known for his comedic role in the TV series “The Office,” bulked up for his role as a former Navy SEAL in the 2016 film “13 Hours: The Secret Soldier of Benghazi,” which no doubt prepared him for portraying Jack Ryan.
In the Amazon series we are introduced to a young Jack Ryan and other characters from the Tom Clancy novels. Ryan is once again a desk analyst who is forced into the field after he discovers suspicious bank transfers that he suspects were done by an Islamic extremist terrorist.
For four seasons, we’ve watched the patriotic, intelligent, resourceful and tough CIA officer Jack Ryan take on the enemies of America.
I think the late Tom Clancy would have liked the series and John Krasinski as Jack Ryan.
Jack Ryan is America’s answer to Britain’s James Bond.
Paul Davis, a Philadelphia writer and frequent contributor to Broad + Liberty, also contributes to Counterterrorism magazine and writes the “On Crime” column for the Washington Times.