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Interview With Tom Clancy

Aired August 12, 2003 - 20:36   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Tom Clancy first hit the best-seller list nearly two decades ago. And his new novel, "The Teeth of the Tiger," a new generation has taken over from Jack Ryan's thrilling legacy. The author, Tom Clancy, joins me here in New York. Tom, thanks.
TOM CLANCY, AUTHOR: You're welcome.

BLITZER: ... very much. Very briefly, what is this book about?

CLANCY: It's about $28. Now, it looks at terrorism. I've done several books on terrorism. This is just the newest one. And we're looking at a new theoretical (ph) way of dealing with terrorism, which is fundamentally by playing by their rules on their turf.

BLITZER: Some writers, you know, rip stories from the headlines. You go beyond that. You do a lot of research. You create new ideas that potentially, potentially could give the bad guys some ideas.

CLANCY: I never got any fan mail from Osama bin Laden, and I don't really know how many books I sold in Afghanistan. You have to talk to the marketing people about that. But I'm not really concerned about it.

BLITZER: Why aren't you concerned about that? Because you write with such precision on the military's point of view, the actual operation, the lethal operation, if you will.

CLANCY: I never tell everything they know. You know better than that.

BLITZER: But you tell a lot.

CLANCY: I tell what is safe to tell, but there are a lot of things I don't tell.

BLITZER: You once wrote, years before 9/11, about a commercial airline being used as a cruise missile.

CLANCY: That was in '94, yes. Well, not as a cruise missile.

BLITZER: Well, it was supposed to go out and kill some people?

CLANCY: I had a crazed Japan Airlines pilot who flew into the Capitol building. Again, I haven't got any fan mail from Osama bin Laden. I have no reason to believe he reads my stuff. BLITZER: I have no reasons to believe he reads your stuff either, but there are a lot of bad guys out there who probably do read your stuff. Give us a little nugget. Give us a little nugget, what went through this new book, "The Teeth of the Tiger," what went through your mind? Were you wavering on putting something in that you eventually put it in, saying you know what, it's a good plot line, it's a good story line?

CLANCY: I'll never decide for commercial reasons to put something in that endangers our national security. You just can't do that.

BLITZER: Do you ever like ask your friends in the government or intelligence community, if I put this in, it is going to hurt the cause?

CLANCY: There was one thing, I discussed with a friend of mine in the Royal Navy. I told him a story I knew, and he said, well, Tom, you may never repeat that, as long as you live. And I haven't.

BLITZER: And you have always kept that secret beyond a shadow of a doubt.

CLANCY: I don't want to go to federal prison. It's illegal, and by the way, it's wrong to do that.

BLITZER: Jack Ryan Jr., the new generation's spy, what's the difference between him and his dad? A lot of us remember his dad from not only the books but in the movies.

CLANCY: Well, Jack got out of college, he's fairly smart, and he kind of fell into the family business.

BLITZER: His dad's not too happy about that?

CLANCY: His dad doesn't know yet. I haven't decided yet how his father's going to react when he finds out what little Jack is doing.

BLITZER: When your books become motion pictures, you've had some battles with Hollywood. What's the worst thing in dealing with Hollywood when they try to make a novel, a thriller like yours into a movie?

CLANCY: You really don't want me to get into that, do you?

BLITZER: A little bit.

CLANCY: Oh, come on. It's not really very interesting. Books and movies are different art forms with different rules. And because of that, they never translate exactly. Their view of my books frequently takes different paths from the way I think about it. But that's to be expected.

BLITZER: Years ago...

CLANCY: And by the way, they pay me money and buy the book. When they buy the book, they buy rights to play with the plot.


BLITZER: You have no artistic control over what eventually winds up in the motion picture?

CLANCY: The only person who has artistic control is the director, and "director" is how you spell God in Hollywood.

BLITZER: So they could do whatever, they could mangle your book and you would not be able to do anything about it?

CLANCY: Not without a loaded gun, though. That's impolite.

BLITZER: Why should any of our viewers who love your previous books go out and buy this one?

CLANCY: Well, I think it's pretty good book. I mean, it takes a new look at how to deal with the terrorism problem. And the fundamental thing I was examining in the book was, if the government had to do things that some people might think of as bad, how would it go about it in such way that the operation could stay convert. Well, number one, what you do is you set up an agency that's completely independent of the government, it's self-funding and therefore not part of the budget process. If it was part of the budget process, people in the Congress could get a hold of it and tell the "Washington Post" about it, because they think it's bad.


CLANCY: No. SMERSH was a Soviet agency. It's a contraction of "smert' shpionam," which means "death to spies." It was part of the GRU.

BLITZER: Well, we're going to have to read the book in detail and learn about all the stuff that's going on. Tom Clancy, good luck with the book.

CLANCY: Thank you, sir. Have a good one.

BLITZER: Appreciate it. Tom Clancy, always good to speak with him. The name of the book, once again, "The Teeth of the Tiger."


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