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The ‘Jack Ryan’ Universe, Depicted Through Tom Clancy’s Final Scenes

A picture of the character’s world as shown through the end of each of the author’s novels

Getty Images/Ringer illustration

Stretching from 1984’s Reagan-beloved blockbuster debut, The Hunt for Red October, to 2013’s posthumous Command Authority, Baltimore insurance salesman turned military-thriller superstar Tom Clancy wrote or cowrote nine novels about CIA analyst turned action hero Jack Ryan, plus seven more titles set in the character’s universe and three standalone books. (This empire also includes 10 novels written after Clancy’s death, five movies, and a new Amazon Prime series starring John Krasinski.) A full critical accounting of the Jack Ryan phenomenon is available here, but the very particular substance, and style, and ethos of this vision of the world is best conveyed in Clancy’s own words. Below, please find the final scenes from each of his books. I have been threatening to do this for a long time.

The Hunt for Red October (1984)

Ryan missed the dawn. He boarded a TWA 747 that left Dulles on time, at 7:05 a.m. The sky was overcast, and when the aircraft burst through the cloud layer into sunlight, Ryan did something he had never done before. For the first time in his life, Jack Ryan fell asleep on an airplane.

Red Storm Rising (1986)

A ship lost, friends gone, the deaths he had caused, and those he had seen himself …

“Rudder amidships,” Morris ordered. A puff of southerly wind helped Reuben James up to the pier.

Aft, a seaman tossed a messenger line to the men on the pier. The officer in charge of the special sea-detail waved to a petty officer, who keyed the announcing system.

What It All Means, Morris decided, is that it’s over.

A crackle of static emerged, and then the petty officer’s voice.


Patriot Games (1987)

Jack watched his wife drift off to sleep after — he checked his watch — a twenty-three-hour day. She needed it. So did he, but not quite yet. He kissed his wife one more time before another corpsman wheeled her away to the recovery room. There was one thing left for him to do.

Ryan walked out to the waiting room to announce the birth of his son, a handsome young man who would have two complete, but very different, sets of godparents.

The Cardinal of the Kremlin (1988)

“One way or another we all fight for the things we believe in. Doesn’t that give us some common ground?” Jack asked. He walked off to his car, leaving Dalmatov with the thought.

Clear and Present Danger (1989)

But before they dragged him off, Félix turned one last time, seeing Moira, just standing there with the man he didn’t know, and his last thought as he turned away was that once again she’d understood: silence was the greatest passion of all.

The Sum of All Fears (1991)

“Killed enough?” Ryan slid the sword back into its sheath and let it fall to his side. “Yes, Your Highness. I think we all have.”

Without Remorse (1993)

… He squeezed Sandy’s hand so hard that he almost hurt it until she rested his on her belly to feel the movement of their soon-to-be firstborn. The phone rang then, and Kelly was angry for the invasion of the moment until he heard the voice.

“I hope you’re proud of yourself, John,” Dutch Maxwell said. “We’re getting all twenty back. I wanted to make sure you knew that. It wouldn’t have happened without you.”

“Thank you, sir.” Clark hung up. There was nothing else to be said.

“Who was that?” Sandy asked, holding his hand in place.

“A friend,” Clark said, wiping his eyes as he turned to kiss his wife. “From another life.”

Debt of Honor (1994)

“I’m not really sure what I’m going to do right now, except to make sure my wife and children are really safe first, but now I have this job, and I just promised God that I’d do it the best way I can. For now, I ask you all for your prayers and your help. I’ll talk to you again when I know a little more. You can turn the camera off now,” he concluded. When the light went off, he turned to Special Agent Price.

“Let’s get to work.”

Executive Orders (1996)

“So the big question that nobody has asked yet today, Mr. President — ”

Ryan held up his hand. “There is so much — so many things yet to be done just to get the government fully functional again after all we’ve been through — ”

“Sir, we’re not going to let you off the hook.”

A smile. A sigh. A nod. A surrender. “The answer to your question, Barry, is, yes, I will.”

“Thank you, Mr. President.”

SSN (1996, with Martin Greenberg)

And where is Rear Admiral “Mack” Mackey? A source close to his family, which asked the CIA not to be identified, said that instead of throwing quarters in the lawn to keep the kids out of the house while Mack and his wife renewed their vows, Real Admiral Mackey and his wife left for the cold and snow of upstate New York, intending on taking part in the Lake Champlain Submarine Team Races, “Frostbite 97,” followed by two weeks of skiing at their chalet. CIA said the source is deemed reliable, since his family is taking care of the Mackey children. And there you have it, so much for CIA secrecy.

Rainbow Six (1998)

“So you figure the jungle killed them?”

“Nature isn’t real sentimental, Domingo. She doesn’t distinguish between friends and enemies.”

“I suppose not, Mr. C.”

Even terrorists could do that, Chavez thought, but not the jungle. So, who was the real enemy of mankind? Himself, mostly, Ding decided, setting the newspaper down and looking again at the photo of John Conor Chavez, who’d just learned to sit up and smile. His son would grow into the Brave New World, and his father would be one of those who tried to ensure that it would be a safe one — for him and all the other kids whose main tasks were learning to walk and talk.

The Bear and the Dragon (2000)

For one particular person in Beijing, the changes meant that her job would change somewhat in importance if not in actual duties. Ming went out to dinner — the restaurants hadn’t closed — with her foreign lover, gushing over drinks and noodles with the extraordinary events of the day, then walked off to his apartment for a dessert of Japanese sausage.

Red Rabbit (2002)

The following day in Il Tempo, a morning newspaper in Rome, was a story about a man found dead in a car of an apparent heart attack. It would be a little time before the body was identified and it was finally determined that he was a Bulgarian tourist who’d evidently come to the end of his life quite unexpectedly. How clear his conscience had been was not apparent from physical examination.

The Teeth of the Tiger (2003)

Jack Jr. got a mild case of the shakes on the flight to Heathrow. He needed somebody to talk to, but that would take a long time to make happen, and so he gunned down two miniatures of Scotch before landing in England. Two more followed in the front cabin of the 777 inbound to Dulles, but sleep would not come. He’d not only killed somebody but had taunted him as well. Not a good thing, but neither was it something to pray to God about, was it? The FireWire drive had three gigabytes off 56’s Dell laptop. Exactly what was on it? That he could not know for now. He could have attached it to his own laptop and gone exploring, but no, that was a job for a real computer geek. They’d killed four people who had struck out at America, and now America had struck back on their turf and by their rules. The good part was that the enemy could not possibly know what kind of cat was in the jungle. They’d hardly met the teeth.

Next, they’d meet the brain.

Dead or Alive (2010, with Grant Blackwood)

Ryan stood up, then clapped his son the shoulder. “Come on, we’ll face the fire together.”

Against All Enemies (2011, with Peter Telep)

“You just need a vacation.”

“I just finished a vacation. And I still feel terrible.”

She lifted her head and looked at him. “Oh, yeah?”

“Yeah, you know, to get your mind off things.” He adopted his best innocent-schoolboy look.

“I see. Then I have a question — have you ever been to Spain?”

Locked On (2011, with Mark Greaney)

Jack nodded, then said, “How about some dessert?”

They ordered dessert, and Jack excused himself to go to the bathroom. When he was out of view, Melanie stood quickly and stepped outside the restaurant; her mobile phone was already to her ear when the door shut behind her.

She waited for a moment for an answer on the other end, her eyes fixed on the lobby of the restaurant, careful for any signs that Jack was on his way back to the table.

“It’s me. He was there, in Pakistan … Yes. There is no doubt in my mind. When I told him Khan was still alive he looked like he’d been poleaxed. No, of course it’s not true, but right now he’s in a bathroom stall, no doubt calling someone in a panic, trying to get confirmation.”

The young woman listened to her instructions, acknowledged them, then ended the call and rushed back inside to wait for her date to return to the table.

Threat Vector (2012, with Mark Greaney)

Life was good, and it was fleeting. Why not enjoy it when given the opportunity?

The afternoon turned to evening. Cathy turned in early, the kids opted for video games in the den, and the two Jack Ryans returned to the study, this time to talk about baseball, women, and family — the important things in the world.

Command Authority (2013, with Mark Greaney)

Jack figured his own late father, a Baltimore cop named Emmet Ryan, had probably held him in his arms and thought the same thing. Hell, it was every father’s wish, though he wondered how hopeful it might be. For all Ryan knew, little Jack would face dangers Ryan himself could never imagine, but as he stood up and carried his sleeping son back to his room, he realized every father owed it to his children to try.