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The practice referenced by our forum poster is called "ghost writing," and it has been around for a lot longer than four decades. As long, one supposes, as famous writers have had more money than time. Clancy, the man, has become a brand, and Clancy, the brand, has put more books in the hands of more travelers than perhaps even the Gideons.
The Hunt for Red October was made into a videogame in 1987 and a feature film in 1990. Three more of his books would follow Red October onto the silver screen, but as successful as those adventures were, the videogame arena is where the Clancy brand found its true home.
In 1997, Tom Clancy co-founded Red Storm Entertainment. His stories had long been a staple of computer and board gamers everywhere, but with Red Storm Clancy would break new ground; not simply transplanting his novels into the digital medium, but creating characters and stories specifically for use in a game. The company's first game, Tom Clancy's Politika, released in 1997 (packaged with a paperback copy of Tom Clancy's Power Plays: Politika, the novel) was a hit, and paved the way for two of the most successful videogame franchises in history: Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six (timed for simultaneous release with Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six, the novel) and Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon. Both of which re-wrote the books for their respective genres, and redefined the role of story in videogames, mainly by following Clancy's winning formula. Rainbow Six puts the player in the black boots of a counter terrorist squad, employing true team-based tactical action, while Ghost Recon employs a similar style of play, but instead enlists the player into an elite squad of Special Forces commandos. Both games inspire bravery, patriotism and an appreciation for authentic depictions of military hardware.
"[Clancy] gave us entry into his world for developing games," says Richard Dansky, Lead "Clancy Writer" for North Carolina-based Red Storm. "There was a lot of collaboration on the original Rainbow Six. We've concentrated on Clancy titles since then, but at the same time Ubisoft has gotten other studios involved in the Clancy franchise, making it much more of a company-wide and world-wide endeavor."
In 2000, Red Storm was purchased by publisher Ubisoft, who quickly began development on their own Clancy title. In 2002, Ubisoft's Montreal-based development studio released a startling stealth action game called (Tom Clancy's) Splinter Cell. The game starred a grizzled "black" operative named Sam Fisher, who was voiced by B-movie veteran Michael Ironside and written by J.T. Petty, the latest in a long line of Clancy ghost writers who've made an art out of distilling the Clancy "feel," as Richard Dansky calls it, and replicating that feel throughout the various extension's of His universe.
"There's always this incredible urgency in the Clancy books because so much is on the line," according to Dansky. "And that's the sort of thing that lends itself precisely to great gameplay. Knowing that what you are doing matters and that you're running out of time to do it in makes for exactly the right type of tension to drive a game narrative.
"We have two people with primary writing responsibility [at Red Storm]." Two people not named Clancy, that is. Being one of them, Dansky points out that the typical day in the life of a "Clancy" writer begins with brushing up on current events:
"The first thing I do in the morning is check a bunch of news and reference sites to see if anything interesting happened in the world. You never know when current events are going to catch up to your storyline, which can have all sorts of repercussions. Besides, I always want to stay on top of material for potential future storylines.