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One of Calvert County’s most famous residents, Tom Clancy, the No. 1 bestselling author who built a four-decade-and-counting empire of no-nonsense military thrillers, blockbuster Hollywood films, syndicated television shows and video games, died last week in Baltimore. He was 66 years old.

Clancy’s publisher, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, confirmed his death but did not disclose the cause.

Clancy crafted his blockbuster debut novel, “The Hunt for Red October,” in the early 1980s while working as an insurance adjuster and living in Calvert County. After selling the novel to the Naval Institute Press for $5,000, his story of a Russian submarine captain who defects to the United States catapulted onto the New York Times bestseller list after President Ronald Reagan declared it “the perfect yarn.”

Clancy became a regular on the bestseller list, appearing 17 times, and was only one of three authors to have sold 2 million copies on a first printing in the 1990s, Alexis Welby, Clancy’s publicist, wrote in an email. “Patriot Games,” “The Sum of All Fears” and “Clear and Present Danger” became the foundation for a successful franchise of more than 100 million books.

“[Clancy] was a consummate author, creating the modern-day thriller, and was one of the most visionary storytellers of our time,” said David Shanks in a press release. The Penguin Group’s executive was personally involved in the publication of every one of Clancy’s novels. “He will be missed by tens of millions of readers worldwide,” Shanks added in the release.

The meticulous detail in Clancy’s novels often was derived from those he interviewed in the U.S. Navy. While working in insurance and reading military journals published by the Naval Institute, some of his insurance clients were Naval officers whom Clancy relied on for accuracy, according to the Washington Post. The Patuxent River Naval Air Museum in Lexington Park confirmed Clancy had conversations with military personnel on the base, though most have moved on since that time.

A devoted fan of the Baltimore Orioles, Clancy joined Peter Angelos, the Orioles’ owner, in 1993 to purchase the team from Eli Jacobs for $173 million, according to the Baltimore Sun. Clancy also was the organization’s vice chairman of community activities and public affairs.

“While he achieved international acclaim as a celebrated author, Tom, a proud Baltimorean, was a devoted Marylander, a treasured friend, and a valued partner and adviser in the Orioles ownership group,” Angelos said in a press release. “He was a regular presence at Oriole Park and enjoyed talking about baseball, the ballclub and its operations.”

Locally, Clancy was known for his seclusion and sometimes eccentric behavior. He was rarely seen in public and kept a tank on the lawn of his 80-acre estate in Huntingtown. In a 1993 Washington Post article, Clancy told reporter Peter Carlson the tank was a “M1A1, from World War II,” that his then-wife, Wanda Thomas, gave him for Christmas.

The pair made headlines in the late 1990s due to a bitter and lengthy divorce, battling over real estate, stocks, savings accounts, investments, publishing rights and even the WWII tank Thomas gave her husband. The high school sweethearts married in 1969 and were divorced by the late 1990s, though a settlement was not reached until the early 2000s. After the divorce, Clancy married former journalist Alexandra Maria Llewellyn in 1999.

Once, when his house caught fire in March 2008, Jonathan Riffe, then-chief of the Huntingtown Volunteer Fire Department, recalled his surprising interaction with Clancy.

Riffe said the department was called to Clancy’s estate and found Llewellyn at the front door with Clancy held up in his office working on his latest novel, paying no attention to the flames surrounding him. Riffe said the fire started outside and spread to the walls and attic surrounding his office.

“After I explained to Mr. Clancy that he needed to exit the house, we were able to get him outside and put the fire out quickly,” Riffe said.

A week later, Riffe said he received a call from Clancy’s secretary inviting him and 20 members of the fire department to Clancy’s presidential suite at Camden Yards at Oriole Stadium, “as a thank you.”

“He and his wife were extremely appreciative for what we did,” Riffe recalled. “His wife was very friendly and couldn’t thank us enough for what we did for them.”

Riffe remembered Clancy as a brilliant, softspoken and reserved man “but definitely a very nice guy.”

Clancy’s latest novel, “Command Authority,” is scheduled to release Dec. 3, according to his publisher.

Clancy is survived by his wife; children, Michelle Bandy, Christine Blocksidge, Thomas Clancy III, Kathleen Kraemer and Alexis “Page” Jacqueline Clancy; and four grandchildren, according to a press release from Clancy’s publicist.

snewman@somdnews.com