Debt of Honor and Executive Orders were written before the (eerily similar) real-world September 11th terrorist attacks. Clancy's own fictional national catastrophe had a Japanese airline pilot hijack his own (passengerless) plane and crash it into the Capitol—during a Joint Session of Congress—at the end of Debt of Honor, with the effect of decapitating the U.S. government. The real attack appears in his latest novel, The Teeth of the Tiger, when a doctor helps the anti-terrorist team with a succinylcholine injector pen because "his brother was a trader on the 97th floor of tower 1".
By publication date
One will notice that movie adaptations tend to tie up loose ends by shooting villains; Clancy's books tend to give them more inventive "just deserts."
- The Hunt for Red October (1984)
- Clancy's first novel. Jack Ryan assists in the defection of a respected Soviet naval captain, along with the most advanced ballistic missile submarine of the Soviet fleet. The movie (1990) stars Alec Baldwin as Ryan and Sean Connery as Captain Ramius.
- Patriot Games (1987)
- Ryan saves the (unnamed) Prince of Wales from terrorists, who go after Ryan and his family; the Prince helps round up the terrorists, who by this time have committed murder in Maryland, which has a death penalty. The 1992 movie stars Harrison Ford as Ryan, and has a fictional lord instead of the Prince of Wales. The bad guys are all killed off. (John Clark later tells Jack Ryan in Clear and Present Danger that he was on the helicopter that had to turn back when attacking the terrorist camps in northern Africa.)
- The Cardinal of the Kremlin (1988)
- First appearance of John Clark and Sergey Golovko. Secret anti-satellite lasers (Strategic Defense Initiative), high-stakes diplomacy, spies and computer geeks (Major Gregory is introduced here and shown later as updating Surface-to-air missile software in The Bear and the Dragon). We see how spies pass secrets and how they are interrogated in the Lubyanka Prison: no torture, but clever use of sensory deprivation.
- Clear and Present Danger (1989)
- Drug war in Colombia. Ryan and Clark finally meet; first appearance of "Ding" Chavez. The movie (1994) stars Harrison Ford as Ryan and Willem Dafoe as Clark.
- The Sum of All Fears (1991)
- Israel loses a nuclear weapon, which terrorists use to foment war between U.S. and Soviets, which is averted by Ryan in a cliffhanger. Denver is destroyed. The terrorists are captured and demand an Islamic trial, which they get: they are beheaded with a sword in Saudi Arabia. The 2002 movie stars Ben Affleck as (a much too young) Jack Ryan, Liev Schreiber as Clark, and changes the identity and motivation of the terrorists beyond recognition, thus disrupting the timeline. This marks Clancy's first foray into nuclear physics and bomb design.
- Without Remorse (1993; set in 1970)
- Chronologically the first book featuring John Kelly/John Clark, detailing Clark's life before joining the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Set during the Vietnam War, it tells about the past of John Kelly and how he assumed the Clark identity, and tells how Clark became a CIA officer. Jack Ryan's father (Emmett Ryan) has a key role; Jack Ryan has a tiny cameo.
- Debt of Honor (1994)
- Ryan as National Security Advisor, and John Clark and Domingo Chavez as agents with Russian cover, help win a military and economic war with a nuclear-armed Japan. Golovko makes a cameo here. (Golovko calls Ryan "Ivan Emmetovich," a Russian-style patronymic meaning "Ivan the Son of Emmett.")
- Executive Orders (1996)
- Sequel to Debt of Honor. Ryan, propelled into presidency as a result of events in Debt of Honor, survives press hazing, assassination attempts and biological warfare—Clark and Ding trace the virus to a Middle Eastern madman, and the U.S. military goes to work, refighting the Persian Gulf War against a United Islamic Republic comprising Iran and Iraq, with better weapons and much better results.This book marks Clancy's first foray into virology and biological warfare.
- Rainbow Six (1998)
- Released to tie in with the computer game of the same name. John Clark leads an elite anti-terrorist unit and averts worldwide genocide attempt by terrorists who are motivated by radical environmentalism and use a modified Ebola virus as a weapon. (Jack Ryan is mentioned, but not by name, and does not appear.) More virology.
- The Bear and the Dragon (2000)
- Red Rabbit (2002)
- Back when he was a humble CIA analyst, Ryan aids in the defection of a Soviet officer who knows of a plan to assassinate the Pope. The Pope is shot but survives.
- The Teeth of the Tiger (2003)
- Features the rise of Jack Ryan's son, Jack Ryan Jr., as an intelligence analyst, and then a field consultant, for The Campus, an off-the-books intelligence agency with the freedom to discreetly assassinate individuals "who threaten national security", following the retirement of Jack Sr. from the Presidency.