Jay Connor's Reviews > Dead or Alive

Dead or Alive by Tom Clancy
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Jan 15, 11

Read in January, 2011

After a decade away from the characters of the Campus, Clancy seems to have lost his way back. Even with the assistance of (in really small print) a co-author -- Grant Blackwood who has also worked as a co-author with Clive Cussler, with much larger font credit -- "Dead or Alive" becomes more of a question of Clancy's mastery of the genre he helped create than it is a relevant book title. In fact, it reads like Blackwood brought Cussler's scene chomping Dirk Pitt character, in multiple alter egos, to a book outline whose strongest commandment was to fill 900 pages.

Whereas in classic Clancy the reader was overwhelmed with authentic "you-are-there" detail, here the description and insight merely serve as fodder to fill more pages. Take this hackneyed description as a example: "the plastic pretty female and lanterned-jawed anchors that dominate afternoon cable news." Ugh! Would an editor allow that to stay for any reason other than it added to the word count.

Always beware when successful authors (or their estates, in Robert Ludlum's case), start employing co-authors. It seems the clearest admission that the "brand" has overtaken the art. What we are left with is the shadow without the spirit. Even before this hollow reflection of his past strength, Clancy, as the master of international intrigue with a hard military edge, had been passed by Vince Flynn. But if it is classic intelligent, international intrigue in the Ludlum and le Carre vein, Daniel Silva is at today's peak. You can pick up any of his Gabriel Allon stories and be very pleased. Here's an author you won't have to wonder whether his creativity is dead or alive.
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