Vince Flynn, 47, the author of 14 political thrillers, died June 19 after a three-year battle with prostate cancer. His fictional hero, Mitch Rapp, was a counterterrorism operative who worked for the CIA, helping to bring down the major enemies of the United States. Each novel delved deep into this world of outsmarting villains and into the political ramifications of the job. Sometimes the government got in the way, and Mitch had to fight the elected power structure as well as guys with guns. Men wanted to be Mitch, and women wanted to help him settle down.
Due to his dyslexia, Flynn never read much as a child. The skills he developed to overcome this disability had him filling in the blanks of what he could not understand. This fueled his creative juices, and the end result was the perfect mindset to create page-turning thrillers. He wrote his first book, Term Limits, while working as a salesman at Kraft Foods. Flynn received so many rejections that he decided to publish the novel himself and sold copies out of his car. He was so successful that Pocket Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, bought the novel. Term Limits was a huge best seller, and Flynn never looked back.
The success of his writing led Flynn to other avenues. He was a creative consultant for the fifth season of the television series 24. The novel American Assassin, featuring a young Mitch Rapp, is currently in pre-production for a feature film. Bruce Willis is attached, and rumor has it that Chris Hemsworth (Thor) will play Rapp.
In addition to Flynn’s marvelous books, he was also a well liked. It seemed that everyone knew him, from former CIA operatives to former President George W. Bush, who actually invited the writer for a visit to the White House. Says fellow thriller writer Jon Land, “He was one of those rare authors who was a true celebrity who could walk right up to none other than Bill Clinton and be recognized.”
The last time I personally talked to Vince Flynn was at the King County Library Literary Lions charity event in March 2011. He told me that he was sick but that he was going to fight it. Even then, Flynn was more concerned about how I was doing.
Flynn’s generosity knew no boundaries. When I saw him at a Thrillerfest event a few years ago, he took time away from a meeting he was required to attend to chat with me and take pictures with some of his fans. Land remembers, “He promised me a crucial cover blurb for my book The Seven Sins. He had too much work to finish reading the book, but his mother loved it so it was actually she who penned the quote we used!”
Vince Flynn will be missed by friends, family, and fans alike. His wife and three children survive him.
Jeff Ayers is Library Associate 4 at Seattle Public Library. He was a 2012 LJ Reviewer of the Year and recently published his first novel, Long Overdue