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Without Remorse is a thriller novel published in 1993 by Tom Clancy and is a part of the "Ryanverse" series. While not the first novel of the series to be published, it is first in plot chronology. The main setting of the book is set during the Vietnam War, in the American city of Baltimoremarker. The book focuses on the development of one of Clancy's recurring characters, John Kelly/John Clark, while providing the character some back-story. The book serves to give a history of Kelly's life, and explains how he becomes John Clark.

The book alternates between multiple story arcs, involving: Kelly's back-story and his personal crusade against a large drug ring responsible for killing his girlfriend Pam; the capture and imprisonment of United States Air Force colonel Robin Zacharias in a POW camp; major heroin dealer Henry Tucker, his Mafia connection Tony Piaggi, and their employment of a corrupt policeman named Mark Charon. Other story arcs in the book introduce characters such as detective Emmet Ryan (the father of Jack Ryan, who makes a brief appearance in the book) and his partner who are investigating the recent murders of a string of drug dealers.

Plot summary

The book starts off with John Kelly and two other UDT men performing a maritime demolition of an oil-rig irreparably damaged by Hurricane Camille. The team set off a small explosive to scare away any fish, before neutralizing the oil-rig. While driving to pick him up after the job, Kelly's pregnant wife Patricia (Tish) is killed in a car accident caused by damaged brakes in a large truck.

Next to be introduced is Colonel Robin Zacharias, a devout Mormon and United States Air Force F-105 pilot, who is shot down along with his co-pilot John Tait during a bombing mission over North Vietnam. Tait is killed but Robin is captured and reported killed in action, then transferred to a secret POW camp established to elicit aid from the Soviet Union. Among the prisoners are some who possess highly-classified knowledge, beyond the scope of the Vietnam conflict.

Zacharias, for example, had helped develop SAC War Plans, choosing targets, routes, and methods. He is interrogated by Colonel Nikolai Yevgenievich Grishanov, who asks the prisoners to call him by his nickname Kolya. Kolya manages to get more information out of the prisoners with kindness and a little vodka than the Vietnamese camp commander Major Vinh had gotten with privation and abuse. Eventually, someone up the chain of command of the NVA decides that the prisoners are not worth keeping and that they can be quietly killed, with plausible deniability. Kolya then starts to make urgent requests to his superiors that the POWs be brought to the Soviet Unionmarker to live out the rest of their lives. While Zacharias is being moved to his cell a U.S pilotless drone photographs him, and admiral Dutch Maxwell recognizes his face. Maxwell along with two other admirals develop a special operation plan entitled Operation BOXWOOD GREEN —that will send Marines into North Vietnam to rescue the prisoners.

Six months after his wife's death, Kelly meets a girl named Pam, who has escaped from prostitution and serving as a "mule" in a drug-smuggling ring run by Henry Tucker. Kelly picks Pam up off the highway and becomes romantically involved with her. Kelly soon discovers, by accident, that she is addicted to barbiturates. The day after he meets Pam, Kelly befriends two doctors—Sam and Sarah Rosen—who are both professors at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Sam of neurosurgery and Sarah of pharmacology, when they have trouble with their new motorboat.

With the help of Sam and Sarah, Kelly helps Pam recover from her addiction. While bringing her into the city for treatment and to speak with the police, Kelly becomes curious about Pam’s old life and attempts to reconnoiter her previous captors. Unfortunately, Pam is recognized by Billy, her old pimp, and they are attacked. A car chase ensues, in which Kelly's Scout is at a disadvantage to Billy's Plymouth Roadrunner. At one point, Kelly lures Billy into a vacant lot and gets him stuck in deep mud. Billy phones some of his associates to help him get his car out of the mud and they go on the lookout for Pam and the Scout. Kelly is shot twice with a shotgun and Pam is kidnapped. A reporter later finds Pam's body floating in a lake next in a fountain. Kelly recovers in a hospital with the help of Sam Rosen. At this point, Nurse Sandy O'Toole is asked to take a special interest in Kelly.

When Kelly is shown a picture of Pam’s body and is informed of her abuse during and after death (she was raped by numerous men while being strangled) he decides to take revenge and vows to take down the people responsible. Kelly starts a rigorous exercise regime to help heal his body so that he can prepare for his private war with Henry Tucker’s drug ring. When Kelly returns to his home he is approached by Admiral Maxwell who recruits him to spearhead a military operation to free the dozens of secretly held POWs. Kelly is recruited because he is the only person they know of that has ever spent time in the area of the camp. (Kelly went behind enemy lines—in the vicinity of the camp before it was erected, to rescue Maxwell’s son.)

Kelly next sets up a safe house in Baltimore, and goes incognito as a wino to perform recon on the drug pushers. He kills several minor drug dealers and eventually learns the location of Billy, a subaltern in the drug ring and one of those who killed Pam. He captures Billy and rescues Doris who is a "mule" like Pam was. Tucker had ordered all the girls who were his couriers to be killed since they were security risks. Kelly takes Billy to his island and tortures him in his recompression chamber to get further information about the drug ring. Kelly leaves Doris with Sandy because the time has come for him to take part in the mission to rescue the POWs. The plan fails as the Soviets catch wind of it because of a loose mouthed White House intern who told his friend, a senate aide who happens to be a mole for the KGBmarker. Kelly does manage to kill an escaping Major Vinh, and captures Kolya who the U.S. use to negotiate the transfer of the prisoners to the Hanoi Hiltonmarker, where they will be confirmed as alive and eventually returned.

Upon his return to the U.S. Kelly visits Sandy and discovers that Doris has been murdered thanks to Mark Charon, a corrupt policeman on Tucker's payroll. Kelly determines the location of the drug ring's first lab, used for "cutting" heroin, in a derelict ship near his own island home. It is abandoned after Kelly raids it, killing several thugs and releasing Xantha, another of the "mules" whom Tucker had ordered to be killed. Kelly deduces from the smell of the bags containing the heroin, and from the country of origin, that it is being smuggled into the US hidden inside corpses of American soldiers.

Kelly is then brought into a meeting with Admiral James Greer and a high ranking CIA official who want Kelly to join the agency. Kelly states that there is one major problem, and points to the newspaper that has a front page story of the raid on the derelict ship. The CIA then arranges for Kelly to become John Clark and allows him to finish what he started. Kelly next tracks the new crime lab to a warehouse in a sleepy industrial district, which the smugglers plan to use as long as their source (and the war) holds out. He sets up a sniper post in a nearby building and lays siege to the warehouse, killing two Mafia hoods. Charon shows up at the scene and, upon learning of the situation outside, attempts to murder Piaggi and Tucker only to be fatally shot by the former. Moments later, Kelly enters the room where the two drug dealers are holed up and shoots them with his Colt .45.

Emmet Ryan figures out who the undercover wino was and tracks Kelly to his boat. Kelly sets up a fake boating accident, in order to fake his own death, and kill off his John Kelly identity, who was wanted for the murder of over a dozen drug-runners, including those responsible for Pam's and Doris's deaths. Now known as John Clark—he has married Sandy and the book ends with the release of the POWs after the end of the war.

Film, television, or theatrical adaptations

Paramount Pictures bought the film rights to Without Remorse soon after the novel was released. There were several attempts to start work on the film, but it was always dropped soon after, along with attempts to adapt Clancy's hit novel Rainbow Six into a film. Without Remorse is currently in development with a tentative 2011 release date and there have been rumors that Superman Returns star Brandon Routh will be playing the role of Kelly/Clark.

References and notes

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