I'll admit that the Wednesday morning headline stating "MN Author Vince Flynn dies at 47" made me gasp. While I was aware of Flynn's diagnosis of prostate cancer (he went public with in early 2011), his October 2012 interview on The Tom Barnard podcast seemed to indicate he was getting better. But as I listened Wednesday to the many interviews given by many who knew Flynn well, this outcome, while devastating, was not completely out of the blue.
While Flynn's prostate cancer seemed to be in remission, it had metastasized before receiving his official diagnosis nearly three years ago. In subsequent interviews, Flynn was brutally honest about his ignoring the hip pain he had endured prior to said diagnosis. Many now surmise that the pain was the cancer spreading to his bones. However, in the months after the public announcement of his ailment, Flynn never let on how dire his prognosis actually was, as he continued to be in good spirits whenever he made public appearances. In fact, he used his situation as a platform to advocate for middle aged men to receive prostate cancer screenings regularly.
Flynn, a Twin Cities native, also had a great personal story. With his desire to serve in the US Marine Corps being derailed due to a medical issue, Flynn went on to a successful career in corporate America. However, he never let go of his aspirations to be a successful author despite being stricken with dyslexia. Flynn left his high-paying corporate job to focus on writing his first novel. While working as a bartender at O'Gara's Bar & Grill in St. Paul, Flynn self-published his first book called Term Limits after receiving upwards of 60 rejection letters.
A few years after Term Limits, Flynn dove into a series of fictional political thrillers centered around a counter-terrorism agent named Mitch Rapp. The Rapp series spawned a total of thirteen novels, many of which were New York Times bestsellers. Yet despite that enormous success, Flynn still lived full time in the Twin Cities with wife Lysa and three children. Many who knew Flynn intimately (and thus chose to speak about him upon his death) said he was the exact same hard-working and humble human being they knew from his high school days at St Thomas Academy, his collegiate years at St Paul's University of St. Thomas or the struggling author who sought venues to publicize his works. His closest friends in Twin Cities talk radio, Tom Barnard, Joe Soucheray and Dan Barreiro, would still receive regular Flynn visits to their respective shows even though he hardly needed their promotional assistance. It was that type of loyalty which embodied the man who knew scores of world leaders on a first name basis.
I actually had the honor of meeting Flynn once, in May of 2010. Our mutual friend Mike McCollow invited him to the book signing of Mike's best friend (and Sports Illustrated columnist) Steve Rushin, who himself was first delving in to the world of fictional novels. While chatting with Flynn, I found him to be one of the kindest, most affable in the category of wildly successful people. I have always enjoyed a wonderful human interest story, and Flynn's background was one of genuine grit and perseverance. Ironically, Rushin's book signing that evening was at O'Gara's, the very establishment where Flynn worked while pursuing his dream.
Part of Flynn's indelible spirit was his generosity, whether it be with his time or finances. He held myriad fundraisers publicly to support military families and was said to have done even more privately. Having sold millions of books worldwide, it's safe to say that Flynn was a terrific author. Somehow it seems pretty clear that he was an even better man.