MINNEAPOLIS -- Bestselling author Vince Flynn, who wrote the Mitch Rapp counterterrorism thriller series and sold more than 15 million books in the United States alone, died Wednesday in Minnesota after a more than two-year battle with prostate cancer, according to friends and his publisher. He was 47.
Flynn was supporting himself by bartending when he self-published his first novel, "Term Limits," in 1997 after getting more than 60 rejection letters. After it became a local bestseller, Pocket Books, a Simon & Schuster imprint, signed him to a two-book deal -- and "Term Limits" became a New York Times bestseller in paperback.
The St. Paul-based author also sold millions of books in the international market and averaged about a book a year, most of them focused on Rapp, a CIA counterterrorism operative. His 14th novel, "The Last Man," was published last year.
Flynn died at a hospital in St. Paul, surrounded by about 35 relatives and friends who prayed the rosary, said longtime family friend Kathy Schneeman. She said his deep Catholic faith was an important part of his character.
Frank Vascellaro, a WCCO-TV anchor who had been close friends with Flynn since just before "Term Limits" took off, said the author's success was all the more remarkable given his struggles with dyslexia. "But at the same time it was a gift, because his brain did not think in the linear way 99 percent of the population sees things," he said.
Vascellaro recalled how Flynn, while in New York with his wife, saw President Bill Clinton in a crowd and pushed his way through to introduce himself. Clinton replied, "I know who you are," and said he had read all of Flynn's books, Vascellaro said.
Flynn became friends with President George W. Bush during one of his visits to Minnesota, Vascellaro said. As they shook hands on the airport tarmac along with dignitaries including then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty, the president told Flynn he was a big fan. Then an aide invited Flynn to ride downtown with Bush in the presidential limousine.
Flynn is survived by his wife, Lysa Flynn, and three children. A Mass will be celebrated Monday morning at the Cathedral of St. Paul.