Mr. 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 a book a year, most of them focused on Rapp, a CIA counterterrorism operative. His 14th novel, “The Last Man,” was published last year. His books were often critically drubbed when reviewed at all.
“Even by the cardboard-and-Kevlar character requirements of the genre, Mitch Rapp is spectacularly mono-dimensional, and his supporting cast is drawn in similarly simplistic strokes based mostly on their heritage,” novelist Kevin Allman wrote in The Washington Post in 2005.
“The German bad guy is fond of pushing his Mercedes to its limits on the autobahn while admiring its fine engineering, while the Russian drinks too much vodka and is prone to Iron Curtain homilies such as ‘The glorious experiment of communism has ended, and we are now left to fend for ourselves.’ ”
The conservative commentator Glenn Beck once described Mr. Flynn’s books as “conservative porn.”
Mr. Flynn told USA Today that his books sold to all audiences, “but if the scales tip toward a more conservative audience, it probably comes from the pro-military, CIA and law enforcement theme of the books. And the idea that the United States is not the problem.”
Vincent Flynn was born April 6, 1966, in St. Paul and was the fifth of seven children. After graduating in 1988 with an economics degree from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, he went to work as an account and sales marketing specialist with Kraft General Foods. That marketing background came in handy when he was promoting “Term Limits.”
He left Kraft in 1990 when he landed an aviation candidate slot with the Marine Corps, but he was later disqualified because of seizures he suffered after a childhood car accident. Thwarted from becoming a military aviator, he got the idea of writing thrillers.
“If [Tom] Clancy could do it, why can’t I?” Mr. Flynn once told the Associated Press.
He went to work for the Twin Cities-based commercial real estate company United Properties and started working on a book idea in his spare time. Two years later, he quit so he could devote more time to writing, and he moved to Colorado. He began working on what became “Term Limits,” a story about assassins who targeted fat-cat congressmen.
A man of almost superhero powers, Mitch Rapp races the clock to foil terrorists’ plans to detonate a nuclear warhead in Washington in “Memorial Day” (2004), battles terrorists who seize the White House and take hostages in “Transfer of Power” (1999) and is out for vengeance after a Saudi billionaire puts a bounty on his head in “Consent to Kill” (2005).
Mr. Flynn told the AP that with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the end of the Cold War, he decided to write about terrorism.
“That’s where the future’s going. That’s going to be the next big menace,” Mr. Flynn recalled telling himself.
Development for a Mitch Rapp movie based on 2010’s “American Assassin” remains on track, said Grey Munford, a spokesman for CBS Films, which plans to build an action-thriller franchise around the character. Bruce Willis has signed on to play Rapp’s mentor, Stan Hurley.
Survivors include his wife, Lysa Flynn, and three children.
— From staff and wire reports