02/12/2002 AT 11:00 AM EST
"The Hunt for Red October" best-selling author Tom Clancy was in the nation's capital last week to promote his third nonfiction book, "Shadow Warriors: Inside the Special Forces," a behind-the-scenes look at the clandestine U.S. Special Forces, reports PEOPLE. "These guys are brain surgeons who kill people," Clancy, who was disqualified from military service because of bad eyes, told an attentive audience at a book signing. "They're extremely bright people with lots and lots of skills, all of which they practice regularly. And one of those skills is killing people." In the book, he describes Special Forces training as a cross between John Hopkins Medical School and preparing for the Olympic team. Best known for his fictional military thrillers, Clancy, 54, has written about terrorists for years, but says he was as shocked as everybody else was by the events of Sept. 11. "In 'Debt of Honor,' which I published in 1994, I had one demented guy crash a 747 into the Capitol building during a joint session of Congress -- which I thought was a little extreme," he admits. "To have 19 people conspire to end their lives in the same way, on the same day, in the same manner and for the same cause, you're just a little bit too far off the reservation for me. I don't think anybody saw it coming. I damn sure didn't." And while he may be plotting his next thriller, Clancy says he has no idea what to expect next in real life. As he told PEOPLE, "It's hard to replicate the thinking of sociopathic personalities. But I don't think anybody's going to be hijacking airplanes for quite some time. The stewardesses and the passengers will throw them out the damn door."