MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO/AP) -- Best-selling author Vince Flynn, who wrote the Mitch Rapp counterterrorism thriller series and sold more than 15 million books in the U.S. 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 died Wednesday morning at United Hospital in St. Paul. He was surrounded by about 35 relatives and friends who prayed the Rosary, said longtime family friend Kathy Schneeman.
At 27, Flynn quit a high-paying corporate job to become a bartender at O'Garas and work on his first book. It took him three years to write. Publishers sent him 60 rejection letters.
"There were times at O'Gara's when I got another rejection letter and I thought, 'What am I doing? Why am I doing this?" Flynn said in a 2007 interview.
In 1997, Flynn self-published his first book, "Term Limits," which became his first bestseller.
It wasn't the first significant hurdle Flynn had beaten. In an effort to help other families, Flynn went public with his battle with dyslexia.
He credits his family with getting him through.
"I never realized through all of this how competitive I am. I just thought this was how every kid grew up, with four brothers and two sisters who were all athletes, all pounding the heck out of each other, never liking to lose," Flynn said at a 2006 fundraiser for Groves Academy.
Since his first bestseller, Flynn has published 14 novels centered around the character of Mitch Rapp, an undercover CIA agent. The majority of those novels have made it to the New York Times bestseller list.
"If (Tom) Clancy could do it, why can't I?" Flynn said in a 2005 interview with The Associated Press.
After releasing his 13th, "Kill Shot," Flynn talked with WCCO-TV's Frank Vascellaro about his battle with stage three metastatic prostate cancer. You can watch that full interview here.
"I was in pain writing the last two books, but I didn't know how serious it was," Flynn said in early 2012, at the time of the interview.
He went to doctors, who thought he may have had a bacterial infection in his prostate. Flynn was diagnosed with stage three metastatic prostate cancer in November 2010. The fatigue from his radiation treatments eventually made it difficult to focus on writing for more than an hour or two, and in October 2011, he reluctantly postponed publication for several months of "Kill Shot," which followed Rapp's adventures as he pursued those responsible for the bombing of a Pan Am flight over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988.
His message for men with prostate cancer was to stay positive. Never surrender, he told Vascellaro, and find professionals that can help you beat the disease. Flynn dedicated "Kill Shot" to the doctors aggressively treating prostate cancer.
Schneeman said his deep Catholic faith was an important part of his character.
"That's what he would have liked. He talks about his faith just as much as he would talk about politics and current events with our group of friends," Schneeman said.
Even while sick, he continued to raise money for several nonprofits, including several that help military families.
Flynn is survived by his wife, Lysa Flynn, and three children.
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