Retired CIA officer and New York Times bestselling author of the acclaimed "Red Sparrow Trilogy" Jason Matthews died on April 28, 2021 in Rancho Mirage after a long, courageous battle with a rare neurodegenerative disease. He is survived by his wife Suzanne, daughters Alexandra Matthews (Steve Souryal) and Sophie Baumann (Tim Baumann) and brother William Matthews (Sharon). He was 69.
Mr. Matthews was born in Hartford, CT to Charles and Aglaia Matthews. He attended Mount Hermon prep-school (now Northfield Mount Hermon). After graduating from Washington and Lee University, he pursued a Master's in Journalism from the University of Missouri, Columbia.
Fluent in Greek, Spanish and French, he applied to the Central Intelligence Agency after grad school. As a CIA case officer, he served in Europe, Asia and the Caribbean. In 1981 while on an overseas assignment, he met his future wife Suzanne who was also a career CIA officer.
Upon his retirement from the CIA in 2010, Matthews embarked on the writing of thrillers that drew on his long years of experience. Although he coyly joked that this effort was merely "therapy" for an ex-Agency officer, he threw himself into the effort, studying the work of other spies-turned-writers, conducting research and dedicating long hours to his new career. He was meticulously attentive to details, whether it be how CIA operatives surveilled targets or the proper ingredients of a classic Russian borscht soup. Matthews delighted in deploying the spy-craft he used in the CIA to illuminate his books. His first book, Red Sparrow, won the Edgar award for best first novel and garnered high praise. "Relentless drama is just one of the high points of this sublime and sophisticated debut," said the Washington Post. Echoed the New York Times Book review, "A primer on 21st century spying. Matthews former foes in Moscow will be choking on their blinis when they read how much has been revealed about their tradecraft… terrifically good." Red Sparrow was later adapted into the 2018 Twentieth Century Fox film starring Jennifer Lawrence and Joel Edgerton.
Mr. Matthews work and his life were animated by wry humor, ferocious patriotism and devotion to his family and the CIA. A life well-lived, he is fondly and forever remembered by his family, friends, professional colleagues, and the many admirers of his distinctive novels. A celebration of life will be held later this summer.
Published by The Desert Sun from Apr. 30 to May 2, 2021.