Blog Tour – Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews

CityGirlScapes teamed up with Simon & Schuster Canada for a Blog Tour in anticipation of the release of Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews on June 4. 

We recently reviewed the book itself, but we also had the opportunity to chat with author Jason Matthews about his debut novel, specifically the memorable cast of colourful characters scattered throughout. 

From a sadistic dwarf who personally carries out Putin’s murderous schemes to a likeable if somewhat battle-weary CIA station chief, to MARBLE the ultimate Russian mole, to dauntless Dominika and of course to Nate himself, Red Sparrow delivers such a memorable cast of characters

City Girls: How much of you do we see in Nathaniel Nash, are his actions and reactions mirrored from your own first-tour experiences or were you basing Nate’s instincts from your years of knowledge?

Jason Matthews: None of the characters are truly autobiographical, but the tradecraft, gadgets, experiences, attitudes, and work environment are all based on my real-life experiences over 33 years in CIA.  I’ve met Russians over the years, but no one like Dominika Egorova!

CG: Alexi Zyuganov is described as a ‘poisonous dwarf’. Physical limitations must be very conspicuous in such a prominent role in a secret world. What prompted you to take on this unique challenge?

JM: Like some of the other characters in Red Sparrow, Zyuganov is sort of a hybrid taken from real life history.  One of Stalin’s intelligence chiefs named Nikolai Yezhov was five feet tall and was responsible for murderous purges in the 1930s.  Of course in real espionage work, physical limitations would be a real challenge.

CG: When you look at mainstream spy thrillers, particularly something like the Bond franchise, the female “sparrow” seems to be a common component. Is the art of seduction still a viable operational tactic in this modern age or is it generally relied upon as a character in books and movies to balance the sexual aspect?

JM: Some intelligence services, infamously the KGB, regularly used trained Sparrows and sexual entrapment to recruit sources, provided they could be maneuvered into a “honey trap.”  The modern Russian spy service, the SVR, probably still do. Most western services don’t use sex as an operational technique because it is generally thought that a source recruited by coercion will be resentful and prone to fabrication and/or revenge. It makes for great movies though.

CG: With confidentiality being a prime consideration, how close did you come to featuring an actual person as one of your characters? Part of the allure is hoping that at least one of your characters is real.

JM: All the characters are totally fictional.  A few are drawn from historical figures (like Yezhov mentioned above.)  Any similarity to real persons is purely coincidental. 

CG: And last one, just for fun. These City Girls are known for their love of wine, if we were at a cocktail party with Nate, Dominika, MARBLE, Egorov and Forsyth, what would they be drinking?

JM: Fun question.  Nate and Gable probably would be drinking beer–Corona for Nate, something exotic–Singha–for Gable.  Dominika perhaps would reach for French champagne.  MARBLE would have a glass of Brunello.  Uncle Vanya would order Georgian brandy, and Forsyth would go for a dry Chardonnay.   Benford of course would drink something arcane like grappa. 

When it comes to the character of the double agent, it’s hard to believe that someone once so dedicated to their job and to their country could commit such a betrayal and cross to the other side.

It often seems to be the result of mistreatment or a desire for revenge, but as Jason explains in the video below, there are four human motivators that turn a spy into a double agent.


Red Sparrow is released on June 4. For more information visit

A big thanks to Jason Matthews and Simon and Schuster Canada for having us on this Blog Tour!

images from official website.