Some people think he’s a bit of a cold fish. Richard Thompson, the patriarch of the Thompson clan. A renowned diplomat who served in locations as far flung as Pakistan, Belgium, Indonesia. He was ambassador to China in the mid-nineteen nineties and Russia in the early 2000s. Much later, he comes out of the retirement to become the Secretary of Defense.
But there is far more to Richard Thompson than anyone knows, isn’t there?
Chronologically, we first encounter Richard Thompson in Spain in February 1981, when he stops in to the shop owned by Adelina Ramos’ father to purchase a large amount of flowers. Though though this excerpt comes first in time, we first learn of it in the fifth book, Girl of Lies.
“What sort of function are the flowers for, Señor?” she had asked. In Spanish. Most of their rare American customers spoke no Spanish, but Thompson spoke functional, if not perfect Spanish.
“We plan to deliver them to your Cortes as a goodwill gesture,” he replied.
A week passed after his second visit before he returned again.
“Señorita Ramos,” Thompson said when he stepped into the shop.
“Señor Thompson,” she replied. “Can I help you with something?”
He smiled, a crooked, wolfish grin. “I came here looking for a flower. It seems I found one.”
Her eyes dived for the floor. “You’re too kind, Señor.”
“Señorita Ramos. In all seriousness, I’m here to see you. I have tickets to the theater for Friday evening. I would be grateful if you would attend with me.”
Thompson is ambitious. And ruthless. And like any diplomat, his wife is often a large part of his plans. Here he is, with Adelina, in Girl of Rage:
“After a second, he relaxed, slightly, and said, “Along with being the new Ambassador, Eugene Jackson and his wife are close personal friends of the Reagans. A good word from him to the President could do a lot for my career.”
Adelina nodded. “I see. What do we know about him?”
“He’s seventy or so. Prominent businessman in California, he helped bankroll the President’s campaign, and he was part of the Kitchen Cabinet.” The Kitchen Cabinet was an informal group of conservative advisors to the President—political opponents had accused them of helping to select Reagan’s actual Cabinet members.
Richard continued. “He goes riding with the President, and he and his wife hosted the Reagans for Nancy’s birthday.”
Adelina nodded. “Okay. So, charm him.”
In 2002, (in A Song for Julia) from daughter Julia’s point of view, we see Richard at the White House at a dinner with the President and his wife:
“The men shook hands, and then Ambassador Easton and my father introduced their families. I was called over and shook hands with the President and Mrs. Bush.
“My eldest daughter, Julia,” my father said. “She’s in her senior year at Harvard.”
The President grinned and said in his soft Texas accent, “Well, you should have considered New Haven, but I guess you can’t have everything.”
“My dad looked stressed. I felt buzzed. President Bush looked amused.
My dad said, “Julia’s planning on graduate school next year, then following me into the Foreign Service.”
“Oh, isn’t that nice?” Mrs. Bush said.
“Actually, I’m going into the music industry,” I said. “I manage a punk rock band.”
The President raised his eyebrows, and my father, an edge in his tone, said, “Right now might not be the best time to discuss this, Julia.”
“Sure, okay, Dad. You brought it up.”
Now the President really did laugh, and then he leaned close to me. “I know how it feels to be pushed into a career. My dad wanted me to be President.”
Suave. Diplomatic. That’s the front Richard Thompson shows everyone. But there’s a dark side to Ambassador Thompson. Here’s Dylan Paris, describing his future father-in-law to his best friend Ray in an email in Just Remember to Breathe:
“I did get an email from her Dad. He’s a real sweetheart. Former Ambassador, likes to keep his tentacles in everything. Back when I went to visit her in San Francisco, a couple years ago, he took me aside at one point to tell me what a worthless piece of shit I was. That I wasn’t nearly good enough for his daughter. Would you believe he had run a background check on me? And my parents. I’m sure he dug up some good stuff on Dad. He told me to stay the hell away from her in his email. “Let her believe you are dead. It’s better for both of you.”
Here’s what Carrie Thompson had to say about her father in The Last Hour:
Sometimes when my father has a little too much to drink, he’ll reminisce about negotiating with other countries during the Cold War.
“The crazy thing,” he said one time, “is that you’re sitting across the table with people you would never want to let in your home … thugs and war criminals, dictators who got into their position by way of murder and mayhem. And yet, at the diplomatic table, everyone is excruciatingly polite and well mannered.”
But there are a lot of questions, aren’t there? What really happened in China? Why did Senator Chuck Rainsley try to block his appointment as Ambassador to Russia? In The Rachel’s Peril trilogy, Richard Thompson has been nominated by the President as the new Secretary of Defense and not long after his youngest daughter Andrea is kidnapped at the Baltimore Washington International airport.
What exactly is he hiding?
The Thompson Sisters
The Thompson Sisters is two series of novels centering around the six daughters of Ambassador Richard Thompson and his wife Adelina.
Following is the series reading order:
Book 3: Girl of Vengeance