What’s Up With Stemp?

In later books, is Stemp’s personality changing as a result of his interactions with Aydan, or is he simply beginning to trust her enough to reveal some of his personal details?  Or is his ‘opening up’ just another method of emotional manipulation? 

Do you trust Stemp?  Why or why not?

25 thoughts on “What’s Up With Stemp?

  1. Oooh, a good one. Aydan has a way of opening people up. She does not hold back and tells it like it is wether it is about his decisions or his actions or even his attitude. All of which is refreshing for Stemp I think. And because of this I believe there is a bond that has formed between the two that he does not have with other agents…leading to him trusting her with personal information. Of course the lengths Aydan went through and the self sacrificing she has done to keep his secrets safe play a big role in the trust.

    Is this a personality change for Stemp, I don’t think so. He holds his cards real close, one big reason is because of the job he does. The decisions he has to make can and does get people killed so being friendly with those he has to make life and death decisions on would be very detrimental to him mentally. So he keeps himself distant…but in walks Aydan who doesn’t let people hide. She calls them out. He really had no choice. Hence the ‘new’ Stemp.

    As for trusting Stemp, I do. He is a manipulating bastard but it is all done for the best of the country. He sees the big picture and knows the sacrifices that need to be made no matter how painful. It is a hard job but someone has to do it and who better then one who will do what is needed no matter the cost. Aydan sees this…she may not like it, but she sees it, and respects it.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Concur, Laurel.

    Do I trust Stemp? One-word answer? Yes.

    Look at his job. His job is to protect the interests of his country. Does he do that? Yes, to the uttermost fiber of his being. Does he like his job? Yes, I think he does. Well, maybe ‘like’ isn’t the best term to use here.

    I’m pretty sure he doesn’t wake up in the morning with a goofy grin on his face, a song in his heart, and anticipating what disasters the day may bring with giddy delight.

    Actually, that sounds a lot more like me in my current gig than it does Stemp in his job. I’ve actually had a job that I didn’t particularly like at first, but I trusted myself to do it properly. One of those engineer things where a ‘simple’ mistake could cause death and disaster. I think that’s the way it is with Stemp. I’m sure he could find a job that was more fun to do, but, for him, I think he would never be able to find something more fulfilling. I lost a LOT of sleep my first two years at that company, but, looking back, I take great pride in the advances that I helped everyone achieve. Helping to make those advances WAS MY JOB. What it cost me in sleep and aspirin and antacid tablets was part of the price I had to pay. I paid that price just like everyone else in that position did, the company moved forward, and nobody died because I got stupid or careless. All win, no loss. Fulfillment? Great flaming gobs of it. That’s where the pride comes from, after all.

    Fulfillment in one’s job or livelihood is far underrated in my not-the-tiniest-steenking-bit-humble-at-all opinion. There are other things I can look back on in my working career and say proudly, “Yeah, that was me. I did that.” Other gigs just paid the bills. No challenge, no reward, just endless frustration and a paycheck. Now? Gad, I love what I’m doing now!! Trust me, this way is better. Moving on…

    Stemp keeps at it pretty much nonstop. And I mean nonstop. When Aydan calls Stemp, does he not pick up on the first ring? Every single time? Day or nigh? Yep. Never groggy, never sleepy, never grouchy. One ring, and he’s alert, at himself, in the picture, and on the job. Because that’s his job.

    Would he sacrifice Aydan or any (or all) of the other agents–or himself–to protect his country? Without even blinking. Would he regret it? Utterly. But he would allow himself that luxury only after the fact. We’ve not gotten many glimpses of such things in Stemp, but we have had a few.

    He’s mellowed a bit over time (about one percent, tops), but the rigid, no-nonsense persona he projects is part of the price he pays for his gig. And he’ll keep paying it as long as the gig is his. After he retires, THEN he can kick back, wear ragged cutoff jeans and old t-shirts and flip-flops to Canadian Tire and Wal-Mart and laugh and cut up and flirt with the ladies and all that. He’ll be off duty then. But until he gets the last signature on his retirement paperwork, he’s on the job. Because that’s his job.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Too bad we cannot ‘like’ twice. Good response.

      Interesting idea about a laid back Stemp once he retires. He was brought up with very laid back parents…so maybe flip flops and cut offs. I do see him heading off to be with his wife and child…although he would need to create a different identity to keep them all safe.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I agree completely about the new identity for Stemp and his family. But think about it. Even with new and ‘authentic’ paperwork, nothing would seal the deal like a complete change in his ‘projected’ personality.

        Anyone who ever met Stemp ‘professionally,’ either good guys or bad, apparently knew him as some variation on a straight-arrow theme. Or that seems to be the case from the little glimpse we’ve gotten of his operational past. So enter the ‘new’ Stemp: Different name and all the necessary paperwork bells and whistles, of course, but now in old, comfortable, and sorta ratty jeans, flip-flops, a Grateful Dead t-shirt, hair worn over his ears and down to his collar, one of those combo-goatee-mustache things that’s kinda long and pointy on the bottom, a gold loop in his left ear, and walking with an easy or even slouchy posture. Wife and daughter more or less similarly attired and pushing a shopping cart in Canadian Tire getting stuff to change the oil in the minivan, picking up some more potting soil for starting the tomatoes early next spring, and scoring another bag or two of charcoal briquettes for the regular-as-clockwork Friday evening family cookout in their back yard.

        Hostile operatives of Fuzzy Bunny, et al, could walk past him until they died of old age and never catch on. It’s not IDs or disguises that make one invisible. It’s BEING SOMEONE ELSE ENTIRELY that keeps one from being noticed. Being *seen* is not the issue. Being *noticed* is. Stemp could hide himself and his family in plain sight even in Silverside if he had to and never get a second glance.

        But I suspect that he’ll eventually reunite with his parents and take over the commune as someone suggested several weeks ago. That would be a fine way to bring his own family into the protective fold.

        Stemp would know that instinctively, of course. With his temperament, he could be a fine engineer. 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

        1. A fun loving, hair down, and skip to his step Stemp would most certainly be the antithesis of the Stemp everyone knows now. A definite hide in plain sight.

          So this adds to my many questions rattling though my brain…Would the real Stemp please stand up. How is he when he takes time off and visits his wife and child? Stiff and unemotional or relaxed and playful? And IF he takes the route you laid out above when he retires will he be acting the part so he can hide? Is the real Stemp the one we have seen so far or is it just how he needs to act for the job? So again I say…will the real Stemp please stand up.

          Liked by 2 people

            1. But the eyes in the back of his head will never even blink until he’s breathed his last at a ripe old age. And by the time his daughter is ready for high school, she’ll be as dangerously deadly as her daddy, and mom will heartily approve. It’ll be interesting to see if she’ll ever employ those skills as an adult…

              Speculation, of course. Merely purest speculation. 🙂

              Liked by 1 person

  3. do I trust Stemp yes I do. I even like him and miss him when he’s not in a book.

    I agree with all the comments above.

    I would love to see him more in an off duty situation, loved the dinner party with his parents.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. There are a couple of things about Stemp that have been hiding in the dark recesses of my brain that never had a voice ’til now. I wonder why Stemp didn’t delve deeper when he found his secrets were discovered. I’d think he’d want to know how Aydan found out about his secret wife and if anyone else also knows. He would have never made the assumption that his daughter was also discovered or that her safety was being threatened and disclosed her existence to Aydan. It’s too much of a roomy mistake. He’d need to know how Aydan knows so he can do a better job next time of hiding his secrets. The idea that Spider also knows about the secret wife and his knowledge ever escaping Stemp’s notice seems unlikely since he is portrayed as always being three steps ahead of everyone else. It seems out of character for Stemp to go to the same Internet cafe with such regularity during a time the cafe is under watch for traitorous activities by another spy. Clearly he planned to be discovered.

    If he keeps his home free of incriminating evidence of spy activities he wouldn’t WANT the best locks available on his doors, especially if all one needs to do is break in through a window. If high security were the issue, he’d have windows that are equally as secure as his doors and walls that are built like a bunker. Oh, and the disguises would not be kept at home either if the house could be broken into- unless he is known as an actor in the local theater or a huge fan of Halloween costume parties, he wouldn’t keep fake beards and such in his home any more than addresses, photos, and keepsakes from his loved ones. He likely was okay with having those items found. If he has nothing to hide he’d either keep a normal home with normal locks and normal levels of security or else his home would be a fortress and he could then safely keep any number of incriminating items on the premises. This half-secure home with one incriminating drawer full of spy stuff isn’t quite right.

    Stemp is twisty enough to hide knowledge of his parents “real” lives to both his parents and Aydan in order to secure Aydan’s good will and assistance. He could have decided that it was in the best interest to allow her to discover his secrets and establish a close relationship with his parents. Better to manipulate through loyalty, trust, and friendship than through fear and a dispirited notion of the only option remaining. If it all turns out to be another manipulation I will be disappointed, but it certainly would be in character. I’d prefer to believe that he really has exposed a vulnerability from time to time, and that for some reason Aydan has been found to be the only one he trusts enough to show his humanity to. It may help Stemp that Aydan is a woman and that is why the other top agents and Spider were not selected for sharing secrets and vulnerabilities with even if they all are found to be just as trustworthy as Aydan is.

    Moonbeam Meadow Sky has picked up on the fragment of male/female tinted trust that they share and hopes it indicates an unprecedented level of intimacy she hasn’t sensed in her son before. And she likes Aydan, and it’s long overdue for her son to settle down and give her some grandkids. A mom can always hope and nudge.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. About the ‘incriminating’ stuff Stemp left in his house, I sorta got the impression that he left it there on purpose to be found. Look at the lovely smoke screen that blew up behind him when it was discovered. Much foaming-at-the-mouth and jumping to quite erroneous conclusions and wasting of time and resources and so on. And wasn’t it odd that they found nothing else except what he wanted/needed them to find to set that particular chain of events into motion? Just think of all the other stuff they could have found if Stemp were merely being carelessly unprofessional.

        Didn’t Stemp count on all that sound and fury which did, indeed, signify nothing? It allowed him to what he needed to do while keeping the weapon safe. To me it caused just the right amount of misdirection that he needed.

        Granted, I’ll need to read that one again to refresh, but after he reappeared and resumed command, it all seemed plausible to me. When I read it the first time, I was just as confused as the rest of the gang, but it all fitted back together as it needed to at the end. But I’ll need to read it again to be sure. I’ll binge-read them all again just before Book 12 comes out anyway. I always do. 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

    1. YES!!!! I agree….Stemps “mistakes” (as I’ve been calling them) seem too rookie for him! I keep thinking Stemp is trying to figure out “who” Aydan works for. Who the other chain of command is. I think his actions towards Aydan are done purposefully because he knows she responds to people in an emotional way. Her sense of doing right by those who are in need is a very strong character trait. Her willingness, almost NEED, of taking care of those who need her is very dominant in her personality. She is a nurturer, even though it rubs her to be so.
      Stemp is cashing in on that personality trait to try and figure her out – because she is not like anyone he’s dealt with before…that is to say, very genuine (even though she has her share of secrets). Aydan really doesn’t have an ulterior motive – and that throws Stemp for a loop.

      Perhaps the dust will settle one day, and the truth will come out, and when it does, I believe that Stemp will be truly fond of Aydan, and he can then say he has a true friend. Something I don’t think he believes he has.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yes. Well said. I’m sure you’re correct to link Stemp’s “mistakes” to trying to figure out Aydan’s other chain of command and how her personality works.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Yes. Well said. I’m sure you’re correct to link Stemp’s “mistakes” to trying to figure out Aydan’s other chain of command and how her personality works.

        What about Bud Weems? It seems to me that a weekly meeting for almost any recreational activity would count as a friendship, especially between two guys.

        Liked by 2 people

    2. Aha, you clever folks have discovered one of my ‘Easter eggs’. It’s not ready to hatch in Book 12 and probably not Book 13 (though I don’t know for sure yet). I’m not going to say any more, but I just had to let you know how smart you are! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve always been curious about why Stemp let Ayday get by with that ‘other chain of command’ stuff. In an organization that checks backgrounds all the way back to conception they let her work at Sirius Dynamics in a sensitive position while under the impression that she is also an operative for yet another ‘way-the-other-side-of-top-secret organization, too.

        Yeah, right.

        I’m glad clarification is coming. That single detail is the only thing that failed the “Yeah, that could happen.” test. Well, that and the porn star cover. That always struck me as a little odd, too. The always-buttoned-down Stemp letting such seeming pettiness get the better of him? When the downside was both so big and so predictable and, thus, avoidable? He did express a small degree of regret after the fact, but the damage was done. But it still works, though, so close enough.

        I’m expecting great things here, Diane. Just so you know. No pressure. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

          1. Hey, if you *couldn’t* do it, I woulda bailed long ago.

            You’ve *been* dooin it fer eleven straight books in a row, fer cryin out loud. That’s about six books past a record, from my experience.

            Again, chill, sista. You got this.

            Liked by 1 person

  5. About the ‘opening up’ question: Yes, he’s opening up a bit. But there’s a little more at play here, I think, than the new boss getting to know everyone and easing up a bit. Sure, trust is a factor; it has to be. But still, Stemp’s job is to protect his country’s interests, and he will use every tool and every weapon he can get his hands on to do so. Thus, if one ‘gives him an inch,’ so to speak, he will ‘take a mile.’

    In his eyes, if he did not use every last possible thing as a weapon against the enemies of his country, he would be remiss, even derelict in his duty. And he ain’t playin’ that, boys and girls.

    I see him as an implacable enemy to the bad guys. Sorta like Khan in the second Star Trek, except not a screaming whack job. Ish.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I really didn’t answer the question, did I? Must be all the politicians influence. Do I trust Stemp? Absolutely. @SRG said it so well I feel I can only concur. He has made it very clear that he will act first in the best interest of the country even if it might mean the loss of valued personnel. I’m sure that reality means Stemp must keep his people emotionally distant or risk his own well-being.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I love writing Stemp – he’s such a complex character. He’s easy to dismiss as a heartless bastard at first glance, but I’ve always been fascinated by people like him in real life: those with such a profound desire to maintain the right that they make whatever personal sacrifices are necessary.

    They do look heartless to outside observers at times, but they likely suffer from the personal isolation more than anyone else because that depth of commitment usually comes with a highly developed sense of empathy. If they didn’t have a gut-level understanding of others’ fear and pain, they wouldn’t care enough to make such sacrifices.

    Stemp’s 24/7 workaholism and barren personal life; John’s heartbreaking string of relationships that failed when duty called and he responded; Carl Germain letting his kids call another man ‘Daddy’ because he can’t guarantee he’ll always be there for them; Skidmark allowing everyone to despise him all his life… they’re all deeply empathetic people who put the needs of others ahead of their own.

    I write them as a tribute to our real-life heroes who make those sacrifices even though they may never hear a word of thanks from those whose lives they protect.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. As always, well done, Diane. I wouldn’t have thought to place all those guys into the same category of silent unthanked Heroes who live in extra pain for the better good of their countries. Great tribute!

    Liked by 1 person

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