The Joe Mayfield/Louise Napolitani series currently includes three novels. Fatal Score and Skins and Bone are complete.  Fail Deadly is in rewrite, to be complete in 2019. A fourth novel, Fatal Cure, is in development.

Fatal Score was published in November, 2018 and is available as a trade paperback, an e-book and an audiobook at Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo and Apple Books.

Fatal Score:  Joe Mayfield’s happy, ordinary life comes apart when his wife is denied cancer treatment. It’s a few years from now.  All critical data is stored behind a national firewall called the Yak.  Genetic research has created HealthScore, which determines medical treatment.  When Joe’s wife’s HealthScore is slashed, it becomes a death sentence.  Frantic to save her, Joe hacks into the Yak and becomes the target of Phoenix, one man’s plot to skim billions in medical payments at the cost of thousands of lives.  Joe’s wife dies, and Phoenix sends a pair of toughs to erase Joe.  He goes off the grid, living on cash in out-of-the-way places. But his hack attempts pique the interest of a brilliant Yak tracker called Weezy.  She runs him down, skeptical of his good intentions, but becomes an ally.  Finally, in a single wide trailer in Panacea, Florida, Joe and Weezy work to destroy Phoenix before Phoenix destroys them.  Read Chapter One

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Other novels in the series:

In Skins and Bone, Joe Mayfield lands his dream job:  Move from Florida to New York, go to work for the respected investment bank ZCG, fly with the finance eagles—and be a train ride away from Weezy, his lover, who is chief tracker for the national data base called the Yak.  ZCG uses complex financial derivatives called ‘Skins’ to craft protection for firms working in politically unstable regions.  Strangely, disaster seems to follow creation of Skins, and someone is raking in millions.  Joe, curious, begins to dig. Murders follow. Undaunted, Joe and Weezy dig deeper.  A financial conference in Vienna and a sumptuous cruise down the Danube to Budapest provide the opportunity for the man making the millions to eliminate Joe and Weezy.

Skins and Bone is a thriller with an eye to international finance, European elegance, and simple greed.

Fail Deadly:  HelioCorp’s public offering is going to be the tech finance deal of the decade—cheap and easy solar power for all.  Joe Mayfield has engineered the deal and is on his way to a weekend with Weezy, hacker extraordinaire and his too-long-distance lover.  The HelioCorp project crashes.  The lights go out in Maine, then Georgia, and a ransom note demands one billion dollars. As Weezy, Joe, and the government struggle to find out what’s going on, Weezy gets a cryptic note from a hacker friend, HoHumJr.  He has been kidnapped by a Russian mafia group called Sobaki, but has managed to send the address of a file that will destroy them, wrapped up in an internet hand grenade with the pin pulled—a Fail Deadly. Sobaki captures Weezy. Her disappearance makes her the NSA’s prime suspect. Joe is soon a Sobaki prisoner, too, the better to force Weezy to keep the hand grenade from going off. Weezy is tortured but stands firm. Weezy’s hacker friends zero in on her location, and the NSA rescues her. She is freed, but not from the cruel agony of her torture and her fear of losing Joe.

Fail Deadly is a thriller that speaks to a current threat to our country and to the strength of  two lovers’ bond.

Fatal Cure:  Gene therapy is a wonderful thing.  But even good things can be turned to evil purposes … Joe and Weezy, now operating as a cyber consultancy are asked to find a man who has stolen intellectual property. The simple task becomes a nightmare when they stumble onto a plan to eliminate just a few climate change deniers for the greater good of humanity. Except the project is co-opted for a much, much darker purpose.

Background: The Mayfield/Napolitani novels take place a few years from now. Technology has marched forward, rolling computers, pads and phones into a device called an e-pad; replacing earbuds with bluetooth mastoid bone implants; building semi-self-driving cars … nothing too surprising.  Except the Yak and HealthScores.

The Yak:  Election tampering in the United States and Europe has been followed by a tidal wave of misinformation and infrastructure attacks building across cyberspace.  In the wake of fires, dam breaches, power-grid failures and a small nuclear episode, the United States has rushed to develop a national firewall. Called the Interagency Channel, or IAC, it has become the Yak in popular speech. Critical information about infrastructure, the financial system, the military, and medical files for all citizens has been pulled inside its protective shell.  The designers recognized that algorithms can’t always deter hackers; thus, the Yak includes a cadre of anti-hackers called Trackers.  Louise Napolitani – Weezy – is the best of the Trackers.

HealthScores: Advancing genetic research has provided markers for many fatal diseases. The private sector has used these advances to calculate probabilities of successful treatment called HealthScores.  Treatments have become ever more successful but ever more expensive. Congress has seen the opportunity to “rationalize” health care cost using HealthScores.  A high HealthScore for a disease means cutting-edge care; a low score, painkillers and prayers at the end.

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Books — Part II

Last time, I wrote about some literary fiction I’ve read during my hiatus from writing my fourth novel. I figured I had too much material for one blog post, so I made the somewhat arbitrary distinction between Literary Fiction (always intoned with those capital letters) and mysteries (always lower case). I really do hate the distinction. There are fine writers in both groups, and the distinction seems foolish to me. Here are some mysteries I read both for enjoyment and edification:

Dark Sacred Night (Michael Connelly) Harry Bosch, one of the great detective protagonists, works with Renee Ballard, a Los Angeles detective. This is a police procedural at the detail level. Connelly makes the details work for the story, giving a realistic picture of how a detective’s day might actually play out, with all the high points and frustrations rolled in over the story line. Both Connelly and Alex Lettau (below) have a challenge most writers have difficulty overcoming: the technical lecture. Ballard the cop speaking directly to Bosch the former cop would say something like, “LT’s gonna need a DD5.” Both cops … but few if any readers … would know what that means. Sometimes, details are unnecessary, a reality I need to remember. Connolly handles the problem nicely … the narrator steps in and gives reader a line of succinct definition. Just enough to answer the reader’s “huh?” Lettau provides more detail, and repeats definitions so reader will be sure to know the precise etiology of the disease he’s discussing. Balance is the issue, and I can see some rewrite coming in my stuff.

Yellow Death (Alex Lettau): I’m always looking for stories similar to mine. Agents want ‘comps’ to give an idea of what kind of book yours is. In that spirit, I picked up Yellow Death, which has some similarity to the plot of the story I’m writing now, Fatal Cure. Yellow Death is written by a doctor, and the plot detail shows it. The main characters are medical professionals … doctors, epidemiologists, public health officials … and there are a lot of them. Most would speak to each other in medical dialect, leaving most readers scratching their heads. The detailed medical terminology gives an air of authenticity to the story, a good thing. But Lettau stops and explains his terms almost every time a technical conversation occurs. That slows plot development, and the idea of imminent catastrophe (five days!) needs the plot to move quickly. A learning experience for me, since my series leans toward technical jargon.

The Chimney Sweeper’s Boy (Barbara Vine/Ruth Rendell):  Ruth Rendell, writing as Barbara Vine, is surely one of the great British mystery writers. I said in my review that reading it reminded me of watching a tree sloth make its way slowly along its arboreal path. That wasn’t meant as an insult; the slow ballet of the tree sloth is beautiful, and its slowness allows appreciation of each movement. Vine’s plot moves that way.  I did have a difficult time keeping attention on the reading. The slow, slow, slow development played a part, but I didn’t particularly like the main characters. Learning in detail the inner workings of the mind of a person you don’t much like is a job of work.  Lesson learned. Characters don’t have to be likeable, but they do have to be interesting. Fine writing, but I struggled to finish.

One Mississippi (Steve Ulfelder): I admit to bias for Ulfelder, who was my teacher in a marvelous seminar on mystery writing several years ago and was nice enough to review my first book. That said, this new series featuring Arch Dixon and his unlikely sidekick Kevin Day looks really great. Ulfelder has just the right touch of gritty detail when he’s taking us through the underside of Boston. Ulfelder reminds me that a great protagonist is usually one or two steps away from being a villain, or at least an incompetent. I have some work to do there.  Ulfelder is also master of the sentence fragment to punch up tension and keep the story moving.


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