Novels

The Joe Mayfield/Louise Napolitani series currently includes three novels. Fatal Score and Skins and Bone are complete.  Fail Deadly was published in June, 2023 and nominated for the Minnesota Book Award. A fourth novel, Fatal Cure, is scheduled to be released in 2024, and a fifth, tentatively tiled Cyberstorm is in the works.

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

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 wonderful things can be turned to evil purpose. 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 that started as an altruistic effort to eliminate just a few climate change deniers for the greater good of humanity. Except the project has been co-opted, and Joe and Weezy become targets to protect 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 IAC:  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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Chuckle of the day.

I’m writing a passage describing an angry man:  

“Shocked that he had not been part of the meeting with Connie and me, Jack went to Maren and threatened to quit. Maren thanked him for his service and accepted his resignation. Apparently not understanding that she’s the boss pro tem, he said he wasn’t gonna take no layoff from some ditzy broad and appealed to me. To be fair, I laughed more out of surprise then derision.”

I reread the passage. Hmmm. Broad? I remind myself that (a) I’m writing in near-current time, and (b) I’m an old guy. I am painfully familiar with the old guy word usage caution (OGWUC). It’s similar to the Indy 500 yellow flag, except it is the raised eyebrow of a younger critique group member. So I fire up ChatGPT and ask: 

Is “broad” widely used as a pejorative term for a woman anymore?

Chat GPT replies: 

” ‘Broad’ as a pejorative term for a woman has largely fallen out of common usage in contemporary times. It was more prevalent in earlier decades, particularly in the mid-20th century and was often used in a derogatory or disrespectful manner to refer to women. However, as societal attitudes have evolved and awareness of gender-based language has increased, terms like ‘broad’ are now generally considered outdated and offensive.”

Just make sure I understand—has ChatGPT already developed an old guy algorithm?—it scolds me:

“Language reflects the norms and values of a society, and there has been a growing recognition of the importance of using respectful and inclusive language, especially when referring to gender. As a result, derogatory terms like ‘broad’ have largely been replaced by more respectful and neutral language in modern discourse.”

Okay, but I still need a good pejorative for use by an angry guy. So, Chat, buddy, What are common pejoratives for women today?

“While the use of overtly pejorative terms for women has decreased over time due to societal shifts towards greater awareness and sensitivity, unfortunately, some derogatory terms still persist in various contexts. However, it’s important to note that using such language is disrespectful and reinforces harmful stereotypes. Here are a few examples:

Bitch: This term is used to insult or belittle women by suggesting they are aggressive, unpleasant, or difficult.”

Chat GPT gives me several other banal options, but “Bitch” at number one was, to me, priceless. ‘Broad’ to ‘Bitch’ in a time of “the importance of using respectful and inclusive language, especially when referring to gender.” One assumes AI hasn’t learned irony—yet.

  1. The Proper Word in a Prickly Time 2 Replies