Novels

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 a fail-deadly he hopes will protect both him and Weezy.  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 file hidden.  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 …

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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A Lesson in Plotting from a Very Funny Guy

I went to see J. Elvis Weinstein the other night. He headlined at the Acme Comedy Club in Minneapolis and drew an enthusiastic crowd, despite dire warnings from talking heads about an impending sleet and slush apocalypse. I got some good, healthful laughs and a wonderful reminder about plotting a novel. 

From a stand-up comic?

You bet.

After all, whether it’s a novel, a screen play, a lyric or a standup routine, the author is telling a story.

I realized that the show was much more than a series of jokes.  It was instead a series of elements, carefully woven into a subliminal story line that plumbed the human condition with warmth and humor. Things mentioned early, like teeth grinding, got a laugh and got fixed in our minds. They disappeared, to return later and fit with other carefully positioned elements. The conclusion carried some of the elation of pushing that last piece of a 3000-piece puzzle in place and made the final laugh so much the bigger.

In rewriting my third novel, I’m trying to balance dropping those elements that are important to the conclusion in place delicately enough so, like Weinstein’s stand-up routine, the reader will put them all together just a second after the big reveal and realize that they knew all along what was going to happen, but were not aware they knew.

A lesson well taught.

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