Friday, April 29, 2011

Jane Nelson and Me

Readers have asked me how I came up with the plot for TAKEDOWN.

It all started with the sex emails I received back in 1996.

In the mid-90's I ran a web development business, and I did the same work Jane Nelson does in TAKEDOWN. At the time I had 50+ clients, mostly small businesses, that were beginning to market on the nascent World Wide Web. Like Jane, I hacked PERL code on shopping cart systems, worried about web safe colors for graphics, and pitched to clients to sell services. Marketing, high-level design, coding, search engine registration and optimization -- I did it all. Yes, I'm an entrepreneur-turned-authorpreneur.

Also like Jane, I received more than my share of cringe-worthy misdirected and spam emails, including the sex thank-you notes. Remember, those were the days of internet newbies and mass spamming. Without blocking software at the ISP level there were days I deleted over 1,000 spam emails from my inbox. The internet was indeed the Wild West.

In the pre-internet years I'd worked as a software tester, programmer, database analyst, and systems analyst. Honest to God, those early systems were like swiss cheese -- riddled with security holes. At one company the disks on the Digital Equipment PDP 11/70's could be erased with one simple command error executed by any staff member. I'm not kidding. Quality control was nonexistent. One day an irate client called because debugging statements were printing in the middle of his report. The overworked and delirious programmer had been listening to Olivia Newton-John, and he'd coded print statements with "Let's Get Physical" into the program. These popped up in the middle of a fiscal report the client was running, not ten minutes ahead of the critical annual board meeting. Yeah. It was not a good day.

Needless to say, all these experiences led me to writing a novel about technology gaffes and security holes gone wild, and the manipulation possible when geeks and greed team up to go techno-postal. In classic Hitchcockian fashion, TAKEDOWN totally disrupts the lives of two innocents on Main Street when they must confront the corruption of Wall Street.

Oh, anyone who thinks there aren't dangerous glitches or manipulation in today's systems needs only to look back at the May 6, 2010 flash crash in our equity markets. This incident is still under investigation.

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