Okay, if you’re thinking to yourself, “Hmm, haven’t seen this blog come across my screen in a while,” well, you’re right! I am thrilled to get this blog up and going again. Truth is, I’ve missed it and have been missing it for a while. I haven’t stayed away from writing altogether, though, but rather have instead been busy on the editing and proofreading end of my writing business. To say I’m thankful for the talented authors I work for is an understatement, including the latest author I’ve had the pleasure of meeting: Sci-Fi Thriller and Techno/Political Thriller Author, David Kristoph. His newest release, Web of Lies is both suspenseful and thought-provoking, and has given me the perfect reason to invigorate this blog.
To begin, I sent a series of questions for him to answer, not only for me to get to know him a little better but so that I could better introduce the man behind the writing:
When did you discover that you had a passion for writing; and, what was the first story about that you ever wrote?
I’ve been an avid reader since I was four or five, but my passion for writing didn’t begin until I was twelve and I started outlining my first fantasy novel. It’s incredibly fun to create a world from nothing, even if it never makes it into a book.
Do you have a favorite all-time book or author which has had an influence on you as a writer?
My favorite author is definitely Michael Crichton. I love the way he mixes thrilling stories with science fiction, making the reader believe something is almost possible. I’ve read his entire catalog two or three times.
What is your method of writing. Are you a “pantser” or do you outline?
I’m an architect-style writer for sure. I outline the entire book before I sit down and start writing. My outlines are usually ten or eleven pages long!
When you write, do you enjoy quiet or noise; are you organized or is it organized chaos?
I listen to music while I write, but it can’t be anything with lyrics in it. So I’ll either listen to classical music or techno. I’m very organized; I write in 30-minute chunks, with a timer to give me a break in between.
Did any one person or event inspire you to create the character of Bobby Beckett?
Bobby Beckett was inspired by Ebenezer Scrooge. I had just read A Christmas Carol, and I loved the transformation of the character from evil to “enlightened” by the end of the book. I wanted to create a character that goes through the same transformation, but in the tech world.
What was the hardest part of writing Web of Lies?
The hardest part of writing Web of Lies was keeping it short. The first draft was 140,000 words, and I spent several drafts cutting it down under 100,000.
Web of Lies ended with room for a sequel … will there be one?
I left room for a sequel, but at the moment I have no plans to write one. Maybe things will change if I get some inspiration in the future!
What will 2021 hold in store for the fans of David Kristoph?
In 2021 I’m writing a sequel to my other science-fiction thriller, Spore. That should be released by summer. I also have another thriller in the works, which is about two cyclists trying to bike across the country who stumble upon a secret government research facility, tentatively titled GEAR.
Last question: You’re in Washington D.C., at a restaurant near the Pentagon. As the waiter is showing you to your seat, you see Bobby Beckett at a table with a very well-known man. Bobby has his laptop opened and as you walk by, you see the screen and what he’s looking at. What website is he on and will you keep on walking or stop and say something to him?
If I saw Bobby Beckett in a restaurant, I wouldn’t say anything to him. I’d quickly turn off my cell phone and flee the restaurant!
After reading the book, I’d have to agree with you, David. To quote from my own review of Web of Lies, “…I don’t think I’ll ever be able to watch or read the news or any type of reporting the same way as I did before reading this book. Aside from the non-stop action, the pull of the story to turn the page and then the next – there is no good stopping point in this book – your mind is absorbing the tale and can’t help but wonder at the same time, could this really happen?..”
As promised, following is an Excerpt from Web of Lies.
None of this is real, the delusional part of my brain insisted.
I couldn’t move. My arms were tied to the seat of the private jet with duct tape, and a wad of sour cloth was jammed halfway down my throat. The hum of the plane’s engine was like a swarm of flies, drowning out most noise. My captors were clustered by the cockpit, their backs turned, and their gestures frantic. The machine guns slung over their shoulders swayed as they argued among themselves.
I’d been kidnapped.
In the middle of the day.
In the middle of the United goddamn States of America.
Unable to move, a wave of claustrophobia came over me. I rolled my eyes to the closed window shade to my left. I needed to see what was outside the window. I needed to know.
I leaned my head toward the window, then paused. My captors didn’t notice, so I leaned some more. The duct tape tugged against my body, holding me back. I pushed against my restraints, desperate to see. The tape dug into my wrists but I groaned into my gag and pushed through the pain, tilting my head horizontal so I could scrape it against the window shade. I caught the edge of the plastic, knocking it open an inch—a sliver of blindingly-bright light shone through. Still not enough to see.
At the front of the plane, one of the guards turned toward me. His cry of alarm cut through the engine noise.
I was desperate to see outside, so I abandoned all stealth and frantically nudged my head against the window. The guards marched down the aisle, shouting as they came with foreign rifles held across foreign chests, and I prayed to God it was all some cruel joke as my head finally caught the window shade and opened it halfway.
I peeled my eyes away from the reaching guards and looked at the terrain outside.
No, I thought, dumbstruck. Please no.
A guard grabbed a fistful of my hair and twisted me around. Sunlight reflected off his serrated knife as he smiled at me, a smile which never touched his dark eyes.
We had made a huge mistake.
Two Days Earlier
We’re not making a mistake, I texted, thumbs flying across the screen.
Are you sure? Jane replied. We can still bring them in for a traditional demo.
I can hook them here, I shot back, glancing at my watch for the thousandth time. Weeks of careful planning would be ruined if the jock didn’t show up in the next ten minutes.
The waiter smiled and topped off my water glass. Mine was his only table in that awkward time between lunch and dinner. The only other customers in the restaurant were a man drinking at the bar with a woman half his age. My eyes were glued to the television behind the bar, where MSNBC showed combat footage from the civil war in Zoristan. Dimly, I could hear the anchorwoman explaining that the United Nations resolution to send chemical weapons inspectors had once again been vetoed by China.
I opened my laptop on the table, verified the Wi-Fi again, then closed it.
When I glanced back at the bar, the bartender was pointing a remote control at the TV. The feed changed to a baseball game, Cubs and some red team. The man at the bar gave a thumbs-up.
I waved at the waiter, who was at my side in seconds. “I need you to change the channel back to MSNBC.”
He opened his mouth, looked at the TV, then back at me. I could see him doing the mental math: two customers at the bar versus one customer at a table. A customer whose clients were probably no-shows.
“Look,” I pleaded, “I need that TV to stay on the news. I’ll leave you a huge tip if you change it back.”
“I’ll see what I can do, sir.” The waiter went behind the mahogany bartop and put his head together with the bartender, who looked over and sized me up. Measuring my value, weighing it against the drunk couple at the bar. Good thing I’d worn a dress shirt like Jane insisted.
Finally, the bartender turned around and flipped it back to MSNBC. The man at the bar took his hand off his date’s leg to gesture at the TV. The bartender must have blamed me, because the man swiveled on his barstool to see who was usurping his God-given rights to watch the Cubs.
“Hey pal, you wanna watch the news, go home,” he said.
His date put a hand on his arm. “Christopher…”
I smiled and waved like I couldn’t hear him, then opened my laptop to check the Wi-Fi again. The couple at the bar turned back around and ordered more drinks. That should have been the end of it. I’d gotten what I wanted.
Then I heard the man call me a faggot.
A better man would have ignored it. I had clients coming. I should have been preparing for the demo.
I could see the security badge clipped to the man’s belt, with the big ‘Central Bank’ logo in red print. I did a quick LinkedIn search on my laptop; first name and company narrowed things down shockingly well, and I only had to scroll through fourteen Christophers working for the Chicago branch before I found the right headshot.
Next, I opened my packet sniffing software and targeted the restaurant’s unsecured Wi-Fi network. Two iPhones were connected, one of which showed active traffic. That was probably the hostess swiping on her phone by the front door. I waited until Christopher the Asshole reached into his pocket to check his phone. Only for a few seconds, but that was eons in digital time. A barrage of traffic from background apps scrolled across my screen, confirming it was him. I paused the feed. Two-hundred and twenty pages worth of data had accumulated. Most apps encrypted usernames and passwords when phoning-home to a server, but I found two apps sending credentials over plain text: Candy Crush, and an app for managing fantasy baseball. And would you look at that? Both passwords were the same: WrigleyRizzo44. If they were the same for those two accounts…
I opened my TOR client so the next part—the part that broke a bunch of laws—would be encrypted.
The WrigleyRizzo44 password didn’t work on the Central Bank web portal, but his Facebook? Jackpot. Christopher’s Facebook account details page was how I got his personal email address, where the password also worked just fine, and two-factor authentication wasn’t enabled.
I spent a couple minutes perusing his emails and Facebook Messenger history. That’s when I became certain.
Look. I didn’t do this to just anyone. I had some standards. And this guy? He exceeded my standards by a freaking mile. An hour ago he emailed his wife claiming he couldn’t pick up their kids from school because he was stuck at the office. All so he could get hammered with Candice the yoga instructor, before going to their hotel room across the street. I hated guys like this.
He needed his karma balanced.
I returned to the Central Bank web portal. It was time to try something risky.
I said a prayer to the IT Gods and clicked the “Recover Password” button. Within seconds, a new message popped up in Christopher’s personal email with a link to reset his work password. That did have two-factor enabled: the traffic from a text message appeared on my packet sniffer scroll, with a six-digit verification code.
I sat very still, watching Christopher over the top of my laptop screen. He must have felt the vibration in his pocket because he reached for his phone, then gave up as the bartender brought them another round of drinks.
Failing to suppress a smile, I entered the verification code and the Central Bank web portal loaded dutifully: email access, calendar information, two network drives full of excel spreadsheets on investor data. Every aspect of this guy’s career was now at my fingertips.
With that, and access to Christopher’s Facebook and personal email, for the next few minutes I was like a kid left overnight in a Toys-R-Us.
When sufficient chaos had been sowed, I fired off an email to Jane back at the office. I took a sip of water, and before I could put my glass back down, Jane had replied: “Done.”
My waiter rushed to refill the centimeter of water.
On the TV, the national segment was beginning with a flash of graphics and photos of news anchors posing with their arms crossed. Ten minutes had passed and my client still wasn’t here. I was fucked. Weeks of work had been squandered because this guy couldn’t be bothered to show up on time. I pulled out my phone to call him and froze at the text message on the screen:
If you keep contacting Zoristan, we’ll break your kneecaps.
The phone number on the screen just said: UNKNOWN. I gazed around the restaurant, suddenly feeling unsafe.
I deleted the message with a swipe and took a deep breath. I got spam texts all the time. This one didn’t mention my name. Nothing unusual about that. The Zoristan mention was only a weird coincidence. I repeated it in my head until it felt like the truth.
The door opened across the room, reflecting the afternoon sun and letting in a gust of wind. A thick man in a pinstripe suit leered at the hostess, who looked up from her phone and gestured into the empty room.
“Thank God,” I muttered to myself, waving.
Jeff Porter, Director of Public Relations for the National Football Association, wound his way through the room’s grid of tables. A skinny man with a briefcase who I hadn’t expected—a lawyer?—followed behind. I considered keeping my seat, putting on the bored-college-hacker-kid routine, but I doubted that angle would work with a guy like this. I stood and put on a polite smile.
“Mr. Porter. Thanks for meeting with me.”
Porter shook my hand with a fist so large it looked like a prosthetic. He gazed around the room. “I wasn’t sure you were serious. Who the hell eats this early? I can barely stomach whiskey at four o’clock.”
“The timing will make sense soon, I promise.” I extended my hand to his skinny companion. “Bobby Beckett. CEO of Low-Key Logistics.”
Porter answered for him. “This is Daniel. He’s just along for the ride.”
Daniel’s face remained a mask, his eyes beady and thoughtful behind black framed glasses. He made no move to shake my outstretched hand, so I used it to gesture at the table.
“Please, sit. The demo will begin in a minute.”
Porter dropped his heavy frame into the chair opposite me. “Demo? Shit, I thought this was just a marketing discussion.”
“This blows marketing out of the water. You’re gonna love what I have to show you.”
Porter ordered a whiskey, while Daniel declined with a simple shake of his head. On the TV, the MSNBC anchorwoman disappeared with a flurry of graphics, 3-D letters swooping into the frame. Black-and-white still images flashed one after the other to the sound of dramatic music. At the end, the title read: “TWINS OF TERROR ON TRIAL.”
“Have you been following the Helmuth trial?” I asked.
“Those punk billionaire kids?”
Roger and Richard Helmuth were the twin sons of Raymond Helmuth, the third richest fracking tycoon in West Texas. Star lacrosse players at Cornell, handsome and charming. After graduating, they used their father’s wealth to start their own less-than-legal imports business. Unregistered assault rifles were a favorite commodity of theirs, one of which ended up in the hands of a domestic terrorist who killed fourteen government workers in California.
“Yeah, those punk billionaire kids,” I said.
“Buncha idiots, you ask me.” Porter eyed his glass of whiskey. “If my dad gave me ten million bucks I’d spend the rest of my days sitting by a pool in Vegas. What do they have to do with football marketing?”
The TV showed the two brothers being led into the courtroom in expensive suits and perfectly groomed yellow hair, like caricatures from a Nazi propaganda poster. The only discerning difference between them was the fraternity tattoo on the back of Richard’s neck, the tops of the Greek letters barely visible above his collar.
“Both brothers are claiming ignorance to the weapons deal. They’re going to plead innocent.”
“I heard somethin’ about that,” Porter said.
I gave a wolfish grin. “How would you like to decide which twin is innocent and which is guilty?”
If you’d like to read more, Web Of Lies can be found on Amazon AND, until December 31, is on sale for $.99. Trust me, if you’re into Techno Thrillers and/or Political Thrillers, you’re going to want to finish this one to The End. It’s not what I expected.
As you’ll be able to see on David Kristoph’s Author Page with Amazon, he has a wide selection of other books you will certainly want to check out. His writing is captivating and doesn’t disappoint.