My whole life I've devoured mystery novels by golden age authors: Dorothy Sayers, GK Chesterton, Agatha Christie. Even more so, impossible crime stories by writers like John Dixon Carr and Edmund Crispin.
Hardly surprising, then, that I’ve always wanted to write a murder mystery of my own.
Quite separately, I’ve been longing to write a non-fiction book about the underbelly of Silicon Valley, telling the real story of how gross and dangerous and sociopathic tech moguls have become, based on my 20 years covering these powerful monsters. A book, in other words, that no lawyer-fearing publisher would touch with a ten foot pole.
It took me a long time to realize the obvious way to scratch both of these itches: To write about the true awfulness of tech brociopaths through the plausible deniable lens of crime fiction. All I needed was the right story hook.
Then, in 2014, Uber infamously threatened to spend a million dollars to hire a team of journalists to “go after” (their phrase!) Sarah and our family after she dared to write about the company's treatment of women.
While most commentators wondered out loud how a company could be so nakedly evil, I became obsessed with another question: How f*cked up would a journalist's life have to be from them to actually take that gig?
With that simple question, my protagonist snapped into life: A journalist forced to take a job at the worst company on earth in order to save her own life, and that of her family. A few days later, I had my first murder victim. I was off to the races.
It was a long race.
Seven years later, the resulting novel - 1414º - is about to land on bookshelves. Here's the blurb, ripped from the back cover (a newsletter exclusive!)...
The billionaire predators of Silicon Valley always get what they want.
Now someone is giving them what they deserve.
Journalist Lou McCarthy has spent her career exposing powerful predators in Silicon Valley. Her crusade has cost her everything: Her apartment, friends, relationships, and any hope of promotion. And for what? Readers don’t care, her boss and workmates pity her, and the billionaire bro-ciopaths she writes about continue to fail upwards.
But when two of her highest profile subjects are killed on the same night, their deaths staged as gruesome public suicides, Lou’s work is suddenly and violently thrust into the spotlight.
Blamed for the deaths, fired from her job, and pursued by vengeful trolls who have already attacked her mother, Lou has only one chance of survival: To find the killer obsessed with her work, and stop them before anyone else dies.
Or perhaps not. Because the more Lou discovers about the ingenious killer's past, and their methods, the more she becomes determined to help them succeed.
Given the title (1414º is the temperature at which Silicon melts), it won't surprise you to hear there's a lot more to the book than that brief plot summary.
In addition to answering my initial question over what might cause a good journalist to cross to the dark side, I wanted to accomplish two other things...
- To write an honest to god mystery thriller that will appeal to readers who don’t give a damn about Silicon Valley and 2) To write a book that tech billionaires will read with horror and their finger hovering over lawyer speed-dial because they know the very ugliest parts are all drawn from real life.
Judging by the reaction from tech-insider friends who have seen the manuscript, I've definitely achieved the latter. I’ll have to wait for the first proper reviews to know if I've pulled off the former.
I really hope you like the book. All being well, it'll be available for pre-order on both sides of the Atlantic around September 27th.
Meantime here's a preview of the cover, designed by the brilliant Jamie Keenan...
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