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Today our blog puts the Spotlight on Best-Selling Author Paul Draker. He is the author of gritty modern mystery thrillers.
Author: Paul Draker
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On Sale for $0.99 : January 20 - 26 Only
By the Best Selling Author of NEW YEAR ISLAND
Maverick computer scientist Trevor Lennox is the most brilliant programmer of his generation. He's also equally talented at making enemies. Exiled to a Top Secret government lab hidden in the heart of Nevada's Pyramid Lake Indian Reservation, twenty-eight year old Trevor has spent the last four years working 24/7, leading a classified DARPA project which uses high-speed cameras and a supercomputer's limitless processing power to interpret human facial microexpressions with unprecedented precision.
Frankenstein, Trevor's custom-built hundred-million-dollar supercomputer, can detect lies or concealed emotions with infallible accuracy. It can read hidden intentions right off a person's face. Trevor has his own plans for the groundbreaking technology he has created—an agenda which might be very different from what the government has in mind.
Increasingly at odds with the other three DARPA scientists who lead Pyramid Lake's advanced-robotics projects, Trevor is assigned a new and unwanted project co-lead. Cassie Winnemucca, the descendant of Paiute tribal chiefs, is a gifted computer-science prodigy like Trevor himself. But is she his future replacement?
Trevor prepares to struggle to retain control of his own project. But first, he must find a way to help his equally brilliant but troubled seven-year-old daughter Amy, whose problems threaten to condemn her to a terrifying future.
When a series of grisly murders sows chaos throughout the DARPA facility, Trevor realizes he’s not the only one with a hidden agenda.
Luckily, Trevor’s no stranger to conflict. To win, he’ll fight whomever he has to, however he has to. He'll use every tool at his disposal to get to the truth and to help his daughter. But this time, he’s fighting to protect everyone and everything he cares about. Unknown forces have their own plans for his face-reading technology, and they are willing to kill for it.
Blake shook his head in disbelief. “You called a U.S. senator an ass-clown, Trevor. To his face.”
“He’ll live,” I said. “Politicians are basically sociopaths—incapable of feeling true embarrassment.”
“Mistake.” He looked away, but not before I caught the flicker of a microexpression across his jowly face. The corners of his mouth had pulled toward his ears for a fraction of a second—almost too quick to notice.
He was afraid.
I snickered. Fifteen years on DARPA projects, most of them black, and Blake still had no clue how the money side of defense spending worked. High IQ didn’t always translate to real-world smart. I’d learned that lesson well enough watching my classmates at MIT.
Blake fumbled with his cigarette pack. “I suppose you’ve got a commercial-world job lined up, then,” he said. “But you still shouldn’t burn bridges.”
He was afraid my comment to the senator would get all our funding cut—not just mine, but his, Kate’s, and Roger’s, too—maybe the entire outlay for DARPA’s Pyramid Lake facility. Blake had spent his whole career inside the bubble that was the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. It was all he knew. He’d be unemployable in the commercial sector now.
“You’re a moron,” I said. “Linebaugh is the majority senator for Nevada. Our senator.”
“And you just insulted him.” Blake’s lower eyelids tightened briefly. Fear again. “It’s been nice knowing you, buddy. They can give your hundred-million-dollar toy to the DOE to run nuclear safety models.”
“That’ll never happen,” I said. “Using Frankenstein to simulate nuke stuff would be like using a Formula One Ferrari to deliver pizza.”
Blake’s expressive face made catching his tells easier, but I couldn’t do it reliably. Very few people could, even with extensive training. Many microexpressions—involuntary signals of suppressed emotion or hidden intent—lasted less than a thirtieth of a second, which was too brief for the human eye to register. Every once in a while, a study would turn up a “truth wizard” or “human lie detector” with a freakish ability to detect even the most fleeting microexpressions, but they were one in a thousand. I knew I wasn’t one of them, but then again, I didn’t need to be.
I clapped him on the shoulder, and stepped over to the railing that encircled the roof of our five-story lab building. “Our funding is untouchable, and I’ll tell you why,” I said. “What do you see all around us?”
“Is your demo ready to roll? The Senator wanted to tour the labs after lunch.”
“Big deal. So he’ll have to wait.”
“Nobody your age should be so cocky, Trevor. You may be DARPA’s fair-haired golden boy of the moment, but I’ve watched ’em come and I’ve watched ’em go.”
“Right now, it’s probably toxic even to be seen with you,” he said. “I need to think of my career. I should have just stayed inside.”
“You’re the one who needed a cigarette break.” I didn’t have to catch microexpressions to see the worry on Blake’s face now. He was a big, heavy guy, two hundred sixty pounds and six-foot-five easy, but his stoop-shouldered slouch and deferential posture made him look no taller than I was. “Relax,” I said. “Our money’s safe, for reasons that lie in every direction. Or actually, reasons that don’t.”
He shambled over to join me at the rail. “Okay, I see what you’re saying. You think our grants are protected because our facility’s smack in the middle of the Paiute Indian reservation. I understand the politics.”
I chuckled. Blake understood organizational politics about as well as his clumsy robots did.
“Wrong,” I said. “Not even close.”
I looked out at the silver water lapping the shore a mile away. Closer to the facility’s outer fence, the Needles—gray and white towers of calcified tufa—stood in eerie silence. They jutted from the shore of Wizard’s Cove and poked up from the water like giant broken fingers. The Needles were closed to hikers because they were ecologically fragile—a fact that also helped the Navy enforce a secure perimeter around the facility.
Blake lit another cigarette, buying himself time to figure out what I was getting at.
Off to the right, close to the lakeshore and just outside the perimeter fence, the geyser spewed its continuous jet of steaming water twenty feet into the air. The gurgle and hiss carried to the rooftop where we stood, five stories up. The geyser’s steam plume drifted through the chain-link fence, nearly reaching our height before it dissipated in the cool air.
Glancing at Blake, I decided that I needed to get out of the defense industry once my work at Pyramid Lake was done. Another two years at most. Stay in too long, and I’d end up like him, plodding from grant to grant, working pork projects that would never see the light of day. His robots would never leave the lab, I knew.
I leaned my elbows on the rail and took a deep breath of the clean, faintly alkaline air. White pelicans swarmed above Anaho Island in the distance. From where I stood, I could see the entire two hundred square miles of Pyramid Lake’s mirrored surface. As on most days, not a single boat, Jet Ski, or Waverunner rippled the glassy water.
“So what are these supposed reasons all around us that protect our funding?” Blake waved a clumsy hand at our view, trailing cigarette smoke. “We have the lake itself. Too far off the beaten track, fishing restricted while the Lahontan cutthroat population recovers, and the tufa’s too ecologically fragile for tourist dollars. The lake’s beautiful, I’ll give you that. But it didn’t bring the Paiutes a dime until the Navy leased it from them in the mid-forties.”
“As a bomb and torpedo range.” I shook my head in disgust. “Bureau of Indian Affairs must have loved that.”
“You know there’s still tons of vintage ordnance down there?” he said. “I got hold of a bathymetric survey. We should go diving some day, see what we can find.”
He ground his cigarette out against the railing and dropped it into a seventies-era sand-bucket ashtray. “Okay, so I agree, it’s probably less expensive for the Navy to keep extending the lease and subleasing to DARPA.”
I nodded. “Lot cheaper than that half-assed environmental cleanup they started ten years ago and never finished.”
“But none of this means Senator Ass-Clown has to put up with your arrogant bullshit, Trevor.”
“No,” I said. “It doesn’t.”
“Maybe if you apologized to him—”
“Think about it for a moment,” I said. “What’s north of here?”
“Black Rock Desert. A whole lot of dry, dead nothing, except during the one month a year when Burning Man’s on.” He cleared his throat. “You really have a talent for making enemies, you know.”
“Well, we have Reno, Carson City, then miles of desert, then Vegas—”
“Forget all that,” I said. “I’m talking about military, research, and government installations.”
“Okay, we’ve got UNR and UNLV. A couple Air Force bases down south—Nellis, and the drone command center at Creech. Nevada Test Range, of course. There’s the naval air station, Fallon, where they train the TOPGUN guys—”
“Yucca Mountain,” I said.
Blake frowned. “Yucca Mountain’s dead. Nobody wanted high-level radioactive waste stored there, no matter how deep they dug it. The not-in-my-backyard folks won. Obama’s Blue Ribbon Nuclear Future Commission took Yucca Mountain off the table forever, last January.”
I gave him a big grin. “Exactly.”
He tried to hide his surprise but did a lousy job. I spotted the momentary lift of his upper eyelids. Even Blake could connect the dots now. It didn’t take a genius.
Linebaugh’s only real job as senator was to bring federal money to Nevada. He had weaseled his way onto all the important funding committees, and the more pork he grabbed for his state, the better his odds for reelection would be. Pork meant military and research funds, including black project dollars for Top Secret work in Nevada. Linebaugh had to find a way to spend it all or he’d lose it, and killing Yucca Mountain meant he had fewer choices now. It was time for Pyramid Lake to get a bigger slice of the pie.
“You still shouldn’t bite the hand that feeds you,” Blake said. “But maybe I’ll keep quiet, because after the senator crosses your ridiculously oversize line item out of the budget, there’ll be plenty left over for the rest of our projects.”
I laughed. “Just for that, Blake, I’m going to call Linebaugh an ass-clown again. Right to his face. And then you’re going to watch him double my budget.”
I left him standing at the rail, shaking his head, but I needed another twelve million for Frankenstein. The reason was simple: I liked staying ahead of the competition.
I had heard that IBM had another expansion planned for Sequoia, the Blue-Gene/Q supercomputer at Lawrence Livermore National Labs. Already capable of forty petaflops, Sequoia was supposed to be the fastest computer in the world right now.
Only, I knew it wasn’t.
Thriller, Mystery, Suspense
Paul Draker - Author of Gritty Modern Mystery Thrillers
pauldraker [at] gmail [dot] com
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Paul Draker writes tightly-plotted, gritty modern thrillers that combine a well-crafted mystery whodunit with gripping psychology and relentless suspense. Each novel is an immersive roller coaster thrill ride, filled with twists that keep the reader guessing, right up until the last page.
Writing and storytelling are nothing new for Paul. In sixth grade, when he was nine, a classmate liked a story he wrote, and took it home. The horrified parents called the school and demanded that whoever wrote it be sent to see a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist asked Paul if he could keep a copy of the story... and then asked Paul to sign it for him.
Paul currently lives in Palo Alto, California, with his wife and three daughters. An avid scuba diver, he has spent much time underwater in Palau, Yap, Honduras, Thailand, Hawaii, the Florida Keys, the cenote caverns of the Yucatan, the Caribbean, the Virgin Islands, Caicos, and the "Red Triangle" off California's coast. He also enjoys skiing, swimming, and windsurfing, and has had extensive tactical training in firearms. After one too many high-speed motorcycle crashes, he is no longer allowed to own open-class sportbikes, which is probably a good thing for him and everyone else.
Paul has worked in the aerospace/defense industry on a variety of classified and unclassified programs for DARPA, Navy, Army, and Marine Corps, ranging from strategic national missile systems to technology augmentation for small-team tactical infantry units. He has also led a Silicon Valley technology startup delivering massively-scalable custom Internet software to Fortune 500 clients including Hewlett Packard and Robert Half International, and headed a leading videogame studio developing mobile games for top-tier publishers such as EA, Disney/Pixar, Sega, Warner Brothers, THQ, and Glu. He holds advanced degrees in electrical and aerospace engineering from MIT, Stanford, and U.C. Berkeley. This broad-ranging engineering expertise lends impeccable technical authenticity to his stories
Author's Book List
New Year Island
THE STAKES ARE HIGH...
Ten strangers, recruited by an edgy new reality show and marooned on an abandoned island overrun by wildlife.
One dies in a horrible accident.
Nine realize they are all past survivors, alive only because they've beaten incredible odds once before.
One by one, their hidden secrets are revealed.
Eight discover they are trapped. Caught in a game so deadly that the most terrifying experiences of their lives were only its qualifying round, they must now face the greatest danger on the island... each other.
There's nothing deadlier than a survivor-type whose back is against the wall. And one of them is not who he or she claims.
Seven fight to escape.
Six try to solve the mystery of who lured them there and why.
Five... Four… Will anyone survive New Year Island?
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