Monday, March 28, 2016


Well...I finally read a decent self-published novel. As all who read my blog should know, I am not a fan (to put it mildly) of the self-publishing scene. To me, it's like a gigantic slush pile with nothing worthy of my attention and time. I used to be first-reader for a literary magazine and going through the slush pile was agonizing, frustrating, and annoying. Almost everything sent to the magazine was utter trash and after a while I lost patience with the authors of the crap that was coming across the threshold every day. The world of self-published novels is like that. 99.9% of everything that I sample is of such low quality that I find myself wishing that there had been a first-reader to prevent it all from ever seeing light at my online booksellers.

And so, for years, I have been looking for a decent self-published novel. It didn't even have to be great. All it had to be was competent. Aside from some self-published short stories, I was denied even competent fiction. I was beginning to think that there was no such thing as a good self-published novel.

At last, however, I have found one.

THE COMPUTER HEIST by Michael P. King.

With most self-published books I can tell within a few lines (sometimes just one!) whether or not the author knows what he's doing and if the book is going to justify dedicating several precious hours of my leisure time to processing the material. THE COMPUTER HEIST grabbed me from the first paragraph and so, of course, I read on. The entire chapter was good stuff and I continued to read, waiting for the inevitable moment when I realized the self-publisher was not a true writer and that I was just wasting my time.

That never happened.

King introduces the readers to "the Traveling Man and his wife" currently going by the names Joe and Tess. Joe and Tess are a married couple (not sure if they're legally married, but with this pair that's not a problem) who are not just grifters, but criminals without the problem of moral ambiguities or feelings of real guilt. We meet them at the point where they are being interviewed by a prospective employer (Samantha Bartel) who wants them to run a scam against her software corporation employers.

Joe and Tess are similar to some archetypal characters of the anti-hero from older works, but without the glow of a heart of gold seen in most of their literary predecessors. These guys are not Leslie Chateris' Simon Temlar, and they're not even Jeff Lindsay's Dexter Morgan. If you had to compare them to a modern  pop criminal, it would be Walter White from the "Breaking Bad" TV series. Yeah, they're bad guys, but not quite as bad as some of the people around them.

The scam in this well-built novel concerns wrecking a computer program in the development stage at a software company, while stealing a copy after the source material is fried. As we who read crime novels know, the situation is all not quite what it seems even when it's a criminal act. Many and varied characters are eventually tied into the plot and their actions end up weaving a sticky web of spaghetti code that would give pause to even the most brilliant of hackers. The straightforward task begins to go awry very quickly and soon all involved find themselves stuck in a nasty situation.

Can even a pair of grifters like Joe and Tess, free from the weight of conscience, work their ways clear of the grasping tendrils of criminal fate? As they try to massage the situation and tinker with the outcome and babysit the amateurs around them, we are left wondering what will happen and who will end up with the nasty end of the stick.

Pick up the novel. If you like crime fiction, if you enjoy excellent characterization, then you will get a kick out of THE COMPUTER HEIST.

I've now bought THE TRAVELING MAN, the first in the series. And to answer your question: no, you do not need to have read the first novel to understand and enjoy the second one.

THE COMPUTER HEIST by Michael P. King.

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