C.J., you got me. I just don't know why Silicon Valley isn't the setting for more crime fiction. There have been plenty of mysteries and thrillers set in New York, the capital of world finance and L.A., the capital of the world entertainment industry, so why not the capital of world high tech? Are writers afraid of that technology sounds boring or is it the people, the software geeks, who seem boring?
The exact location of Silicon Valley is hard to pinpoint, but I'd say its locus runs from Palo Alto down Highway 101 to San Jose. No doubt, though, that the Valley is a bubbling cauldron of ambition, envy, technology breakthroughs, and big bucks. There are industrial secrets to be stolen, spies from almost every foreign power, corporate shenanigans galore. A couple of years ago, a member of the board of the world’s largest high tech company, hired a private investigator to get the dirt on a rival member. CEO's are being sent up the river for backdating stock options and allegedly stealing hundreds of millions or more from stockholders. Two engineers are on trial right now for selling secrets to China. Holy mackerel!
In my latest, Smasher, we have a billionaire taking advantage of depressed market conditions to try to steal away our hero’s high-tech company. At the same time, Stanford professors are stealing credit for breakthroughs in particle physics. (I know it sounds technical, but it’s not. I’m a history major for Pete’s sake.) Good crime fiction is about people and what motivates them, how they react to extraordinary circumstances. Of course, in writing about the Valley, I want to throw in enough insider stuff to make it interesting, but not so much to turn it into a textbook.
Still, writing crime fiction set in the Valley is not quite as lonesome as it once was. Maybe it’s because we live in a world where so many of us use products from Google, Apple, Facebook, and other Valley companies. Readers are starting to wonder about the folks who come up with this stuff. What's the story behind those nerds and billionaires? I’m glad to see my amigo Barry Eisler started the action in his latest, Fault Line, here in Palo Alto before he moved it up to San Francisco. Maybe one day we can have a Silicon Valley chapter of International Thriller Writers that will take up more than a single booth at Peninsula Creamery in downtown Palo Alto.
As counsel to the Senate Intelligence Committee, Keith Raffel held a top secret clearance to watch over CIA activities. As a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, he founded UpShot Corporation, the award-winning Internet software company. These days he stays busy writing his mysteries and thrillers in his hometown of Palo Alto, California. His latest novel, Smasher, is out this month. Check out his website and book trailer at www.keithraffel.com.