The Critique:

E.J. Simon’s “Death Logs In,”  the sequel to debut novel “Death Never Sleeps,” is part sci-fi, part crime thriller.  The story is reminiscent of “Transcendence,” a film starring Johnny Depp, which came out earlier this year.  The familiar themes of artificial intelligence and the Italian mafia are woven into and around the entangled love affairs of the main character, Michael. He inherits a business, but part of the package is a slew of deadly enemies.  His impending murder hangs in the air like a sinister London fog.

For us readers in Connecticut, the settings of Westport and New York City are recognizable and comfortable, but we are then swept up into over-the -pond locations such as Paris, Rome, and Venice.  This exciting international sci-fi thriller may hop around between places and events, but the author deftly spins a spider web of connections that keeps you anticipating the next chapter.

Michael’s brother Alex, who was murdered in “Death Never Sleeps,” is now back as a virtual character.  His mind was uploaded onto an Apple Mac computer using highly advanced programs found within the walls of Michael’s wine cellar.  The system works to preserve the emotional and technical aspects of a human mind within the confines of a computer.  Many are in disbelief of this modern phenomenon, so Michael tells very few people, and mistakenly confides in his wife Samantha.

The multilayer plot includes futuristic elements, but also deals with Michael’s new every day life as CEO of Gibraltar, a Fortune 500 company, and as CEO of Alex’ s company, Tartarus, one of the world’s largest illegal gambling operations. Once a straight corporate man, Michael appears to have absorbed Alex’s persona in his sudden affinity and ability for treacherous, organized crime.  This business has new requirements, including the need for a bodyguard in the form of the stunning, yet toxic, Sindy Steele.  Loyalties will be tested as the stakes reach a crescendo of unlikely twists that will leave you astounded, on the edge of your seat and eager for Simon’s next installment, “Death Logs Out,” which is coming soon.

Interview with author, E.J. Simon:

First, knowing your background in the corporate world, what motivated and interested you in writing?

I enjoyed my college writing, but abandoned it to earn a living in business. It’s a pretty typical scenario. I have always been an avid reader, however, and I think it’s been the constant reading that actually inspired me to write. Some of that reading – Stuart Woods’ novels, for instance, are not necessarily the finest “literature” but very entertaining. By the way, I’m not trying to be Tolstoy or Hemingway myself – my goal is to write great, entertaining commercial fiction.

Briefly where did you get the inspiration for “Death Logs In?”

“Death Logs In” is the follow up novel to “Death Never Sleeps” – it’s a free-standing sequel. The inspiration for both books came from two of my favorite movies: “The Godfather” and “2001 Space Odyssey.”

I loved the treatment of the family relationships and the realistic depiction of mob violence in “The Godfather.” The idea to add the aspect of artificial intelligence into my story came from “2001 Space Odyssey.” In that movie, the computer onboard the spaceship, named Hal, refuses the astronaut’s command to disconnect itself and, in fact, takes over the space craft.

Do you believe artificial intelligence, specifically what is keeping Alex “alive,” is a thing of the near future?

Yes, artificial intelligence is already at work all around us. It’s still in the early stages but, for example, “Watson” the computer defeated the best human contestants on Jeopardy already, not to mention Siri on the iPhone. I also believe that governments are using it to predict behavior in ways we can only imagine. You should also check out the Westport Library where they have two robots, Vincent and Nancy, to help teach coding and computer programming skills. They can recognize faces, respond to verbal commands and carry on conversations. Scientist Stephen Hawking and Apple Co-Founder Steve Wozniak, both have been quoted recently stating that soon computers will have a consciousness.

What was the hardest part about writing this?

Wondering if anyone was going to read it. Writing a novel is a long project, beginning with the idea, the concept, the actual writing, then editing, the creation of the actual book, getting it published and then the whole marketing effort necessary to be sure that it gets onto Amazon and into bookstores. Finally, there is the publicity work necessary to ensure that people actually purchase it.

Today, writing a novel is more like starting up a business. The book is simply the product and the beginning of the process.

Will the two novels continue into a longer series?

Yes. I’m working on the third novel in the series, it’s titled “Death Logs Out.” Alex’s artificial intelligence software is learning, as it was designed to do, and so he’s becoming more powerful.

On a more personal level, which authors do you feel have been your mentors over the years?

I’m not sure about mentors, but the authors who have influenced me to become a writer are James Patterson (not so much for his most recent writing but for his ability to capitalize on his writing, turning it into a huge commercial success) and Stuart Woods, (I love his “Stone Barrington” series; he makes it appear so effortless but, I know, it takes hard work to make anything appear to be easy). Dan Silva and Dan Brown are also my favorites, I admire their stories and their writing.

Do you have plans for other upcoming writing projects?

Yes, I’m co-authoring a true crime book with Vito Collucci, Jr., a Stamford, Conn. detective who went undercover for the FBI to uncover corruption in the Stamford police department. The book will also go into the “Bra Murders,” which occurred in Stamford, and Vito’s investigative work on behalf of  Robert F. Kennedy’s nephew, Michael Skakel, in the Greenwich murder of Martha Moxley.

What advice would you give aspiring writers?

Read a lot, write a lot, take some writing course in the genre that you want to write and never give up. I’d also recommend Stephen King’s book, “On Writing.” I like it even better than his novels.

 

E.J. Simon’s book “Death Logs In” and many others can be found for sale on his website here. Use the promo code “stags” for 20 percent off your purchase.

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