See/Saw: A Novel
My second novel, See/Saw, has been accepted by Ink Smith Publications for publication in the next few months.
Here's a synopsis, and then some comments by Shelly Singer, the noted novelist:
America in the year 2030: Storefront businesses serve “donors” who sell episodes from their memories (“memplants”) to anyone willing to pay for them. Memplanting began as a tool for psychotherapy, but inevitably became devoted to the buying and selling of memories of sex (“sexmems”).
ROBERT MORGAN has just lost his job of assistant professor at a California university. For solace, he searches on line for sexmem ads, finding a promising offer from Alex, a dissolute young addict. Alex wants to sell a mem of having sex with a lookalike of the mysterious TV singing/dancing superstar, TRUDA VALLON, Morgan’s idea of ultimate sex appeal.
Morgan and Alex meet at a local memlab, where the memory transfer takes place. As always, the seller no longer has the mem. At home that evening, Morgan plays the mem in his mind, but is jolted to discover that in addition to sex, it shows, in the background, a woman being murdered on a rooftop across the street from Alex’s apartment. Morgan now understands why Alex was eager to sell this particular sexmem.
Morgan rushes to Alex’s and finds him gone. Alex has taped a note to his door identifying Morgan as the only one who can now ID the murderer. Morgan hides out overnight in a hotel room, but hesitates to call police because he’s not sure that the mem he bought was real, or when it was made. The next morning, he goes to the rooftop and finds the body of a woman wearing a lanyard from Truda Vallon’s mega-million dollar production company, TruVal, Inc. Morgan now knows for sure that there has been a real crime. He goes to police HQ, where he is interviewed by detective DENNIS DeLUCA.
DeLuca doesn’t quite believe Morgan’s story, but sends a patrol to examine the rooftop. Officers find bloodstains, but no body. DeLuca dismisses Morgan’s worries about his safety: DNA will be extracted, databases searched, all routine. “Just go home,” he says. Morgan, however, knowing he’s in the murderer’s sights, follows his only lead: the lanyard. He calls TruVal. To his surprise, TruVal’s VP, ATHENA TAYLOR, is immediately on the line, very much interested in what Morgan has seen. She sends a car for him.
At TruVal, Morgan meets Taylor and her boss, the woman of his sex-dreams, Truda Vallon. DeLuca has informed “Tru” that the victim has been ID’d as freelance photographer Terra Lewis, who often did shoots for TruVal. Morgan, Tru, and DeLuca team up to discover why Lewis was killed, and by whom. Tru has a secret, however: she was the “Truda Vallon lookalike” who, pretending to be a cheap hooker made up to look like Truda Vallon, had sex with Alex. Terra Lewis was assigned to photograph the event for a scandalous TV show Tru was planning. Tru has no idea who murdered Lewis, or why, and assumes that she herself was the intended victim.
Morgan is still in the killer’s sights, and escapes with his life by the narrowest of margins.
Based on a partial ID by Morgan, DeLuca comes to believe that the killer was a professional hit man named Charles Barnes, well known to the local police but never convicted. DeLuca questions Barnes, who has his usual iron-clad alibi. It becomes apparent that Barnes does not know who hired him, and doesn’t want to know. Something that Barnes inadvertently says, however, leads DeLuca to believe that the hit man’s payoff had been sent via a Singapore bank.
Tru, Morgan, and DeLuca dig into Lewis’s employment records in the TruVal archives, and identify suspicious records of travel by Lewis to Singapore. Morgan and DeLuca fly there and uncover a record of contacts between a U.S. Senator and a prominent North Korean scientist. They believe that Lewis stumbled onto a conspiracy, attempted blackmail, and had been eliminated by the Koreans. Returning to the U.S., Morgan and DeLuca again connect with Tru. They discover that Taylor is part of the Senator’s scheme.
Tru sends Taylor, on a ruse, to Washington, believing that she will take the opportunity to meet with the Senator. Morgan, Tru, and DeLuca follow Taylor and confront the two of them having dinner in the private dining room of an elegant restaurant on Pennsylvania Avenue. The Senator admits that their scheme involves selling advanced memlab technology to the North Koreans, but, he says, he acted in America’s best interests. The Koreans intend to use this technology, key parts of which were developed at TruVal under Taylor’s management, to make their citizens “remember” how loyal they are to their government. The Senator’s people, however, have secretly inserted memories of how much the Koreans love the U.S. and would never begin a nuclear war. The Senator’s plan backfires, however, as the Koreans hack into the software and use it to make Americans “remember” that North Korea is their closest ally and needs to keep, and perhaps use, its nukes.
Meanwhile, Morgan and Tru have become close. Morgan has gained strength from his experiences, has emerged from avoidance to engagement. On the verge of intimacy, Tru admits that she is biologically male, a secret that the webloids have been unable to discover. After Morgan’s shock wears off, he realizes that he loves her regardless. They make love. Morgan has his “dream girl” for real now, not just in his dreams. The next morning at breakfast the two wonder what all the fuss about those North Korean nukes had been -- America’s best friends, after all!
from Shelly Singer:
"Your writing had me smiling, laughing, shaking my head. Beautiful--no, brilliant--work. I love see/saw, modding the mem. The sickly purple sunrise over Oakland. Morgan's evolution from passivity to fear to resolve. The Transylvanian corpse. The butch bodyguards.
I hate to miss any of it. Really, it's that good.".