The Gotham Chronicles>

Book 1 Quagmire in Queens::: by Brion Hathaway   See Book Cover    Cast    Alt Title    Artwork    Reviews   Plot

Hackers and phreakers from the New York City borough of Queens ruled cyberspace in the 1980s - the golden age of hacking. Mostly geeks and nerds with names like Phiber 0ptik, Sc0rpi0n, and Acid Phreak, they were an arrogant bunch who thought they owned the biggest computer system in the world: the NYNEX phone network. Fast forward to the year 2005 and John Clayton, aka The Pr0fess0r, is still cracking codes although most of his activities are now legit.
Clayton, a brilliant mathematician, was paid a large sum of money for creating an algorithm that was adopted by Wall Street as the de facto standard for encrypting their files. A proviso was attached that he safeguards the code by protecting it against hackers. The government had declared supercomputers to be illegal in civilian hands but to protect his secrets against a possible "brute force" attack by an underworld supercomputer, Clayton required and built a supercomputer himself: a cutting-edge machine named Beowulf.
Clayton and his hacker friends have been living an inconspicuous life until Beowulf discovers an assassination plot against a Queens congressman - Daniel Eng - who has just proposed legislation against the credit card industry better known as Big Bank. The group can't go to the authorities without blowing their anonymity! If they come out in the open, they'll take on the wrath of Big Bank, the assassins [read Mob], and the Feds who want to bring them in for questioning and confiscate their advanced supercomputer. Thus, the hackers face a huge quagmire of whether to reveal the plot and save the congressman's life, or stay under the radar and play it safe.

Book 2 Brouhaha in Brooklyn::: by Brion Hathaway   See Book Cover    Cast    Alt Title    Artwork    Reviews

Hot on the heels of its muckraking prequel - Quagmire in Queens - this story continues the adventures of the hackers through the side streets and a few famous places in the borough of Brooklyn. When the Mob tracks them to their exilic hideaway in the Caribbean, the hackers are forced to return to New York City where they take up secret lodgings in the upper floors of the now shuttered Brooklyn Paramount theatre.
On a shopping spree to Kings Plaza, Darla - the hackers' martial arts sidekick - is accosted by three young punks in the vast mall parking lot. After the brouhaha, one of the assailants, with just a broken bone, is taken to the hospital and dies. Darla is accused of murder by the Brooklyn police and turns to her computer hacker friends and an unlikely Brooklyn Eagle journalist to help prove her innocence.
They soon learn that other young men, homeless but otherwise healthy, have died mysteriously at the same hospital - BedStuyMed - a facility owned and operated by the giant drug company Pelzer Pharmaceuticals. The hackers assign Beowulf to dig deep into the Pelzer servers where the giant supercomputer discovers that they've been running experiments on these young men who "nobody will miss" as part of a bioterror conspiracy that could plunge the nation into a health pandemic as decimating as the Black Death of the Middle Ages - a scenario where Big Pharma would profit handsomely from the sales of their antidote.

Book 3 Mayhem in Manhattan::: by Brion Hathaway    See Book Cover    Cast    Alt Title    Artwork    Reviews

Wall Street is a lot like Las Vegas. It's a place to gamble - but on a much bigger scale. The major difference is: on Wall Street they don't use the "G" word; they use the "I" word - Investing! That's the spin that Wall Street puts on the gambling process. They call it investing to make it seem respectable. In fact, they say, you're doing a disservice to your family if you're not investing your hard-earned money in the stock market. Either way you lose because the 'house' always wins. Or does it?
The year is 2006 and something is wrong on Wall Street. There's a new kid on the block who's making more money than all the other hedge funds combined. The firm - led by an East German, Wellington Brandt - always makes the right trade at the right time while others don't. It's against all odds. And that - the mathematical improbability - is what troubles the pundits who advise Wall Street. Major players on the Street feel that the market is rigged. At their behest, the highest powers in government order the NSA to investigate and restore trust to the financial markets. When that doesn't pan out, John Clayton and his hacker friends are called in as a last resort to solve the problem, making for an unholy alliance.
The hackers literally move underground into the abandoned City Hall subway station where they tap into the Internet lines that run between the New York Stock Exchange and the world's biggest Internet hub at 60 Hudson Street. Plan A is for Clayton's outlawed supercomputer Beowulf to monitor Brandt's trades and unearth the black box trading algorithm. The other option is Plan B: Darla's plan to get into Brandt's personal life and throw him off his game. To cause mayhem. To unsettle him. To pressure him into making a mistake and giving away the illegal strategy that had made billions of dollars for his firm - Blitzkrieg Global.
Along the way, Beowulf meets his most formidable opponent, an organic computer named Juggernaut who has only one weakness: because he's an organism, he has to eat! Juggernaut is controlled by former members of the Stasi, the now defunct East German secret police who, as former rabid communists, want to strike at the very heart of Western capitalism: Wall Street.

Book 4 Brawl in the Bronx::: by Brion Hathaway    See Book Cover    Cast    Alt Title    Artwork    Reviews

In the 16th century, when most of the wealth of the New World was being shipped to Spain, England began issuing "letters of mark" to pirates. These letters of mark gave the pirates the right to land at ports controlled by the issuing nation. They also gave instructions to the navies not to attack or interfere with their piracy. These letters were issued, naturally, on the condition that the pirates share with the issuing government the loot - like gold, silver, spices and tea - obtained through pirating. Pirating, of course, involved murder, rape, plunder, destruction of cities and towns and indeed a collection of criminal acts as heinous and premeditated as can be imagined by the most creative fiction writer. It was the first instance of state sponsored crime because these acts violated England's own criminal laws and, therefore, licensed criminality on a massive scale.
In 2006, after Wellington Brandt is put away for his illegal trading activities on Wall Street, the hackers move out of their underground lodgings in an abandoned subway station beneath City Hall and move to the Bronx, to an airy, four-story brownstone on the Grand Concourse. The area is flush with academia including two colleges and three high schools, one of which - the prestigious Bronx High School of Science - Kristen decides to attend. On her way to school, Kristen is accosted by two men who try to sell her drugs. In a few minutes Darla appears and gets into a brawl with the assailants and injures them both before the police come and take them down to the local precinct. Two days later the same punks are back on the street, in the same spot, and are still dealing drugs. Darla, visibly angered, invokes Beowulf - the hacker's supercomputer - who breaches the servers of the NYPD and finds out that the punks were issued a 'letter of mark' by the Federal government and were free to go. They were untouchable!
John Clayton and the other hackers are curious and order Beowulf to dig deeper - much deeper. Using his unique 'fuzzy logic' set of algorithms, Beowulf eventually identifies the drug thugs as mercenaries, part of a group that, at one time, worked for the CIA. The hackers wonder if they're dealing with government organized crime and turn to Harry 'The Hound' Humphley, the chief gumshoe for the Central Security Service, a branch of NSA. When Harry's inquiries are categorically rebuffed by the CIA, Harry smells a rat and takes a leave of absence from his post to join the hackers in their investigation. They enlist the services of journalist and ex-wise-guy 'Sloppy' Louie Vee who, after a lifetime of crime, now writes a crime blog for the Brooklyn Eagle. Together, the three determine that drug dealing in the Bronx is just the tip of the iceberg!
Drug trafficking, arms smuggling, murder, assassination, blackmail, kidnapping and money laundering are just some of the state sponsored crimes that the hackers uncover. They even learn that the CIA organized a group of prostitutes and provided them with lavishly decorated apartments to which they could bring clients for various purposes, blackmail being just one. Their discoveries beg two questions: 1) why does the CIA need all the loot? No doubt a secret agenda that was not approved by Congress, and 2) how can you stop the most powerful nation in the world from committing these criminal acts? It's the biggest conundrum the hackers have ever faced. If, without getting killed, they can tell the world about covert U.S. government operations that break their own laws, and a subsequent cover-up, it may create the most serious Constitutional crisis of modern times.

Book 5 Storm over Staten Iland::: by Brion Hathaway    See Book Cover    Cast    Alt Title    Artwork    Reviews

In 2001, New York City closed its last remaining landfill - Fresh Kills on Staten Island - the largest 'dump' in the world, three times the size of Central Park and more than 200 feet high. It was a financial boon for trucking firms - mostly controlled by the Mob - who billed City taxpayers more than 1 billion dollars for carting the City's trash to remote locations in nearby states like Pennsylvania and Maryland. But in only a few years the cash cow seems to be in jeopardy when a team of young scientists at the College of Staten Island develops plastic eating bacteria that considerably reduces the height of a small section of the landfill. The microbes eat paper and rubber too, giving off only harmless CO2 and water. It means that carting trash away may no longer be necessary if trash management via these beneficial microbes can be conducted within the City limits. A windfall for the City but bad luck for the Mob.
But before the young scientists can divulge their secrets, two of them are murdered on the Staten Island Ferry. The third - grad student Karen Olson - disappears causing a storm of outrage by denizens of the borough. Organised crime - the Mob - is immediately suspected. The FBI is called in and the heat is turned on. Adding fuel to the fire is when the experimental section of the landfill is torched, thereby killing all the remaining beneficial bacteria.
Ex-wise-guy Louie Vee calls in a marker. He asks John Clayton and his hacker friends to investigate. His cousin Joey 'Glad Rags' Siclione 'swore on his mother's grave' that he and his clan had nothing to do with the murders and disappearance of the young scientists. And Louie believes him. And John Clayton believes Louie.
The hackers move to Staten Island, to be near the action, to the abandoned Staten Island Monastery with its myriad sub-floors, a perfect place to house their supercomputer - Beowulf. Once there, the investigation takes an unexpected twist and they need to think outside the box to find the girl, solve two murders and help the environment.

The five novels that make up the Gotham Chronicles were all inspired by the Hacker Manifesto. The novels are crafted in the muckraking genre inspired by the tireless efforts of Ida Tarbell who was one of the leading "muckrakers" of the progressive era of the late 19th and early 20th centuries and is thought to have pioneered investigative journalism.

Over the course of the five books that make up the Gotham Chronicles, Beowulf undergoes a gradual transformation from a bunch of circuit boards [in Book 1] to a spiritual being endowed with AI - artificial intelligence [in Book 5]. Read the story of Beowulf

New York City wuz first nicknamed Gotham by native son Washington Irving in 1807!

Email author Brion Hathaway