By Basil Sands
HARD CARBON carries all the edge of a Cold War thriller, with new twists that’ll have your mind spinning with the possibilities. Written with a been-there-done-that sense of reality, Salkin hits the nail right on the head.
A graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in English Literature and Communication, Salkin has been writing for as long as he can remember. Whether it was short stories, articles for trade publications, or novels, David has always been armed with a pen.
David, tell us about HARD CARBON.
Ivan “The Butcher” Bulovski is the ruthless head of the Russian Mob in Moscow. His organization is more powerful than some countries. Employing out-of-work Russian scientists and diamond cutters, The Butcher succeeds in developing synthetic diamond thin-films to create the next generation of super-computers. These computers will be used for the largest bank heist in world history.
Just two obstacles stand in The Butcher’s way—the FBI, which is following the bodies that lead from New York City to Moscow, and are getting closer every day; and one of Ivan’s diamond cutters who got spooked and took off with “The Star of Moscow.” Max, an old diamond cutter who is terrified of The Butcher, doesn’t know the flawless diamond is synthetic. If discovered, the diamond could unravel all of Ivan’s multi-billion dollar plans.
With so much as stake, The Butcher sends his former-Spetsnaz body guards after Max to track down his diamond, while evading the FBI until he can unleash his computer on the World Wide Web and crack every major bank around the globe. A rich story woven with high-tech computers, old-world characters, unlikely heroes, and action around the globe, HARD CARBON offers a glimpse into the diamond trade and cyber security.
When I wrote HARD CARBON almost ten years ago, the premise was total fiction—complete fantasy. Today, the scenario is much more likely. The Russians just hacked into secure systems and stole 1.2 billion passwords, and cyber crime is a huge problem throughout the globe. My original idea seemed like science fiction at the time, now it’s just the world in which we live.
What inspired you to write this story?
An article in Gems & Gemology about synthetic diamonds got me thinking. I’m not a computer expert to any degree, but I know that computers went from vacuum tubes and punchcards to silicon chips, and changed the world. Basically, computer speed increases with better conductors that need to be heat resistant. A synthetic diamond that can hold an electronic charge would be a “super conductor,” and heat wouldn’t be an issue. In my “guessing of how things work,” I thought that synthetic diamonds might be used to create the next generation of super computers. This concept got my mind bubbling with a story that wouldn’t leave me alone. My wife eventually “made me” write my first novel. I’ve since edited it heavily, but this was the book that started my career, even though it’s published novel number eight.
In HARD CARBON, you’re not just writing off the cuff. You actually know this topic, or at least the science of gems, pretty well. What is your background?
I’m a Master Graduate Gemologist, and co-own Salkin’s Jewel Case in Freehold, New Jersey, with my brother Eric. We’re the oldest jewelry store in town, and I grew up in the jewelry business. We travel to Antwerp, Belgium, regularly to purchase diamonds, and so writing about the diamond industry is very comfortable for me. I’ve been around in the industry in every facet, pun intended. HARD CARBON enabled me to write about a topic I know well, so the typical research requirement was almost nil.
You have seven other books as well. Are they a series or stand-alones?
My books thus far have been stand-alones, however, Post Hill Press has me under contract to re-release a book called THE TEAM as part of a three book series next year. They’re also shopping it around in LA in hopes of TV or movie options, which would of course be a dream come true.
You’re a busy man with many different things going on. Gemologist, jeweler, the Mayor of Freehold Township, New Jersey. How do you make time to write and what is your process for getting books out?
“If you want something done, ask a busy person.” I work in sprints. With a little downtime, I can re-charge and work like a maniac for days or weeks at a time. I guess I like being busy, since I keep doing this to myself. I honestly can get a lot of work done quickly when I’m in the groove. Typically, I’ll think about a book idea for days or weeks or even months before I ever touch my keyboard. I just watch the movie in my head for a while, cooking up the details until I have to start writing. Once I get to that point, I tend to work quickly. The truth is, I love my jobs—all three of them. It isn’t work if you like doing it.
What is the Sunrise Optimist Club?
A service organization that helps children. My father got me involved, and taught me as a kid that “public service is the rent you pay for the space you take up on Earth.” I also enjoy working with Wounded Warriors and helping veterans.
Now we come to the all-important, deep, internal personality evaluation portion of the interview. Consider this purely hypothetical scenario: You walk into your kitchen at three in the morning, in your boxers, to get a glass of water. When you turn on the light you find all the previous night’s dirty dishes now washed, and the entire kitchen practically sparkling, with three leprechauns sitting on the counter looking rather shocked and embarrassed at being discovered. Leprechauns being what they are, since you discovered them unawares, they offer you three wishes. What wishes would you ask for at three in the morning, in your kitchen, in your boxers?
Wish number one… put the cash on the table. A few million should do it. Wish number two… leave my house you three very strange-looking creatures, before I start shooting. (I’m not big on strangers in my house while in my underwear at three in the morning.) With a few million, I can take care of a lot of wishes myself!
David M. Salkin is the author of seven other novels, but HARD CARBON is his first hard cover, due out this September. David is an author, a Master Graduate Gemologist, and the Mayor of Freehold Township, NJ.
To learn more about David, please visit his website.
He lives in Anchorage Alaska with his wife and teen sons.