Silicon Valley Noir

Red Team Blues and the Role of Bitterness in Technothrillers.

Cory Doctorow
7 min readMar 26


A section of a high-resolution image of a secure coprocessor; superimposed over it is the graphic from the cover of the Tor Books edition of Red Team Blues, which features a male figure sprinting out of a stylized keyhole.
Pauli Rautakorpi/CC BY 3.0 (modified)

My next novel is Red Team Blues, an anti-finance finance thriller starring Martin Hench, a high-tech forensic accountant who’s spent 40 years busting Silicon Valley grifters large and small.

At 67, Marty’s seen it all, and while he is full of compassion for the victims of the scams he unwinds, his overwhelming feeling is bitterness. As he says in the opening pages of the book, after landing a job that will change his life:

Truth be told, I also didn’t want to contemplate the possibility that, at the age of sixty-­seven, the new work might stop coming in. Silicon Valley hates old people, but that was okay, because I hated Silicon Valley. Professionally, that is.

Red Team Blues is the first volume in the Martin Hench series, a series that runs in reverse chronological order. The next book, The Bezzle (Feb. 2024) is set in the mid-2010s, while the third, Picks and Shovels (Jan. 2025) is Marty’s origin story, starting in the early 1980s when Marty drops out of MIT and comes west to San Francisco in the first heroic years of the PC revolution.

Marty’s semi-voluntary defenstration from MIT is caused by his fascination with technology, which may seem ironic. But it’s a common tale —filmmakers drop out of film school because they love film, writers drop out of MFAs because they love writing, and technologists drop out of elite engineering programs because they love technology.

Many of us have experienced that youthful, all-consuming love for a tool or practice that seems to frame the whole world and promises to define our lives. It’s a heady feeling, one that makes us impatient with the plodding, formal methods of institutional instruction, which is so often backwards-looking and of limited relevance to a fast-changing world.

For Marty, dropping out and enrolling in community college to become a CPA is the right call. His love of spreadsheets is intrinsically tied to that sense of excitement about the future, because at their heart, spreadsheets are vehicles for imaginative exercises about what may come: merely model the flows of some activity or process, then change your assumptions and see what happens.



Cory Doctorow

Writer, blogger, activist. Blog:; Mailing list:; Mastodon: