PERSONAL: Born in Detroit, MI; married; children: three daughters. Education: University of Michigan, B.A., M.A.
ADDRESSES: Home—MI. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Warner Books, 1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020.
CAREER: Architect and writer.
Spyder Web, Seanachaoi Press (Dexter, MI), 1997.
Quantum, Warner (New York, NY), 2000.
ADAPTATIONS: Spyder Web and Quantum have been released as audiobooks.
SIDELIGHTS: Michigan architect Tom Grace penned his first work of fiction in his free time between designing buildings for corporate clients. When it was finished in 1997, Grace self-published his novel, Spyder Web, and sold it out of his car. The book was chosen by a Traverse City, Michigan, bookstore as the "manager's pick of the summer," and sales there gained it the number-three spot behind the latest novel by John Grisham. With sales of a thousand copies under his belt, Grace eventually found agent Esther Margolis to represent him, and Warner Books released Spyder Web in 1998.
Spyder Web is set in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and features protagonist Nolan Kilkenny, a decorated former Navy SEAL working towards his doctorate in advanced computer science. Nolan is maintaining the super computers of the Michigan Applied Research Consortium (MARC), his father's research project. A prototype hacking program being developed for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is stolen by former KGB agent Alex Roe and his accomplice, Ian Parnell. The program has been developed to gather information on the Peoples' Republic of China. The thieves test it on the MARC mainframe, and Nolan detects a signal he first perceives as a minor technical problem. Assisted by professor and love interest Kelsey Newton, Nolan cooperates with the CIA and applies both his SEAL and technology experience in tracking down the hackers. The trail leads him to a series of locales that ends at the London hideout of Roe and Parnell. Chinese intelligence operative Kang Fa makes several unsuccessful attempts to kill Nolan as he closes in on the thieves.
Reviews of Grace's novel were mixed. A Publishers Weekly reviewer wrote, "The sizzle of a good thriller is missing," and called the story's language "jargonlarded." While dubbing the novel's plot "promising," the reviewer maintained that "Grace's pacing impedes it." In a Kirkus Reviews evaluation, the critic noted that the finale "offers an exciting close to an otherwise all-too-predictable story," calling Spyder Web "a spirited if clunky technothriller. . . . A first effort that puts the right pieces in play, but moves them around without flair." Library Journal reviewer Rebecca House Stankowski countered with her opinion that Spyder Web offers "international intrigue, realistic characters, lots of technical wizardry, and a reasonably suspenseful story line." A Booklist reviewer called Spyder Web an "entertaining thriller" and "solid genre fare for the computer literate."
In an interview with Publishers Weekly contributor Charles Hix, Grace commented on his newly gained status as a novelist. "My job description has flipped over," he stated. "I used to be an architect first, a writer second. Now I'm a writer first who practices architecture." Grace had hopes that Spyder Web would be "the worst thing I'll ever write, and that everything else will be better."
Grace's second book featuring Nolan Kilkenny, Quantum, garnered postive critical reviews. In 1948, a German scientist working at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor makes a staggering discovery, a "Theory of Everything," that will create an endless energy supply and make all other sources obsolete, but is shot dead just minutes later. Fifty years later, Kilkenny and his research group, MARC, comes across the research. They are soon attacked by Russian mercenaries hired by a rich businessman in Russia. A Publishers Weekly reviewer wrote, "A few explosive action scenes . . . enliven this nicely textured adventure," while Booklist reviewer Budd Arthur called Quantum a "classy, stylish thriller."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, September 1, 1998, review of Spyder Web,p. 70; July, 2000, Budd Arthur, review of Quantum,p. 2012.
Kirkus Reviews, November 1, 1998, review of Spyder Web.
Library Journal, October 15, 1998, Rebecca House Stankowski, review of Spyder Web, p. 97.
Publishers Weekly, September 15, 1997, Judy Quinn, "Margolis Gets Big Deal—From Another House," p. 12; August 3, 1998, Charels Hix, "Tom Grace," p. 52; November 9, 1998, review of Spyder Web,p. 56; July 24, 2000, review of Quantum, p. 69.
Time Warner Web site,http://www.twbookmark.com/ (November 7, 2002), interview with Tom Grace.