I wrote The First Secret of Edwin Hoff because so many more people should have known Danny Lewin. He should not have died on September 11, 2001 on AA Flight 11 at the age of 31. He was extraordinary. You can learn more about him here.
When I try to explain to people who never met Danny exactly what they missed, descriptions pale. I see empathetic but blank stares. Three years ago, I passed a signpost near MIT that marks a square in his honor, the slip of metal no measure of the man. But I thought, perhaps, by animating a fictional character that would influence others the way I imagine Danny might have, people could have their own experience with him. Through the magic of fiction, readers would not just hear a savored, old story about someone—they could join him on a new rocket ride.
I wrote this book to show through art what I learned from Danny in technology. I love reading thrillers, and working with Danny at Akamai in 1999 was suddenly like living one. He led by example and by surprise. He set our hair on fire. We reached, reached further, and changed. Danny had this impact on brilliant undergrads and tenured professors, sales people and engineers, investors and lawyers, Emmy award winners and chief executives, partners and competitors. What better inspiration to drive a thriller? Edwin is a fictional character—he’s not Danny—but he knows what Danny taught. I spun the plot hoping to entertain and rivet readers, and to let the characters reveal these secrets.
And, I wrote this book to heal. Losing a colleague can cause unexpectedly deep grief. But we can resolve in fiction what is impossibly broken in fact. It was nice, really nice, to work again with the person who once urged me on by telling me I was behind; who showed me how to apply steam at the first sign of lull; how to sense conflict and address it—he would provoke—to remove the risk that it would erupt later at a critical moment. It was sheer joy to imagine his next heroic adventures and to share them with readers.
Because the simplest reason I wrote the book is this: I had to get my friend off that plane.