Collin Tobin's 'Upload' is engaging thriller

Chris Bergeron

What are your children looking at tonight on their computers?

In his suspenseful first novel, "Upload,’’ Collin Tobin turns today’s digital playground into a lethal crime scene when a typical troubled teen stumbles onto a murder-in-progress.

Pretty soon his computer-savvy protagonist, Jay Brooks, is receiving threatening e-mails: "You are being watched. We have everything we need to destroy your life and family."

Infusing the cyber landscape with the paranoia and deadly surprises of an Alfred Hitchcock thriller, Tobin has staked his claim as a mystery writer as up-to-date as tomorrow’s emails.

After studying literature and creative writing at Lander University in Greenwood, S.C., Tobin "stalled’’ on his efforts to write "an ultra-serious novel that’d change your life.’’

Then he started watching "Unsolved Mysteries’’ and realized viewers -- and readers -- want to see justice done, especially if children are in jeopardy.

"Upload’’ provides all that and more.

Tobin has written a crisp, fast-moving thriller with engaging characters and believable dialogue in a fresh voice. One of his strongest achievements is his creation of Jay’s best friend, Bennie Welch, a wheelchair-bound hacker who lives in a basement computer lab where his on-line efforts to connect with the world drive the story.

"My breakthrough came with ‘Upload,’ said Tobin. "I just wanted to have fun writing it. I wanted it to be entertaining and fun to read. That freed me up to write it and to finish it.’’

He gets his story moving in the first chapter when Jay is out driving alone, looking on his computer for Wi-Fi "hotspots.’’ After blundering onto a violent crime, he downloads a strange video transmission and pretty soon his world turns scary and spooky.

Tobin spent about a year writing his 302-page novel in three drafts, mostly on weekends while raising his 9- and 12-year-old daughters with his wife Gina who periodically proofread his novel-in-progress and gave some critical advice.

"Gina suggested I make my bad guys more menacing,’’ he said. "I was trying to be fair and made them too likeable.’’

Asked about the credibility of a plot based on teenage hackers discovering a crime that attracts vengeful criminals, Tobin answered, "There’s a lot of technology, a little bit of truth and a little whimsy.’’

After finishing his novel, Tobin spent two years checking out publishers before settling on Red Adept Publishing in Garner, N.C.

He's presently on a "virtual book tour'' with 18 "stops'' through Feb. 2. These "stops'' will have reviews of "Upload,'' interviews and Tobin's blog posts. For details of Tobin's tour, visit

"I learned writing a novel is very difficult. There’s so much work that doesn’t come easy,’’ he recalled. "There’s a lot of pain involved in creating something that’s light and entertaining to read.’’

Daily News staff writer Chris Bergeron can be reached at 508-626-4448 or Follow WickedLocalArts on Facebook and @WickedLocalArts on Twitter.