Robert Gilberg is a retired semiconductor devices executive with thirty five years of experience dating back to the earliest days of transistorized computers to today's world of digital High Definition TV and the connected home. He has many patents for integrated circuit solutions in computers, communications and security devices, and was a member of a team receiving an Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Emmy Award for digital television anti-piracy systems. He is the author of two published books: a memoir, "The Last Road Rebel and Other Lost Stories", and his first novel, "Alice Chang". A completed third novel, "A Simple Twist of Fate" is scheduled for publication in spring 2017. A forth novel is in progress and planned for publication in 2018.
Robert is a world traveler, having worked for multi-national corporations (General Instrument, Burroughs, NCR, IBM, as well as Silicon Valley start-up firms). His wide ranging travels have also included recreational trips to distant places with Nikki, his wife of 49 years and consummate traveling companion. He and Nikki are theater and music lovers who have made a life mission of seeing the greatest musicians of their ('60s and '70s) generation while they are still performing.
They live in the San Diego region with their two dogs, Sophie and Obie, and Coco, their African Grey parrot.
“Steve, Alice and their scene-stealing friend, Jim Schmidt, a "not-so-reformed-ex-hippy with a PhD. in computer science from UCSD", are all incredibly distinct characters with enough personality quirks to be realistic without veering into caricature. They ground the more sensational side of the story in reality.
A fast paced technology tale with enough international intrigue and luxurious details to rival a James Bond adventure.”
– Kirkus Reviews
In this debut thriller, an engineer investigates a plane crash only to discover a global conspiracy to hack digital satellite television systems that may involve a woman from his past.
It’s 1993 in San Diego. Steve Barton is a semiretired engineer who left his job at Video Secure, a leader in digital satellite TV technology, upon growing frustrated that the company was at the mercy of a ruthless management team looking for a quick payout. A wealthy divorcé who spends his days driving his collection of vintage cars, writing angry letters to the editor, and occasionally piloting small planes, Steve’s quiet life is thrown upside down when he witnesses a plane crash into a mysterious compound in the remote area of Fernbrook, California. Upon investigating the mishap, Steve discovers evidence of a high-level—and illegal—operation to hack into digital satellite TV systems. He also discovers that Alice Chang, a former Video Secure colleague who disappeared abruptly, may have been involved. Steve longs to know what happened to Alice, an intriguing and sharply intelligent woman who, for him, remains the one who got away. He channels his energy into investigating the crash and the leads left behind at the scene, including an encrypted message that may or may not be from Alice. The more he uncovers about the scheme and Alice’s role in it, the more danger he finds himself in. Gilberg is fluent in early ’90s technobabble, though less tech-savvy readers may find it hard to understand. Fortunately, the action and romance that the author weaves around his complicated conspiracy is enjoyable enough that readers should be enthralled even if they don’t entirely comprehend what’s happening on the hacking side. It helps that Steve, Alice, and their scene-stealing friend, Jim Schmidt, a “not-so-reformed ex-hippy with a Ph.D. in computer science from UCSD,” are all incredibly distinct characters with enough personality quirks to be realistic without veering into caricature. They ground the more sensational side of the story in reality.
A fast-paced technology tale with enough international intrigue and luxurious details to rival a James Bond adventure.
Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2016
Page count: 350pp
Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2016
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2016
Gilberg delivers a debut memoir about coming-of-age in 1950s Ohio.
The author serves as a guide to the seemingly quintessential Midwestern town of New Bremen. He shows readers a time and place in which everyone seemed to know their neighbors, from the doctors who made house calls to the farmers who needed extra help in hay season. Hardwood trees stood in abundance, so that “riding a bicycle down most of the town’s streets was like going through quiet, leafy, shady, green tunnels.” Of course, it was also a time of Cold War paranoia and fear of a polio epidemic. Gilberg also offers up a firsthand account of a time of change for young people, with rock ’n’ roll making its assault on school dances and car enthusiasts pursuing their passion for customization. It’s this latter aspect that gives the book its title and takes up a great deal of its narrative focus. Specifically, the author tells of how he helped to found an automotive club called the Road Rebels (“New Bremen was going to have a car club! Just because”) and shares their many adventures as well as his undying enthusiasm for engines. The book is most intriguing when it includes the sorts of details and anecdotes that less personal histories often overlook, such as the fact that the official Road Rebel shirt had “Safety Club” embroidered on the left sleeve or how the author earnestly participated in the retrospectively silly Civilian Air Patrol Ground Observer Corps. The book isn’t all Leave It to Beaver moments, though; death comes to New Bremen in horrific ways, and the author realizes that he eventually must move on to bigger and better things. Some of Gilberg’s reflections, such as an account of him and his friends playing with carbide cannons, don’t offer as much excitement as others do. They do, however, help to create a more complete picture of what it was like to be alive in those bygone days. A highly personal and readable remembrance that paints an appealing picture of the past.
Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2015
Page count: 266pp
Publisher: True Directions
Review Posted Online: Dec. 30, 2016
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017
A music-fancying, middle-aged widower uncovers a double album of painful secrets when he tries to find his first love, who fled Ohio for California in the late 1960s.
Gilberg (Alice Chang, 2016, etc.) offers an offbeat romantic novel about roads not taken and second chances, underscored by a fondness for ’60s music, specifically Bob Dylan’s. Ohioan Tom Patterson, in 1968, had a chance to take off for Southern California with his then-girlfriend, the exciting Dianne Wolfe, and a few other nonconformist friends who shared their fascination for Dylan lyrics and West Coast counterculture. But Tom instead chose the security of a steady job in dull Dayton and, ultimately, a fruitful marriage to a nice, politically conservative girl. By 1990, Tom’s wife is dead and their adult children are out on their own. He wonders about the what-ifs and might-have-beens, had he leapt into the unknown with Dianne all those years ago. He finds out that Dianne began a promising journalistic career with the Los Angeles Times and Rolling Stone, but then dropped off the radar. So Tom sets off across the country to find her, and along the way, he picks up a hitchhiking girl who’s running away from a repressive Kansas upbringing and seeking her birth mother in California. The wayfarer is named Suze—an apparent reference to Dylan’s former real-life girlfriend, Suze Rotolo—and seems strangely familiar. Readers will likely be able to predict a later plot revelation, and they must take it largely on faith that the undeveloped character of Dianne is the sort of person who would haunt a contented family man for decades. But the storytelling is solid, if mellow, and Gilberg doesn’t make the mistake of reflecting on the ’60s by checking off the usual laundry list of Vietnam, Woodstock, Altamont, Apollo 11, and so on. Nor does he overdo the Summer of Love nostalgia when all is disclosed about what happened to Dianne and her fellow Ohio refugees.
A Dylan-infused novel that mostly pulls off its sentiment, even though readers won’t need a weatherman to predict which way the wind blows.
Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher
Review Posted Online: June 25, 2017
A retired satellite engineer encounters karma, love, and mayhem in Gilberg’s (Alice Chang, 2016) latest novel, set in the year 2012.
Starvation Mountain is 50-something Jim Schmidt’s “motorcycle playground”; its avocado groves and stunning views give him a respite from heartbreak and the Silicon Beach rat race. He plans to build a home there and spend his days exploring Southern California on his motorcycle. When he meets a “lanky California blonde” in the area who goes by the name of Penny Lane, it’s love at first sight. He invites her along on the motorcycle ride of a lifetime, retracing the same route from Los Angeles to New Orleans that was made famous in the 1969 film Easy Rider. But Jim’s new traveling companion comes with baggage: Penny’s former boss, Mack, is in serious trouble with some sketchy, downright homicidal men. With the bad guys in hot pursuit, it seems like Jim and Penny could share the Easy Rider characters’ grim fates. But they avoid this thanks to Jim’s survival instinct—and what could possibly be the ghost of James Dean, acting as a guardian angel. Gilberg’s previous novel, in which Jim appeared as a character, traded in the high stakes of the international thriller, but this follow-up takes more of a Laurel Canyon approach, opting for a story that owes more to New Hollywood than it does to James Bond. The thrills largely take second billing to the romance, the landscape, and the motorcycle-riding life. Still, Gilberg is careful not to shortchange the reader during the action scenes, which explode with well-crafted mayhem. The author occasionally overuses italics for emphasis, but this is a minor stylistic flaw in an otherwise highly enjoyable work. Gilberg’s clear affinity for all things ’60s, exemplified by a stream of classic-rock references, makes this a must-read for hog-lovin’ baby boomers.
Get your motor runnin’ and head out on the highway with this mellow thriller that offers an affable take on road movies.
Page count: 212pp
Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher
Review Posted Online: April 17, 2018
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018
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