- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, legendary basketball star, author and jazz aficionado
A Reign Supreme: A Novelby Richard Crystal
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When a copper deposit is discovered on the land of the Makenda tribe in eastern Kenya, a young king, Ule Samanga, is told to relocate his people to a refugee camp in Nairobi or risk imprisonment. When all appears lost, the young king discovers the existence of Curtis Jackson, a mysterious half brother presently living in New York. Believing this unexpected news to be an omen from the spirit of his ancestors, he eagerly seeks Curtis’s help to save their sacred tribal homeland. A struggling mortgage broker and former jazz prodigy, Curtis initially has no interest in developing a relationship with his newly found African family. But when he’s presented with an intriguing business offer, he embarks on a journey to Africa that becomes a spiritual odyssey, changing him in ways he never imagined.
In this assured debut, Richard Crystal weaves a complex story of contemporary moral imperatives conceived during Obama’s victorious election as America’s first black president. Themes of corporate malfeasance and exploitation will resonate with readers of The Constant Gardener and Blood Diamond. But beyond the various political machinations, readers will find a heartwarming story infused with the strains of Coltrane, the history of jazz, and the enduring power of family.
- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, legendary basketball star, author and jazz aficionado
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Read an Excerpt
A Reign Supreme
By Richard Crystal
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2013 Richard Crystal
All rights reserved.
Thomas Ngali stood by his Land Rover smoking a cigarette when he first heard the distant sound of the Cessna rapidly approaching the Moi International Airport in Mombasa.
It was going to be another hot day in eastern Kenya and he was relieved that they would be getting an early start before the African sun rose high in the sky.
The rubber wheels gently kissed the narrow runway in a textbook landing. As the plane rolled to the nearby hangar, the propellers ceased spinning and came to a quiet halt.
Hans Schmidt emerged with calm assurance. It was a smooth flight and, after all, he only had to travel from Johannesburg.
He spotted Ngali and waved in familiar recognition as he made his way down the short staircase that brought him to the firm footing of solid ground.
Dressed in his safari khakis with a leather satchel draped over his shoulder, Hans was a striking figure, a handsome Aryan man in his mid-fifties. His hair was still thick and blond, his skin weathered and tan from a recent excavation in Botswana. It was no fluke that his face had made the cover of Mining Weekly on three separate occasions.
He quickly approached the Land Rover with confident strides.
"Thomas Ngali?" he asked simply.
"Nice to meet you, sir. Would you like some coffee or tea?"
"No, thanks. I'm anxious to see the site."
"Very well, then. As you wish."
Ngali threw his cigarette on the ground and crushed it under the heavy sole of his work boot. He opened the car door for Hans, took his seat quickly behind the wheel and they were soon on their way.
* * *
Joseph Gatimu couldn't sleep. He breathed a sigh of relief when he saw the first rays of sunlight rising in the eastern sky over the distant Shimba Hills.
He made a fire and cooked an egg. He wiped the runny yolk with a piece of bread and drank a cup of coffee. As he sipped the warm beverage, he remembered how a thunderstorm forced him to seek shelter and he found the cave. He was only ten.
His mother told her young son that it was the benevolent work of the spirits. How else could you explain it? And she knew that if he ever wanted their help again, he needed to repay the kindness of their blessing.
And so the young boy asked Chermog, the mystical wise man in his rural village of the Makenda, to make an offering. A simple but heartfelt "thank you" to his departed ancestors for their guidance and protection. It filled him with gratitude but more importantly, made him feel safe.
And now, so many years later, on this wonderful sunny day, the spirits would finally repay his debt of thanks with a gift. A gift that would make him a rich man and change his life.
* * *
Gatimu waited anxiously at the mouth of the river. He bent his head down and closed his eyes. And then he heard something familiar in the distance.
It was the sound of an engine. He quickly stood up and made his way to the top of the small hill. He looked out to see the Land Rover making its way across the plain and the face of Thomas Ngali behind the wheel.
Gatimu's painful look of doubt eased into a broad, confident smile. He had worried for nothing.
After the customary introductions, Ngali reached into the back of his rover, removed a toolbelt and fastened it around his waist.
"What a beautiful, day," Hans said simply, admiring the scenery.
"Quite beautiful," Gatimu replied. "It's a good omen."
"We'll find out soon enough. Where to?"
"Above that crest," answered Gatimu, pointing to the rise above the river.
"Very good, Gatimu. After you."
Gatimu waited for Hans to slip his arms through the straps of a small backpack and they began to make their way uphill.
They quickly reached the top of the bluff and looked down into a green pasture. A herd of impala were feeding on the tall grass and stopped when they heard the sounds of footsteps in the distance. Their ears rose in attention and their big brown eyes anxiously looked out to see if the three humans meant them any harm.
Even though he had seen these beautiful creatures hundreds of times before, Hans still couldn't resist removing his Leica digital and capturing the moment. It was the early morning light and especially beautiful.
After another quarter mile, Gatimu indicated a rocky crest at the back end of the pasture that reached into the sky. They continued through the bush and soon approached the jagged gray stone at the base of the mountain.
As they made their way along the rocky trail, the opening of the cave soon presented itself.
Hans smiled expectantly. "Well, well, well. Look what we have here."
Ngali, flashlight in hand, followed Gatimu and Hans inside the stony darkness.
Gatimu continued for some two hundred yards then stopped and indicated the rusty brown colored interior walls. Glistening particles stuck to the toughened skin of his palm as he felt the rough surface. He extended his hand and showed it to Hans.
"Very interesting," Hans stated. "I'll need to take some samples."
Hans removed a small pickaxe and chipped away some stone. He raised it close to his eyes so he could study it in greater detail, then stored it safely in his backpack.
For the next three hours, Hans explored the rough innards of this hollowed space, taking measurements and additional pieces of rock.
After his work was done, Hans emerged from the cave to join Ngali and Gatimu in the afternoon sunshine. They were smiling in joyful expectation of the fortune that awaited them.
"So, boss," Ngali said excitedly. "Good news, then?"
"Sorry, gents, but I'm afraid there's nothing there," he replied. "I'll analyze the materials in the lab to be absolutely certain but I'm quite sure it will only support my initial findings."
Ngali shrugged it off. He wasn't a lucky man but at least he got paid a fee for the use of his Land Rover.
Joseph Gatimu, on the other hand, was still eternally optimistic. The spirits were watching over him and had put this opportunity in play.
Something good was supposed to come from all of this. Of that he was quite certain.
But what?CHAPTER 2
The Men's Club in Houston wasn't some seedy "titty" bar in some depressed industrial area where rents were cheap. This was the very top of topless, a beautiful environment to eat the best steak, sample the finest wine and appreciate the most beautiful women.
Michael Lassiter sat beside his date and stroked the inside of her thigh as he nursed a Ketel One straight up with a couple of olives. The sensual beat of Brazilian bossa nova encouraged the long-legged topless dancer to undulate her muscular body in slow, erotic, pulsating waves. He loved to bring women here. It was a complete and total turn on.
"I'd give anything to see you up there," Michael said with a sly grin.
The young woman playfully leaned over so Michael could see the shape of her full breasts falling out of her low-cut blouse. She looked down to see the bulge in his slacks and replied with a seductive smile, "I bet you would."
They couldn't even wait to get back to his apartment. He went down on her in the back seat of his Lexus in the underground parking lot. She got off in record time and quickly repaid the favor.
As she applied some lipstick and he zipped up his pants, Michael got a message on his Blackberry.
It was from Hans Schmidt in Johannesburg and there was a file attached. This was the news he'd been waiting for.
He was immediately stricken with a painful migraine, abruptly dropped off his date and raced home. She was nice enough and gave great head but there were plenty more just like her.
For you see, Michael didn't want any distractions. He wanted to read the report alone, savor its meaning in the privacy of his own home, and celebrate his victory with a glass of his favorite red wine.
Michael Lassiter had only been at his job with Thornburg Industries for a year and a half since he graduated near the top of his class at Wharton, but he needed to make a score.
Well, he didn't really need to, because his boss, Elliot Thornburg, was paying him a healthy six-figure salary and an extremely generous expense account. But that was just chump change.
The big money, the real money, was the bonus payment at the end of the year. But Thornburg didn't just hand out expensive gifts because it was the Christmas season and he liked you. You had to earn it.
Michael understood that completely. But he was driven by the knowledge that he was insanely competitive and jealous of the fact that some of his fraternity brothers had already become multi-millionaires from their creative dealings in Wall Street investment firms. It drove him crazy and he didn't want to be left behind.
He sat before his computer screen and went to his inbox. He grabbed his mouse confidently and clicked to open the report. He began to read with eager anticipation and quickly went into shock.
The best way to deal with the painful disappointment was to release his anger verbally. "Goddamn it. You fucking motherfucker, cocksucking asswipe "
How could this be? It seemed such a wonderful, incredible twist of fate that Thomas Ngali, his local African driver, knew about a cave where there were undiscovered precious metals. It fell into his lap like a gift from God.
Oh, fuck me. I guess God was an Indian giver.
Michael quickly got over the anger of his disappointment that the cave would bear no fruit and anxiously thought about the consequences of his impulsive action.
He was the one that eagerly forged ahead and solely authorized the exploration. He was the one that was left holding the bag. He was the one completely and utterly responsible for the twenty-five grand in development expenses with nothing to show for it.
Oh, hell, Miguel. That's part of the game. Michael Lassiter took a flyer and that's what great people do. You've got to spend money to make money, right?
True, but in his eagerness to find a solution to his financial dream, he wasn't very thorough. Who was this Thomas Ngali anyway? Could he be trusted?
He never took the time to find out, completely relying on his people instinct. Bad impulsive idea.
It definitely wasn't going to fly with his boss. Elliot Thornburg was anything but a people person. It was all in the numbers.
But Michael was in Houston - the home of Enron. And he suddenly had an idea. A simple, clean idea that would instantly make him a very rich young man and validate Thornburg's decision to make him the Vice-President in charge of new projects.
For one lesson he learned at Wharton and from his friends on Wall Street was that it was all an illusion. It was all about perception, projected earnings and the promise of things to come.
And now the time had arrived for Michael to put that well-learned lesson to good use.
Michael probably had one shot to sell his idea and didn't want to blow it. It had to be presented in just the right way. Not to be too conspicuous. Too obvious. It was just another strategy, another approach among many, to simply improve the company's bottom line.
Michael knew with complete and utter certainty that his charismatic boss, Elliot Thornburg, didn't build his multi-billion dollar company because he was lucky. He was a brilliant, great white shark, feeding on the weaknesses of his competition. His success was unparalleled because no one loved the thrill of another corporate conquest more than he did.
The question was whether or not Thornburg would take the bait. There was only one way to find out.
The first thing Lassiter needed to do was carefully rewrite the original survey report from Hans Schmidt to reflect the discovery of a vein of chalcopyrite that compared favorably to the copper mine in Tsumeb, Namibia. Feeling secure with the look and feel of the new document, he decided to think about strategy.
He would make his pitch to Thornburg at his weekly department update on Friday morning. There was no need to rush.
For the next three days, he explored any number of objections and had a thoughtful answer for each one. He now felt much more comfortable with the idea and was eagerly looking forward to presenting it.
Friday morning rolled around before he knew it. He walked into Thornburg's impressive office with positive energy and a confident stride.
Thornburg was trying out a new Odyssey putter on the small practice putting green he installed in front of the spacious picture window that overlooked downtown Houston. Michael smiled assuredly. It was perfect.
"You don't mind if I work on my short game while you bring me up to speed, do you?"
"Not at all."
"You don't play, do you?"
"Never really had the time."
"Funny thing about golf. You hit a drive two hundred yards and it counts the same as a six-foot putt. Doesn't seem fair, does it? But after you've played the game you begin to appreciate the difficulty of that little six-foot shot and the absolute precision needed to sink it. The mental toughness required to stay completely focused, to be patient and examine the green from every angle, to keep your head down and make sure to follow through. One small detail overlooked turns certain success into failure. It's a great teacher, Michael. And that's why I love it so."
"I think it's great that you do."
"Anyway, to more serious matters. Whenever you're ready."
Michael decided to soften Thornburg up with some good news first. That was always a smart way to go.
"The titanium mining operation in western Canada is doing extremely well. As fast as we can mine it, China and India are buying it. We're up year over year about 22 percent."
"Excellent. How are we doing in Latin America?"
"Venezuela is a problem. Primarily political."
"Keep a dialogue going. Everyone has their price."
Thornburg set him up perfectly. It was an eighty-five mile per hour fastball right over the heart of the plate. Michael knew he had to swing at it. If he didn't, he'd regret it for the rest of his life.
"We sent our people to eastern Kenya to survey a potential source of copper. Not a lot there. But I still think we should try and make a deal."
"Why would we do that?"
"Wall Street will think we've hit pay dirt again and the stock should get a really nice bump. Sell five, ten million shares and you can walk away with at least thirty million in profit."
"It's an interesting play. We'll have to make it look right."
Shit, Michael. Thornburg didn't even flinch. He liked it. Jump all over it and close the fucker.
"Absolutely. We do some initial excavation. Give the government a taste, and then abandon the project when it doesn't deliver."
"What's our exposure?"
"Minimal at best. And we always have the precedent of the war in Iraq to point to. They never did find those weapons of mass destruction, am I right?"
Thornburg acknowledged the clever analogy as he stared out the window.
"Who's the point person?" he continued, probing deeper.
"Aja Hasani. Very ambitious. Wants to move up in the world."
"Can we trust her?"
"Absolutely. We went to Wharton together."
"You didn't fuck her, did you?"
"No. But I sure as hell wanted to."
"Maybe you will now."
Lassiter smiled knowingly and started to exit.
"Don't get overconfident. Study it from every angle."
"Like a six-foot putt."
Lassiter stepped out of the office and casually made his way down he carpeted hallway. He tried to hide his excitement but his body was literally tingling. "Like a six-foot putt" was such a brilliant comeback line. Absolutely genius.
He told his secretary to hold all his calls and gently but firmly closed the door to his office.
He wanted to savor this moment and record it in his memory forever.
By the end of the year, Michael Lassiter, at the ripe old age of twenty-nine, would reach the Promised Land and quickly become the envy of each and every one of his Wall Street buddies.
What a fuckin' rush!
Excerpted from A Reign Supreme by Richard Crystal. Copyright © 2013 Richard Crystal. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Richard Crystal has produced and written countless television shows and penned numerous screenplays for theatrical feature films in Hollywood. He has sung and produced four pop jazz albums, performing the classic standards he first heard as a young boy growing up in a house filled with music. A Reign Supreme is his first novel, inspired by a trip to South Africa and Botswana on his twenty-fifth wedding anniversary with his wife, Fran.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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2.5 stars Did I enjoy this book: It was mediocre. Stereotypical, predictable, and unlikeable pretty much sum up the characters and plot in A Reign Supreme. He starts out with unique storyline. But you see the ending coming from about 5% into the book. From there you just have to see how it happens. The Americans in the novel are immature, brash, and immoral. They act more like bratty frat boys than international business professionals. And that was probably the biggest turn-off for me. The one bright spot is when Mr. Thornburg fires Michael Lassiter. But you have to stick it out to the end to enjoy it. Would I recommend it: No. Will I read it again: No. As reviewed by Belinda at Every Free Chance Book Reviews. (I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.)
The plot is good but the book is in need of careful editing. The author uses sex, editorializing, and stilted dialogue to fill in a rather interesting story line.
An exceptional story!