Breaking point

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

We’d like to acknowledge the assistance of Martin H. Greenberg, Larry Segriff, Denise Little, John Helfers, Robert Youdelman, Esq., and Tom Mallon, Esq.; Mitchell Rubenstein and Laurie Silvers at Hollywood.com, Inc.; the wonderful people at Penguin Putnam Inc., including Phyllis Grann, David Shanks, and Tom Colgan. As always, we would like to thank Robert Gottlieb of the William Morris Agency, our agent and friend, without whom this book would never have been conceived, as well as Jerry Katzman, Vice Chairman of the William Morris Agency, and his television colleagues. But most important, it is for you, our readers, to determine how successful our collective endeavor has been.

“And who wrote the tune, you dare to ask? You know who wrote it— it’s the Devil’s own music, hot and sweet, and surely damned will be the man who turns his ear toward it. ”

—SEAN PATRICK O’MAHONEY

PART ONE

All Politics Are Local

PROLOGUE

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

Daru, China

The sun rose from the gray sea and cast a fitful light upon the wrinkled features of Old Zang where he sat on the weathered bench outside the house, leaning forward slightly on his cane. He was often up with the sun these days to enjoy the dawn, knowing he would not have so many more he could afford to waste them. But instead of making him sad, the thought made him angry.

This day seemed somehow sharper than normal. His clouded sight was clearer, his hearing keener, and even the wan rays upon his skin felt somehow more intense than usual.

Old Zang had but recently moved to the village of Daru. A mere dozen years or so ago, a blink of an eye for a man his age, he had been forced to leave his real home, which was flooded by the monstrous dam project that forever altered the face of China’s rivers. At ninety-four, he had outlived his wife, several of his children, and even a few of his grandchildren, and he did not like it here, staying with one of the grandchildren he had not outlived. Oh, his room was comfortable enough, the bed soft—not an inconsequential thing when one’s bones were as old as his—but the village was a mud hole of a place and not where one wished to depart from the Earth to join one’s ancestors.

On the mainland across the stormy Formosa Strait from Taiwan, on the coast just north of Quanzhou, Daru was peopled with many elderly residents, some victims of the cursed dam, such as himself, some who had actually lived and grown old here. Save for a few younger souls, fishermen mostly, it was a place of old men and women waiting to die.

Thinking about his forced relocation brought Zang to anger again, and this time, the rage seemed to fill him with a hot glow, from his feet to his face, staining red even his thoughts. How dare they do such a thing? The foolish communists who saw everything in terms of their immoral philosophy had ruined the country in but half a lifetime. He had hoped to live long enough to see the children of Mao plowed under, but he was beginning to realize it was not to be. And this angered him even more. He was old, old! He had worked hard all his long life, and what was his reward? To be shunted to a half-wit grandson’s home in a mud hole village unfit for pigs? It was not right.

Zang gripped the heavy cane tightly, and the veins in his hands stood out to join the tendons and gnarled arthritic joints under paper-thin and brown-spotted skin. His rage