Editor's note: Today and tomorrow, we have an exciting “preview” to share with you. If you've been reading the Dispatch, you probably know Casey Research founder and New York Times bestselling author Doug Casey just published a brand-new novel.
Speculator is a riveting tale that follows protagonist Charles Knight, a 23-year-old man who goes on a thrilling mining adventure and ends up risking it all in a far corner of the earth. Speculator has already received high praise around the industry…and it's a must-read here in our office.
We want you to see why for yourself. So over the next two days, we're giving you a “sneak peek.” We hope you enjoy…and have a wonderful Thanksgiving.
Chapter 1, Part 1
A Resolution Almost Unresolved
(A Cliffhanger in the Jungle)
Charles Knight stood tall at the edge of a precipice. Far below, the tumultuous Bangu River scoured its path along an ancient fault while its roar echoed up the canyon walls it had carved over the eons. He gazed over hundreds of square miles of thick African bush.
The decades-old geologic surveys conveyed none of the continent’s colors, its fragrance, the weight of its air. To the north stood steep hills capped with erosion-resistant dark-green basaltic rock—the congealed blood of extinct volcanoes. To the west, a ghostly band of gray clouds, pregnant with rain, floated at the horizon. When the rain arrived, it would come in torrents, the likes of which few people on the planet ever experienced.
The ledge on which Charles now stood had suffered the assault of such rain for millennia. Little remained of the limestone glue that had, for all that time, maintained the integrity of the rock. The additional stress of his 180 pounds simply proved too great. With a sound no louder than a sigh, the once solid rock transformed into fluid under his feet. He felt it happen. He knew what it implied. Gravity, its will defied too long, would wait no more.
He reached for anything solid and found nothing. Sadness at lost opportunities weighed upon him more than fear. His twenty-three years of life would end as an irregular stain on the jagged brecciated rock two hundred feet below, a stain that would appear only after agonizing bounces off outcrops that would mangle his body on the way down.
There was nothing Charles Knight could do but die.
And the nearest person who would give a damn was 5,000 miles away.
“So. What do you want in life, Charles?”
His Uncle Maurice asked him this with the air of a wealthy man who knew the workings of the world. They were the first words that Uncle Maurice had ever said to him beyond a brusque grunt that served as an initial greeting. Charles had just turned thirteen, and it was both his first trip back East and the first time he had met his uncle, his mother’s mysterious—and reputedly dangerous—brother.
The boy sat in the great man’s luxury apartment among a bewildering assortment of financial newspapers and corporate reports, surrounded by walls sheathed with books. He’d been assigned one of the spare bedrooms and given to understand he could stay until the end of summer, or until he wanted to go back to Montana. Or until Uncle Maurice asked him to leave. Whichever came first.
Uncle Maurice was an intimidating man. He had a big head that Charles knew was filled with brains and packed with knowledge. And a formidable body that, though bursting with fat, was full of heart. Or so his mother used to say.
Charles shifted to sit upright on the couch, pushing aside some scattered debris of his uncle’s unkempt lifestyle. After a moment’s hesitation he looked at his uncle and replied simply, although his voice cracked with a combination of tension and the hormonal changes of adolescence.
“I want to live a good life.” He hesitated again. Then, eyes sparkling with more enthusiasm: “And an adventurous, maybe an exotic one.”
Uncle Maurice raised the eyebrows on his expansive forehead and pursed his lips between prodigious cheeks. His expression changed from one of brief surprise to one of interest, now studying his nephew with closer attention. He then followed his first question with a challenge.
“Charles, I expected less from a boy your age. I’m impressed. So I’m giving you an assignment. You will define for me, and for yourself, on paper and in detail, exactly what you mean by a good life.” Maurice paused for a moment and scratched at his round chin. “And tell me what you mean by exotic. These concepts aren’t normally mentioned together, certainly not by someone your age. The one brings to mind a monastery, the other a Bangkok cathouse.”
Because he was still in school—a situation that would not persist much longer—Charles was accustomed to teachers assigning mind-numbing fluff to no useful end other than to occupy his time. But his own uncle assigning him homework just wasn’t fair. It was summer vacation. His mother had died three weeks ago. He hadn’t come to New York to write an essay for this man. He came here because his father—consumed in grief—thought the time apart would be good for both of them.
“When is it due?” Charles asked, with just a touch of ill-concealed distaste. Based on his school assignments, he presumed a deadline for filling several pages with conventional thoughts in order to please a teacher who was herself just going through the motions.
Exploring the city from the top of the Empire State Building to the tunnels in the subway system had a lot more appeal than writing a paper. As did visiting the Natural History museum and studying the exhibits at his own pace without the distraction of other students. Or climbing into the torch of Lady Liberty—whether or not it was legal. What adventure would he have to sacrifice to write a pointless essay? This assignment would at the very least cause him to defer reading The Count of Monte Cristo, which he had squeezed into his travel backpack that morning before he boarded the plane.
But it turned out Uncle Maurice was nothing like those teachers. He was more like a co-conspirator.
“Charles,” the great man said, “you need to explore New York for now. First things first. Your assignment isn’t due tomorrow. Nor next week.”
That was a relief.
“In fact,” Uncle Maurice continued, “it’s not due until the day you’ve discovered the answers. It may take years, or decades. So you have plenty of time to think about it. I know you like books; I’ve got a good library here. I’ll give you a few to help you kick off the process.”
During the rest of the day—and the rest of his life—Charles Knight’s mind returned to this exchange. Perhaps it was because memories are profoundly imprinted during times of emotional stress. Maybe it was because this was the first connection with a man who loved his mother too, and who ached along with Charles. It wasn’t long before this spark from his uncle had ignited into a driving quest to explore what might constitute a life that was good. And adventurous. And exotic. And more.
What, indeed, was the meaning of life?
Uncle Maurice had issued that assignment ten years ago, almost to the day.
Charles Knight chanced one look down, past his sweat-soaked shirt, past his muddy pants, and past the tips of his boots that were unable to find purchase on the unstable, near-vertical rock face to which his hands desperately clung. Boulders that looked like teeth littered the canyon base far below. He was attached to the cliff by little more than friction. He would have a few seconds to contemplate his life while he fell to his death.
Editor's note: You'll find out exactly what happens to our hero in part two, which we'll share tomorrow. In the meantime, now is the perfect time to purchase your copy of Speculator so you'll have the rest of this fascinating tale at your fingertips to pick up where we leave off.
You can get your copy from Amazon right here.