A Reign Supreme by Richard Crystal
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 is an omen from the spirit of his ancestors, he eagerly seeks his 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.
Mr. 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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Praise for A Reign Supreme:
“Mr. Crystal has fashioned a tale of virtue and vice in the modern world. It deals with corporate greed, the politics of today’s African economic scene and how they test the people who have to make their living in that environment. And it’s all backed by the mellow sounds of modern jazz. I’m sure it will intrigue all.”
– Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, legendary basketball star, author and jazz aficionado
“From the streets of New York to a remote tribal village in Kenya, A Reign Supreme is a moody, intriguing and emotional story. Our hero’s journey from teenage jazz prodigy, to a man haunted by his past, to accepting his surprising fate of heritage, is a terrific read.
I’m not just Richard Crystal’s brother, I’m his fan.”
– Billy Crystal, actor, comedian and writer
“As you read ‘A Reign Supreme’ you will wonder if the author is a jazz musician from the streets of New York or was raised in a village in Kenya. The language of the characters is perfect and real. The descriptions of locations are both factual and extremely visual. Richard Crystal takes you on an adventure involving family loyalty, greed, life changing decisions and much, much more. Something for everyone.”
– Lou Adler, award winning music and film producer, recently inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame
“John Coltrane constructed his four-part magnum opus A Love Supreme as a harmonic journey meant to convey an ascendancy to spiritual enlightenment—the musical statement of one man meant to inspire and uplift all. With deep appreciation for that inspirational source, Richard Crystal has been inspired to create a story in four sections that follows that same path to a personal awakening, a return to one’s roots, and realization of one’s purpose. A Reign Supreme is a rare example of a powerful literary work drawing its spirit from a timeless musical classic, with a deft, reverential touch that avoids cliche or overstatement.”
– Ashley Kahn, jazz historian and author of A Love Supreme: The Story of John Coltrane’s Signature Album and Kind of Blue – The Making of the Miles Davis Masterpiece.
“In “A Reign Supreme”, Richard Crystal creates a multi-dimensional experience for the reader such as I’ve rarely experienced. Besides creating a fascinating and suspenseful plot that keeps the reader turning pages and transports him or her to Kenya with details you can taste, hear and feel so well you would swear you were there, he has, through his own musical experience, created descriptions of jazz that enables the reader to actually hear the music. It’s extraordinary.”
– Andrew Neiderman, Author of The Devil’s Advocate and the worldwide V.C. Andrews literary franchise
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Spirit of Our Ancestors
As part of the spiritual culture of the Makenda tribe in “A Reign Supreme”, the villagers believe in the spirits of their ancestors as otherworldly protectors who look out for their best interests. I was drawn to that magical idea because I had experienced it myself.
I began my life long career in the entertainment business as a singer – primarily musical theatre in New York. After I moved to Los Angeles to pursue work in television and movies, singing work was scarce and I began writing and developing ideas to create work for myself. I sold my first screenplay and instantly knew this was the way I could support myself and my family. My mother, who was a major influence in my life (my father died suddenly when I was seventeen), always loved to hear me sing and regretted the fact that I had stopped using “my gift.” When my mom passed away in New York right after 9/11 in 2001, I summoned up the courage to sing at her funeral. Indeed, it was painfully torturous but something I desperately needed to do. A short time later, I recorded an album of her favorite standards as a loving tribute and began performing in different venues in Los Angeles and New York. Every time I sang, I imagined her sitting in the audience with a big smile on her face. Eventually I sang at Feinstein’s at the Regency Hotel in New York and many of my high school classmates came to cheer me on. It was awesome.
Not long after that engagement, I received an email from Ellen Stauber, a former high school classmate who was now living in Scottsdale, Arizona. She heard about the show and wanted me to know she would come to Los Angeles to hear me sing if I was performing there. I told her I’d be doing a gig in January and she replied she was coming with her son, Lee who was living in L.A. and working as a producer for the E Cable Network. Because she didn’t know anyone, she asked if she could sit with my wife, Fran and our daughter, Jackie. Fran was fine with the idea but Jackie resented it. She thought it was a set up and didn’t want to be manipulated. Lee didn’t like the idea for two reasons. He was invited to attend the Golden Globes and didn’t want to sit with the fat daughter of an old classmate of his mother’s.
Ellen can be very persuasive and somehow managed to drag her resentful son to my show. Jackie didn’t want to disappoint me and reluctantly agreed to sit at Fran’s table. Sparks were flying from the moment Jackie and Lee met. I don’t think they heard me sing a single note.
Two years later, I sang at their wedding.
My mom adored my daughter Jackie. She was her youngest grandchild, an only child named for my father, Jack, the love of her life. Mom was the reason I wanted to sing again and because I did, her granddaughter met the young man she would later marry.
By the way, that was five years ago. They are now the proud parents of Coco, a delicious little girl and our first grandchild. So mom, thanks for keeping an eye out for your youngest grandchild. I wonder what she plans to do next.