THE 90TH KILL
All the teenager Samuel Cadogan ever wanted to do was draw—but after the death of his father, a Pennsylvania coal miner, his family explodes in a maelstrom of child abuse and violence, and he finds himself on the wrong side of the law.
He runs. For the next six years he supports himself as a sidewalk artist in Boston—and then circumstances force him to flee even further. In the US military, under his new name of Lem-uel Brecon, he discovers he has one outstanding talent. He's a world-class sniper, a natural killer.
Dishonourably discharged after serving in Iraq, burned out and barely existing on the street, he's approached by two high-ranking and high-minded ex-officers who want the re-election of a corrupt and controversial president stopped. They know Brecon's talents, and they lure him into their plot with the possibility of revenge against those responsible for his family's disintegration. Finally seduced by the promise that they will find his missing sister, he agrees to be part of their scheme. But for all their professed principles, the way these officers manipulate him is as merciless as it is cold.
This is a story about the cynicism and ruthlessness of America's elites, about the intertwined nature of its political process and its gun culture—and above all, it's about the stubborn courage of individuals and their determination to resist, to fight for their humanity as the juggernaut of American power does its pitiless best to grind them down.
The halt, the lame, the hopeless. The confused, the sad.
In their dogged clumps of twos and threes, in their steady streams that added up to a river of disgruntled thousands.
The bannered, the logoed, the creeded, the messaged.
On t-shirts, on scarves, on caps, on jackets.
Reload America! Fuck You Wall Street! Waterboard ‘Em All! Hands Off My Riﬂe, Punk! Old Sparky Appreciation Society. Damn Right I’m White! God Wants Him Re-elected. We’re Not Poor, We’re Broke.
The dispossessed, the disappointed, the uninsured, the unemployed. The forsaken and the foreclosed, the wheelchair-bound who were sure this was their best shot at being the wheelchair-bound-for-glory.
By car, by bus, by train. Some even committed the last great American nonconformist sin and walked, wheezing and struggling, up the hot, steep hill, egged on by the approaching thunder, venting their arthritic litany of grievance as they came.
Fairness faded, promise perjured, greatness gone, oh, so long gone…
Were they a crusade? They thought so. Or were they a pogrom, or a lynch mob? Plenty who watched them were ready to think that, but there were others, touched by pity, who saw them for what they really were—the detritus of a dream, the discarded peelings of prosperity, the squeezed rinds of commerce, no longer capable of turning a big enough buck for their betters, and thus left to stew in the sour juice of their sullen, unproﬁtable resentment. Most of them wore the same expression.
It was a scowl. A defensive scowl, heavy-jowled. It only began to soften as they neared the stadium gates, as they realised that, surrounded by goddamn liberals or not, they had ceased to be in that worst of American states.
The state of Alone.
In their thousands, they came…
And waited with desperate patience, their cellphone cameras primed.
To have their bitterness blessed, to touch the hem and believe.
The fanfare came. It drowned in a roar of release as he marched on to the stage. The spots ﬂashed on, following his progress, the feral slab of face appeared on the huge screens to either side of the podium.
“MY FELLOW AMERICANS! Today marks the rebirth—“