The Dead Chip Syndicate



“You always cheat the ones closest to you."   – Chinese saying


Offered the opportunity of a lifetime to manage the Asian branch of his twin brother's software company, Stephen Wilson leaves his floundering screenwriting career behind to start a new life in Macau. When Stephen closes his first deal with the Hermes casino VIP junket room, he enters an extravagant adult playground even more surreal than Hollywood.

The job turns highly lucrative when Stephen’s new client, Cash Cheang, a pompadour-topped and Johnny Cash-loving casino operator, hands him a bag full of cold hard yuan to implement a facial recognition system in the casino's VIP room. However, the purpose of the system is to track the corrupt Chinese officials laundering money through the casino. Cash fears the Chinese government’s crackdown in Hong Kong will soon extend to Macau and threatening to blackmail the corrupt bureaucrats seemed like the best way to avoid prison.

Hearing about Stephen’s past life as a screenwriter, Cash offers him another job – ghostwriting a biography of the colorful junket operator’s life rising from the mean streets of Macau to become one of the city's richest and most powerful junket operators. Stephen accepts the job while also agreeing to help Cash sell his latest scheme, a crypto coin aimed at raising funds for a floating casino in Macau.

As Stephen learns more about Cash’s life, he realizes the biography is filled with dangerous secrets about the Chinese elite, complete with information that documents money laundering on a grand scale. Stephen recognizes the book is Cash’s insurance policy should the Chinese authorities come knocking.

And come knocking they do when one of Cash’s VIP clients is accidentally murdered by a pair of triad thugs trying to collect on a gambling debt. Cash is arrested as an accomplice. Recognizing that he’s being set-up, Cash decides it’s time to leave Macau. He pushes up the sale of the White Tiger cryptocoin and makes a highly generous offer for Stephen’s company. However, the “charitable” terms come with one caveat – the twins help get the millions in Chinese money-laundering loot to Cebu.

“You always cheat the ones closest to you,” warns an old Chinese proverb. Words that ring true as Stephen dodges hired hitmen, evades arrest by a dirty cop, and falls head over heels for his beautiful translator, who might not be all she seems. As the plan unfolds, Stephen discovers someone is setting him to take the fall and has hired a hitman to kill him. Stephen decides to team up with a nosy Macau-Portuguese detective who has decided his final scalp will be Cash’s before he steps into retirement.

Moving from the dinghy bars and high-end KTV joints of Zhuhai, China, through the protestor-filled streets of Hong Kong, to the prostitute-filled saunas of Macau, and into the plush junket rooms of the billion-dollar casinos lining the Cotai Strip, Stephen discovers the truth of that Chinese saying about cheaters; love is not only blind, but it can also make you miss the killers in your midst.

In the end, Stephen discovers the woman he has fallen for is pulling a crypto scam on him, his twin brother isn’t out to kill him but still needs to be disowned. And Cash, who fakes his own death when China gets hit by a viral outbreak is actually alive. The book ends with Stephen standing on the beautiful sands of Moalboal’s White Beach watching as the movie based on his time in Macau starts production.

It’s a tale of twins lost, other brothers found, of fools falling for love, of artists discovering their voice; a story of hookers with hearts of lead, incorruptible detectives pushing the bounds of justice, crooked politicians meeting their grim but well-deserved fates, and shady mobsters who live by a code of honor that would make Socrates proud. It’s the story of fool’s gold lost, crypto fortunes found, and family, in the largest meaning of the word, discovered. Above all else, it was the tale of two men seeking and, finally, finding freedom. A tale told not by an idiot but certainly a fool. Stephen discovers “Write what you know” is great advice if you live – or even “die” – long enough to tell the tale.