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Floating Dragon is the seventh novel by author Peter Straub, originally published by Underwood-Miller in November 1982 and G.P. Putnam's Sons in February 1983.
Set during the spring and summer of 1980, the novel deals with events that befall the affluent suburb of Hampstead, Connecticut.
An adulterous housewife named Stony Friedgood is brutally murdered by a man she picks up in a bar; at the same time, her husband, Leo, is involved in a cover-up at a chemical plant conducting research for the Department of Defense. DRG-16, a new kind of nerve gas, has turned three men into slush as it seeps out of its containment tank and soon becomes very nearly conscious, a malevolence creeping across the land. By the time Leo returns home it is high above Hampstead and already causing death and hallucinations, but his dead wife in their bed is no hallucination; in fact, she was not even killed by DRG; it was another, older, more transcendent evil, one that has returned each generation to this town and is known by many names in men of ugly hungers and strange eyes, men who meet awful fates for their awful deeds: Gideon Winter, Robertson Green, Bates Krell... Many names, but ultimately one: the Dragon.
Meanwhile, the descendants of the town's original founders have returned to Hampstead for the first time in over a hundred years: Richard Allbee, an architect and former child actor with a wife and a baby on the way; Graham Williams, a screenwriter and amateur local historian whose career was derailed by the McCarthy hearings; Patsy McCloud, an abused housewife with supernatural powers; and Tabby Smithfield, an extraordinary young boy with similar abilities.
Drawn together by fate, the four find themselves struggling against a cycle of evil that plagues the town every thirty years.
Richard Allbee: An architect and former child actor in his mid-thirties, and a descendant of one of the four original families that settled Hampstead (then called Greenbank) in 1645. As a young boy, Richard starred as the youngest child on a Leave It to Beaver-style family sitcom called Daddy's Here that aired in the 1950s. As an adult, Richard is plagued by memories of his former co-star, Billy Bentley, who played his character's older brother on the series, and later committed suicide after sliding into a life of petty crime and drug abuse.
Graham Williams: A novelist and screenwriter whose career was destroyed when he was labeled a Communist sympathizer for refusing to testify before the House Unamerican Activities Committee. Born and raised in Hampstead, Williams had his first brush with the sinister forces plaguing the town as a young man, when he discovered the identity of a serial killer, Bates Krell, responsible for the deaths of several local women, and later killed the man during a violent confrontation. Afterward, Williams (who, like Richard, is also a descendant of one of the original founding families) became obsessed with researching the history of the town, eventually discovering a "cycle" of death and mayhem that seems to visit the area once in a generation (or approximately once every thirty-odd years).
Patsy McCloud: Also a descendant of one of the founding families, Patsy (like her grandmother before her) is possessed of a variety of psychic abilities, including telepathy, precognition, post-cognition, and, in particular, the ability to know when people she encounters are near death. After spending most of her life trying to suppress her abilities, she learns to embrace them after meeting Graham, Richard, and Tabby Smithfield, a young boy with similar powers.
Tabby Smithfield: The last descendant of the town's founding families, Tabby is a 13-year-old boy with various psychic abilities similar to those possessed by Patsy McCloud; after their discovery of the powers they share, Patsy and Tabby form a close bond. Though born into wealth and privilege, Tabby has spent most of his life moving from city to city with his father, Clark Smithfield, whose alcoholism and inability to hold down a steady job have left Tabby without much stability in his life. Tabby's mother was killed in a car accident when he was six years old.
Gideon Winter (aka The Dragon): A fifth settler who arrived in Greenbank not long after the original four families and quickly bought up most of the land in town. Winter (dubbed "the Dragon" by local farmers, presumably because of his ruthless business practices) disappeared mysteriously following a rash of child murders in the area; Graham Williams believes he was murdered by members of the four families, thus leading to his centuries-long vendetta against the citizens of Hampstead, and particularly the descendants of the town's founding fathers. According to Graham, Winter's spirit returns to the area approximately once every thirty years to commit a series of murders; the end of each cycle is usually marked by a large-scale disaster of some sort (an earthquake in one case, a fire that destroys half the town in another). The novel is unclear as to whether the spirit of Winter is responsible for all the apparently supernatural happenings in the town, or if some other, older evil may have plagued the area since before human habitation. It is strongly implied although never explicitly stated in the novel that each of the four protagonists is descended from Winter through illegitimate children borne by the wives of the town's founders, and that this may be the source of Patsy and Tabby's psychic abilities.