In the placid, sun-baked roadstead of a small sheikhdom on the Persian Gulf, a trim little naval vessel painted dazzling white drops its hook in three fathoms of limpid water. A blazing tropical sun, two hours above the eastern horizon, sends the mercury up to 100 degrees on the water and 110 on the golden sands of the nearby desert. Side-boys appear on the quarter-deck. A boat comes alongside and an American consular officer is piped aboard to pay a courtesy call.
An hour later, the boatswain’s pipe is heard again, and the barge pulls away with a rear admiral, his chief of staff, and an aide. They are off to pay a courtesy call on a mysterious and colorful individual customarily referred to simply as The Ruler.