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The Farm
Charles C. Anderson

Lieutenant Commander Andrew Carlson is a U.S. Navy SEAL-emergency physician who is part of a helicopter mission to investigate possible terrorist weapons at a prince’s palace in the Saudi Arabian desert during a sand storm. He is the first one down the rope when the helicopter engines suck in too much sand, causing the chopper to lose power and crash. Andy rolls out from under the fiery hulk of metal but has no significant injuries. His best friend never makes it out of the chopper. This kind of personal loss has dogged Andy throughout his career. Although he’s an experienced warrior and trauma physician, one of the SEAL’s elite, he’s also a binge drinker, never comfortable around women when he’s not drinking, and scarred by his personal losses and survivor’s guilt.

Despite being thirty-six hours by foot from his destination, Andy makes his way across the desert by dead reckoning. After he shoots out the electrical transformer to the palace with his sniper rifle, the occupants flee in vehicles. The palace is empty except for a teenage girl, Sahar, who had been kidnapped and routinely raped by the men who fled. Andy had orders not to leave anyone alive, but the girl turned out to have a wealth of information about the sale of terrorist weapons from the palace and spoke English. For the first time in his career, Andy was unable to pull the trigger as ordered. The girl was incredibly bright for age sixteen and had already suffered enough. Besides, he was attracted by her spunk.

Sahar directs him to a truck in the compound, where Andy finds two 40-year old Soviet tactical nuclear warheads, each the size of a generator. Both had recently been recharged with new neutron reservoirs. Sahar informed him that it was Andy’s CIA contact, Harrison, who wanted to buy the weapons from a Russian black market arms dealer named Boris, formerly a member of the KGB. Andy knew that the U.S. had plenty of warheads of its own and didn’t need to buy any. And the U.S. had been helping Russia disarm its gigantic nuclear arsenal since the Cold War ended. Harrison had specifically told Andy not to disarm warheads if he found any. Because Harrison had visited the palace often to buy and sell weapons, and Sahar’s captives did not know that she understood English, she had learned that the CIA wanted the warheads because they were untraceable. The plutonium in the warheads did not come from a known Russian source. They were not on any list to be disarmed and Boris had destroyed the records that they ever existed.

Sahar explains that Harrison and the U.S. President have cooked up a scheme to blame a nuclear terrorist incident on the Saudis, allowing the U.S. to invade Saudi Arabia and confiscate its oil, now at $200 per barrel. Andy believes Sahar, partly because he has never trusted his CIA contact, partly because he knows the American president is desperate for cheap oil, and partly because the teenager arouses feelings in him that he is ashamed of. Instead of calling Harrison on the palace satellite phone Andy chooses to call his Saudi royal family contact, who he advises to remove the weapons before Harrison can send a team to pick them up. As Andy leads Sahar across the desert to his extraction point, he realizes that his life as a SEAL was over. He will not dishonor his dead SEAL buddies by participating in whatever Harrison has in mind. He delays his report to Harrison long enough for the Saudis to remove the truck and tells Harrison that he found the girl in the desert. He resigns his commission from the Navy and Sahar enrolls in college in Norfolk, Virginia, close to the hospital where Andy gets a job as an emergency physician.

Fast forward eighteen months and Andy is fighting off his urges for Sahar, who encourages his attention every day. Out of nowhere a beautiful new emergency department nurse comes into his life, Lindsey Baker. Lindsey is a CIA operative. Harrison has found out what Andy had done in the desert and Lindsey tells him that Sahar is the same girl from the palace in the Saudi desert. Both Andy and Sahar are not just expendable, they threaten both the CIA and the president himself. Andy and Lindsey go for a weekend drive to Andy’s farm in central Virginia, near Farmville. The farm is a 3400 acre 1743 land grant from King George II to Andy’s ancestor. The president wants to use Andy to confirm that the Saudis have armed nuclear weapons so that he can complete his original plan to set up the Saudi royal family as nuclear terrorists who are trying to destroy Hampton Roads, the largest U.S. Naval Base. Because the Saudis have a reputation extending back to 9-11 for supporting terrorists, the president only needs a credible witness to confirm that the Saudis indeed have at least two nuclear warheads. Andy is the only American to actually see those warheads. Lindsey intends to seduce Andy on the farm, where the CIA will kill him. Then they will kill Sahar.

But the CIA is still under the impression that Andy is a closet drunk who can be manipulated easily by Lindsey. And no one but Andy knows the secrets of his huge antebellum plantation, where he grew up and learned its network of limestone caves and its natural defenses. The caves on the Carlson plantation had served as an arsenal for both the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. Just before the Confederate surrender at Appomattox, only twenty-five miles away, the gold bars from the Confederate treasury had been hidden in the caves under the plantation. The Carlsons had always collected weapons, considering themselves to be true patriots, and Andy had continued this role all of his life. All of his skill and experience will be required to fend off multiple attacks on the farm, including being stabbed in the chest by Lindsey.

No one in Washington understands what one motivated SEAL can do against an army of invaders who don’t know the ground they are fighting on. After killing every CIA agent and mercenary sent to kill him, Andy confronts Lindsey and spares her life. In return, she allows him to escape and warn Sahar.

Andy’s wound heals as he hides out and is helped by the Saudi royal family. Andy has again warned the Saudis of the president’s treachery, making it possible for the Saudis to foil the nuclear terrorist plot. The Saudis now have the president in a pickle, warning him that if something happens to Andy Carlson, the price of oil will skyrocket. The president must postpone his plans to kill Andy and Sahar, while Lindsey returns to her job as a nuclear threats analyst at the CIA.

The Saudis warn Andy that Boris is trying to sell more reconditioned cold-war era nuclear warheads in America. Boris comes to the farm and Andy mesmerizes him with the Confederate gold and buys several warheads from him. These go into the caves. Eventually the president wants Andy and Sahar dead so badly that he sends several helicopters of mercenaries. Boris wants the gold so badly that he brings a truckload of soldiers. Re-enter Lindsey, now pregnant and near term, determined to convince Andy that he will soon be a father, but unable to figure out how to tell him. Andy is quite uncomfortable around Lindsey, who claims to have switched sides. He is hurt by the fact that she is pregnant, and blind to his obvious paternity. In addition to Lindsey, who can barely walk, Andy enlists a descendant of a former slave on the Carlson plantation, Ben Carlson, who shares an ancestor with Andy. They are few in number, but Andy uses the caves to move unseen on the battlefield and lures the invaders into one trap after another.

A final battle shapes up on the farm with everything at stake. Boris is there. Harrison is there. Andy succeeds in turning these two enemies against each other. The president waits anxiously in the White House for a call from Harrison as he watches satellite images of the battle. Lindsey is severely injured by a grenade. Twins are delivered in the cave in the middle of a war overhead. Ben is hit by a .50 cal round in the chest. Andy Carlson M.D., ex-Navy SEAL, ex-drunk, is a man you won’t forget.

OUR REVIEW

The Farm by Charles C. Anderson

Reviewed by Douglas R. Cobb

There are many ways to become a marked man in this life. One is to have secrets that powerful individuals fear getting out and becoming public knowledge. For former Navy SEAL and medical doctor Andy Carlson, it’s also about having a deeply ingrained sense of morality. If the secret you’re guarding threatens countless human lives, and could potentially endanger national security, one’s priorities should shift from closely guarding secrets to deciding to throw in the towel as a good soldier. In the edge-of-your-seat page-turner, The Farm, by the talented author Charles C. Anderson, that’s just what Carlson does–he resigns from the SEALs, though he still remains a member of the Reserves. The evidence he discovers suggests that the U.S. government is secretly buying old Soviet tactical nuclear weapons for purposes other than disarmament.

Leaving behind his old life as a Navy SEAL, where he followed orders without asking too many questions, a life where he killed whoever he was either ordered to kill or who was an obstacle to his mission, and resuming his career as an emergency physician, does not mean other interested parties are through with him. Repercussions emanating from his final mission, in which he and his friend Josiah (Joe) Chambers are inserted into the Saudi Arabian desert by helicopter. Joe dies when the helicopter they’re flying in blows up during a sandstorm, but Andy, the first one out of the plane, survives. He carries out his mission, and rescues a then sixteen-year-old young woman from sexual abuse and possibly getting tortured and murdered.

Andy Carlson’s resignation from the SEALs and his return to his family’s ancestral farm in Virginia called “The Farm,” is not enough to deter certain interested parties from attempting to kill him and eliminate the possibility the secrets he knows will ever become public knowledge. The CIA is after Carlson, as are Russian arms dealers. Can one man hope to survive such a determined onslaught of pursuers?

The Farm is a richly complex novel, one that is extremely well-researched. Charles C. Anderson has created intense, larger-that-life three-dimensional characters, and, as in his novel The First To Say No, he displays an impressive knowledge of the medical profession and history. That’s because Anderson is, himself, a retired Naval officer, and emergency physician, and a weapons specialist, and he lives in Virginia at the actual plantation known as The Farm that’s almost like a character in its own right in his novel. Anderson writes with immense authority about the history of The Farm, Farmville, and Virginia, because he and his family have lived there for generations. It’s been in his family since 1743, and has played an important role throughout America’s history. Knowing that the place called The Farm is an actual plantation with tunnels and caves underneath it and the grounds where it’s built upon made the novel pop for me.

I had not known before reading The Farm how vital the place Hampton Roads which Anderson writes about is to America. Four nuclear carriers could be destroyed if a nuclear warhead went off there, at “the only shipyard capable of building those Nimitz class carriers.” This would be both militarily and economically crippling to the United States. As Andy tells the CIA agent, Lindsey: “The last time I heard, each carrier cost five billion dollars and each took five years to build.”

When Andy’s friend Joe Chambers died on his last mission in Saudi Arabia, Andy had to hold back his emotions, to get back to America alive and in one piece. The experience made him into a functioning alcoholic, and because of that experience, and others we read about in The Farm, it’s with good reason that Andy thinks of the Deputy Director of the CIA, James Harrison, as the Weasel. Harrison is a cunning, resourceful person, but he’s also very self-serving. Carlson discovers that the Weasel’s interest in Russian nuclear warheads has nothing at all to do with a desire to make sure Russia is complying with disarmament. Instead, he has something much more sinister in mind:

“Is that your goal, to disarm these warheads permanently?” Andy asked.

“What else could we do with them?”

“You could use them to blame some nuclear terrorist act on somebody else,” Andy said.

“You’re asking me to believe the best from you when all I’ve seen is your worst side.”

Andy has a few tricks up his sleeve, like his intimate knowledge of The Farm, its tunnel and cave systems, and other aspects of the fortress-like plantation, and three allies who I won’t get into much in this review as they’re mentioned elsewhere in other reviews. Reading about the strategies he uses against the CIA and Russians was very fascinating. Will Andy’s expertise with weapons, his medical knowledge, and The Farm itself, enable him to outwit and defeat his foes? Read the excellent novel The Farm to find out!