CHARLES C. ANDERSON
CHARLES C. ANDERSON
The books shown on the left are by Charles C. Anderson. Click on the cover to order.
This interview was conducted by
I recently read and reviewed the remarkable thriller, The Farm,
Douglas R. Cobb on July 29, 2012.
by the erudite and
Chalres C. Anderson. The potential threat of terrorism and the idea of terrorists somehow getting control of a nuclear warhead has been a very real danger for years now, and the author brings this possibility to a stark degree of reality in The Farm. The novel's title comes from the name of an actual historic plantation, where Charles Anderson and his ancestors have lived for generations. The fortress-like house dates back to the 1740's, and has a network
of underground caves and tunnels leading from it. Though the novel's main protagonist is Andy Carlson, a disillusioned Navy SEAL who resigns and returns to Virginia to work as an emergency room physician, the ancestral plantation, The Farm, is a character unto itself.
I am honored and delighted that Charles C. Anderson, or Charlie, has graciously agreed to do this interview with me. He is also the author of The First To Say No, which I will review next for this site, and do a follow-up interview asking him questions about that particular novel. Without any further ado, let's get on to the questions!
Douglas R. Cobb: Charlie, I was initially drawn into your excellent novel, The Farm, because of the gritty realism of how you portray the main protagonist, Andy Carlson, and the final mission of his career as a Navy SEAL when he and a fellow SEAL and friend of his, Joe Chambers, fly from Bahrain into Saudi Arabia. They encounter a sandstorm, and Andy gets out of the helicopter, lowered to the ground by a rope, but the helicopter then explodes with Joe still aboard.
You, yourself, have served as a Naval officer, right? Thanks for your service to our country. I am sure the knowledge you gained has proved very useful in writing your novels. How long did you serve, and what made you decide to have your main protagonist be an ex-Navy SEAL?
Charles C. Anderson: I served as a Navy physician for eight years. Much of that time I was stationed next to the east coast base of the SEALS, at Dam Neck, in Virginia Beach. In the course of my duties as director of the intensive care unit of the Navy's second largest hospital I commonly treated SEALS who were injured. After multiple encounters with SEALS I recognized them as a breed apart from every other soldier, sailor, or airman I took care of. No matter how much pain a SEAL had, or how bad his injuries, he always refused pain medication. The only way to give a SEAL pain medication was to put him to sleep for surgery and load him up with pain medication before he woke up. Imagine looking at a man whose leg had been blown off, the shattered bones of his lower leg hanging by the skin from his thigh, sitting up in bed, his jaw fixed, sweat dripping from his face, staring ahead, absorbing the pain. "Please let me give you some morphine, chief," I would beg. "No thanks, doc, I'm okay," he answered. After having this exchange repeatedly, with the result always the same, it became obvious to me why these men were an unstoppable force. They never quit. They never give in to pain. They live by their code of honor. I wanted to write about Andy Carlson, my protagonist, who was both a SEAL and a physician. He is a real person to me, a composite of all the SEALS I've met and treated. I noted that quite a few SEALS were binge drinkers, like Andy. Considering the life they live, it's not hard to understand why. It is no coincidence that Navy SEAL Team Six was chosen to take out Bin Laden.
Douglas R. Cobb: You begin The Farm with an action-packed chapter about Andy Carlson's final mission as a Navy SEAL. What mission is it that the deputy director of the CIA, Harrison, sends him and Joe on? Why is it that Andy trusts the intel "of his Saudi royal family contact, Mr. Akbar," more than that of Harrison?
Charles C. Anderson: The deputy CIA director Harrison has a nickname "The Weasel" not just because he is short and has a pointed nose. Almost everyone has met a man like him, someone in authority who uses other people to do his dirty work, and has no regard for the truth. Harrison had repeatedly sent Andy and his partner into Saudi Arabia to kill wealthy Saudis who threatened the authority of the Saudi royal family by supporting anti-American terrorists. America has a long term commitment to the Saudi royal family to maintain them in power in exchange for access to oil bought and sold only in dollars. Andy's mission was to investigate a report that a Saudi prince was dealing arms to terrorists. Like a good soldier Andy followed orders to assassinate any target that Harrison pointed out. Supposedly these killings were requested by the royal family and each target confirmed by Akbar, Andy's royal family contact. Andy noted that Harrison's list did not always match Akbar's list, and that he was often sent to kill people without Saudi knowledge or approval. As a matter of personal honor, Andy was uncomfortable working for a liar who had his own agenda. This is why he resigned his commission from the Navy.
Douglas R. Cobb: When Andy reaches the royal palace he's headed to, he discovers a shipping container with Soviet tactical nuclear weapons in it, and rescues a sixteen-year-old girl who had been sexually abused.
What is it that she tells Andy about Harrison?
Charles C. Anderson: Sahar, the sixteen year old girl, had been kidnapped by the Saudi prince for his own abuse and the entertainment of guests. This is not an uncommon practice in Saudi Arabia, where women have few rights. The Saudi prince does not know that Sahar speaks and understands English. Instead of killing her, which would be standing orders if discovered by anyone, Andy listens to her account of Harrison frequently visiting the same Prince's palace, abusing her and trading in weapons and technology. She told Andy about the recent arrival of nuclear warheads in a shipping container on a truck in the desert compound, and Harrison's plan to purchase these warheads for his own use. Andy realized that Harrison wanted him to confirm the presence of the warheads before he directed some other force to steal them. He confirmed that suspicion by calling Akbar, who denied any knowledge of Andy's mission and was horrified by Harrison's use of Saudi soil to traffic in untraceable warheads. Andy and Akbar share the same distrust of Harrison.
Douglas R. Cobb: Would you please tell our readers what are some of the qualities of The Farm, the ancestral plantation where Andy moves back to when he resigns from the SEALS, has that makes it almost like a fortress and, if occupied, makes it difficult for enemy forces to take over?
Charles C. Anderson: The farm is a 1743 grant from King George II to my family. This land has many natural boundaries that protect those who live here. A river curls around much of the property. Swamps guard its other borders. Battles have been fought here with Indians, the British, and the Yankees. The greatest secret of the farm is that it sits atop of maze of limestone caves. Andy's ancestors used these caves and connecting tunnels to store arms and move around the property unseen. Fighting here gave Andy a tremendous home field advantage.
Douglas R. Cobb: There's an expression I've read before "We have seen the enemy and he is us." I think it's from a Pogo cartoon. I kind of thought of that expression as I read about the character of Harrison (The Weasel) and the idea that some people in our government might be tempted to use weapons like nuclear warheads to keep alive the notion that terrorists are out to bring America down. They likely are out to do this; but, Harrison is just so outrageous in the actions he takes.
Would you say that, in your opinion, there may be some people in America's government who would do anything they can, like Harrison, to keep the fear of terrorists and terrorism in the conscious of Americans?
Charles C. Anderson: Very few Americans appreciate the deal the U.S. has with the Saudi royal family to take their oil for ever-depreciating dollars in exchange for protecting the royal family from rivals in their own country and hostile neighbors. This is how Harrison used Andy and Joe in my book. They sneak into the country and eliminate threats to the royal family, usually inserted in the desert by helicopter, operating as snipers. This is not fantasy. The U.S. does these kinds of things and much more, using covert operators. America and Saudi Arabia are joined at the hip. Even though Saudis carried out the 9-11 raid on the twin towers, our government never mentioned the royal family. As America drives the cost of oil up by uncontrolled spending, all nations suffer. America's foreign policy is built around maintaining the dollar as the reserve currency of the world. This means we must maintain the royal family at all costs, while hurting other nations with our out-of-control spending. Often our disagreements with other countries are characterized as "fighting terrorists" or terrorist's regimes, when, in fact, if I lived in a country that could no longer afford any commodities because of America's spending, I would also hate the U.S. Some countries are already selling their oil using other currency or gold. China has agreed to build a massive refinery in Saudi Arabia near a Saudi port on the Red Sea. The reign of the almighty American dollar is coming to an end. If you think the plot hatched by Harrison is unlikely, reconsider what America has to lose if the Saudis can get protection from the Chinese. The world would no longer need dollars to buy oil or commodities.
Douglas R. Cobb: What is the importance of the two Saudi princes you mention in your novel?
Charles C. Anderson: Harrison has hatched a plan to change the dynamics of the relationship between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. The price of oil is so high that even America's economy is threatened. Harrison wants to explode a nuclear weapon off-shore, close to the key American port of Hampton Roads, and then blame it on the Saudi royal family, giving the U.S. the excuse it needs to strike back at the Saudis and steal all their oil, instead of paying for it. The two Saudi princes are being framed as part of a Saudi royal family plot against America, a plot that Harrison fabricated. Harrison counted on Andy Carlson to confirm that the Saudis had nuclear warheads. Thus far, the royal family itself has never been implicated as involved in terrorism against the U.S., although many individual Saudis have.
Douglas R. Cobb: I believe I remember you wrote about someone called Charles Dodd. He wasn't really one of the main characters, but the name interested me, as I wrote in one of my novels about David Owen Dodd, a 17-year-old youth who was held on trial for being a Confederate spy, was hung, and became known as a "Boy Martyr of the Confederacy."
Do you know if the two are related?
Charles C. Anderson: I am familiar with the story you describe, as well as a picture of him, but my character is unrelated.
Douglas R. Cobb: You seem to be very familiar with Saudi Arabia and the customs of the people who live there, Charlie. Is this due to your having served there, or more to research you've done about the region and its people?
Charles C. Anderson: I have never been to Saudi Arabia but I have studied its geography, culture, and history carefully. Saudi Arabia is perhaps the most important country in the world to the United States, for reasons not generally understood. Our dollar's key position as the reserve currency of the world was made possible by our agreement to provide security to the royal family in exchange for their selling oil only in dollars. This means that every non-oil-producing country has to change their own currency into dollars to buy oil. They are forced to buy U.S. treasury bonds to pay for this oil. What a sweetheart deal for the U.S. Other countries are forced to finance our profligate lifestyle. This relationship is currently threatened by worldwide depreciation of the dollar.
Douglas R. Cobb: What made you decide to have a character in The Farm who is a male descendant of a slave who shares a common ancestor with Andy? Do you also share a common ancestor with the descendant of a former slave who worked on The Farm?
Charles C. Anderson: Not that I know of. However, it was not uncommon for slaveholders to father slave children. Thomas Jefferson, for example, fathered several slave children. I have had the same experience that Andy did in the emergency room, more than once. While working in the emergency department of my hometown, I encountered many black people whose families had lived in the same community with my family as long as they could remember. They have the same last name as I do. Slaves often took the last names of their owners. Some are light-skinned. It always sent a chill down my spine, a reminder that my ancestors were slave owners. I cannot defend this. None of us have any control over our ancestors. We can just be honest.
Douglas R. Cobb: The plantation you live on has had a very long history. Are there still some things about it that you find out, even today, that surprise you? Have you ever thought about having people take tours of the place?
Charles C. Anderson: Living on a battlefield has its downside. Over 1000 Civil War rifles have been found here and every kind of button, belt, edged weapon, minnie ball, and cannon. I do bring groups of children to my farm to see a covered bridge, a grist mill, a plantation house, or a still, but it is important not to encourage those who come in the middle of the night with metal detectors and shovels. Several motorcycle clubs visit me yearly, but they always call first. Fortunately, the farm has those natural protective boundaries that give uninvited visitors limited access. I have saved other secrets about the farm for my sequel. And yes, I occasionally stumble across something new, especially in the winter, when the trees are bare, and a person can walk in the trench lines and still see the scars of Confederate wagon wheels that struggled across the farm in the mud during the first week of April 1865, on their way to Appomattox.
Douglas R. Cobb: Do you have any plans to write future novels featuring Doctor Andy Carlson, Charlie? Are you currently working on a novel? If so, do you have a title for it, and when can we expect that it will be published?
Charles C. Anderson: I have completed a sequel to The Farm, but I do not have a title yet. I wanted to establish a good fan base for Andy Carlson first. Hopefully the time will be right by next year. So far, The Farm has been reviewed by at least 25 reviewers, 20 of whom posted their review on Amazon. All 25 gave The Farm 5 stars. This was my debut novel.
Douglas R. Cobb: Thanks for agreeing to do this interview with me, Charles! I really enjoyed reading The Farm, and I highly recommend it to anyone who loves reading top quality action-packed thrillers! I look forward to reading The First To Say No, and interviewing you again in within the next few weeks.
Read Our Review of The Farm #1
Read Our Review of The Farm #2