The Wild Geese (Carney novel)

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The Wild Geese
The Wild Geese
Paperback edition
Author Daniel Carney
Country Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe)
Language English
Subject Mercenaries in Africa
Publisher Bantam Books
Publication date
November 28, 1978 (first published 1977)
Media type Print
Pages 450 pp.
ISBN ISBN 0-552-10869-3
OCLC 154106136
Followed by The Square Circle

The Wild Geese is a novel by Rhodesian author Daniel Carney published by Bantam Books.[1] He originally titled it The Thin White Line, but it went unpublished until its film adaptation The Wild Geese was made.

At first, Carney could not get his novel published, but for a chance meeting with film producer Euan Lloyd. Lloyd loved the story[citation needed], about mercenaries in Africa on a mission to rescue a deposed leader, and purchased the rights to film the novel. Carney in return asked for his novel to be published and Lloyd agreed, as he had already had an offer from an American publisher when he had first taken the novel to Hollywood. The novel was finally published as The Wild Geese in 1977 just before the film's release.

The story[edit]

May 1968[edit]

Deposed Congolese President Julius Limbani is on a flight to Israel, when his bodyguard is murdered. The CIA have hijacked the plane as part of a Cold War deal with current Congo president General Ndofa. Waiting in the Tel Aviv airport for Limbani is British mercenary soldier Colonel Allan Faulkner. Faulkner is under contract to take Limbani back to the Congo and mount a coup d'état. When Limbani fails to arrive, Faulkner is left unemployed and returns to South Africa.

November 1970[edit]

Over two years have passed and Faulkner is summoned to London by Merchant Banker Sir Edward Matherson. Faulkner learns that not only is Limbani alive but he is held in Algeria and is to be returned to the Congo for execution. But what Matherson proposes is for Faulkner to raise and lead a mercenary unit to rescue Limbani and bring him to London. With this chance to redeem his reputation after Limbani was kidnapped under his contracted safety, Faulkner agrees and sets about assembling his team. Three men are top of Faulkner's list, all have served under him in the past and are trusted beyond question. First to be recruited is American Rafer Janders, who at that time is in hiding from the Mafia. They've put out a contract on Janders' life after he killed a local godfather's nephew after tricking Janders into being a courier of heroin. As Matherson persuades the mafia into lifting the contract, Faulkner finds Janders holed up above a friend's shop. Whilst waiting for Matherson to deal with the mafia, Faulkner learns about what has happened to Janders since they last served together 10 years ago. With Janders now part of the operation Faulkner turns to two more comrades from the Congo, Jeremy Chandos and Sandy Young.

After recruiting two more officers (Fynn and Coetzee) and 45 NCOs and enlisted men, the group travels to Mozambique for training. Once Young begins training, he quickly becomes resented by most of the men because of his rigid and harsh methods. While Faulkner remains popular with the men, it is not the same for the RSM, who easily defeats an attempt by a few disgruntled mercenaries to kill him. Now respected as well as disliked by the men, Young transforms aged old soldiers and young rookies into a formidable fighting force. As Faulkner and Janders procure their transport and weapons, Chandos, Fynn and Coetzee explore the local nightlife of Lourenenco Marques. There Fynn falls in love with a local escort girl, and finds himself once again with a reason not to go on the mission. Fynn eventually recognises that he has a responsibility to his comrades and flies out with the rest of the mercenaries.

The plane belonging to Mad Malloy, takes them to their drop zone in the hills surrounding Albertville. The jump goes well except for Fynn, whose chute fails to deploy properly but manages to land safely after using his reserve chute. Faulkner gathers his men, then the group splits in two and each march on their respective objective. As Chandos and Fynn's group approach the local Airport, Faulkner's group manage to find the army barracks after a little scare. The barracks which hold a garrison of the Congolese army as well as the imprisoned Limbani, cannot be approached easily as there is no cover for a hundred metres. To take out the three sentries, Coetzee shoots them with crossbow armed with cyanide-tipped bolts. The mercenaries enter the barracks quickly and quietly as most of the garrison is asleep, it is now they split into three further groups. As RSM. Young leads one team to destroy the armoury, Janders' group enter the dormitories and wearing gas masks proceeds to kill the sleeping soldiers with cyanide gas. While these two groups get on with their tasks, Faulkner's group burst in on the guard-house under cover of the mercenaries guns. Coetzee relieves one of the Congolese Officers of the keys to the cells located beneath the room and along with a Scottish mercenary (McTaggart) Coetzee storms the basement, and after a short firefight they free Limbani.

With their mission complete, Faulkner's group leaves the barracks for the airport in captured trucks. After being told over the radio that Faulkner had been successful, Chandos' team attacks the main building while Fynn's team take over the control tower. With the airport under the control of the mercenaries they await the arrival of Faulkner's group, but unfortunately the perimeter guards start to come under attack from Ndofa's Simbas. As they hold off the Simbas and await Faulkner, Fynn uses the control tower's radio to talk the waiting transport plane down onto the runway. The plane lands just as the Simbas break through the perimeter at the opposite end of the runway to the plane and start shooting at it. At this time Faulkner's group arrives, but the plane's pilot under strict instructions from Mad Malloy refuses to wait for the mercenaries and promptly takes off. Leaving the mercenaries stranded, Faulkner organises a fighting withdrawal taking with them all the fuel, spare arms and ammunition they can pile on the trucks and jeeps.

The mercenaries ambush the following Simbas and are still in good order, only losing a few men killed. As they make their way south, heading for Limbani's home tribal land they approach an old rickety wooden road bridge. Only the first few vehicles make it across, as the bridge collapses under the weight of a fuel tanker leaving the last jeep stranded on the northern river bank. In that jeep is Limbani, Coetzee, McTaggart and a homosexual medic (Arthur Whity).

As Faulkner's party reached the village of Limbani's people and found a sort of sanctuary there, Coetzee's party was ambushed by the Simbas. Whity was killed and McTaggart missing (it is later revealed that he had suicidally charged the Simbas with a grenade in each hand after deliberately drawing them away from Coetzee and Limbani,) and Coetzee was also killed while trying to save Limbani. RSM Young, sent by Faulkner, arrived just in time to save Limbani and bring him to the village.

Ndofa contacted Faulkner, and the two made a deal: Limbani for one million dollars. Janders disagreed and, holding Faulkner at gunpoint, forced a vote among the officers. RSM Young voted to follow Faulkner, but Janders, Fynn and Chandos voted against Faulkner's plan. It was finally decided to take over a Dakota on an airstrip nearby and use it to escape, with Fynn to pilot it all the way to Rhodesia.

The taking over of the Dakota went well, but not the fighting retreat. Many of the mercenaries were killed, and Faulkner himself was gravely wounded. Unable to carry Faulkner to the plane, and unwilling to put him out of misery, the RSM decided to stay with him and fight the coming Simbas to the death. Fynn managed to fly the Dakota, but Janders and several others who were providing cover were nearly forgotten. They rushed for the plane, under the gunfire from the Simbas. Janders helped one mercenary who was shot, but in doing so missed his own chance to climb into the accelerating aircraft. He pleaded to be killed, and Chandos finally did shoot him. The Dakota suddenly slowed down on the runway and ground-looped back the way it had come, because Fynn was shot, making the killing of Janders unnecessary. The wounded Fynn guided Chandos and Sgt Benson (the last of the NCOs) into flying the Dakota all the way to Rhodesia.

The characters[edit]

  • Colonel Allan Faulkner – A former British Army Officer and veteran mercenary soldier of the Congolese Civil War, now residing in South Africa. He is a self-confessed alcoholic whose reputation has been severely hit when Limbani was kidnapped.
  • Rafer Janders – American soldier of fortune, also veteran of the Congo. Has a son Emile, who lives in Switzerland and attends a private school there.
  • Jeremy Chandos – Younger officer of Faulkner's team, he is single with no attachments and is a mercenary for the money and the action.
  • Shawn Fynn – a former pilot and currently a party-loving playboy in London. As a friend of Chandos he initially rejects the offer of work in what could be a one way journey. Changes his mind after being kicked out by his girlfriend, homeless and broke he reluctantly joins Faulkner's mercenaries.
  • Peter Coetzee – Late of Rhodesia's British South Africa Police, penniless Afrikaner and bush war veteran Pieter Coetzee is another character living penniless in London. He is described as being stocky, slow-witted, and an uncomplicated racist.
  • Regimental Sergeant Major Sandy Young – A former Guards Warrant Officer and veteran comrade of Faulkner. He is described as a short man (5-foot 5 inches) with a fierce nature, with one motivation in life – to serve Faulkner.
  • Julius Limbani – Former Congolese Prime Minister, now living in exile in Zurich. Limbani hires Faulkner to mount a coup d'état on his behalf. Based on Moise Tshombe.
  • General Ndofa – Former head of the Congolese Army and comrade of Faulkner's mercenaries. Now rules the Congo with an iron fist, even created a secret police unit called the Simbas to create fear in the populace. Based on General Mobutu.