Book Review: Forty Acres: A gripping tale of the loss of land to developers

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How hard should one fight for an ideal? How much is it worth to save land from being swallowed up by unscrupulous developers whose only motivation is the profit they can make? What if things start to get dangerous?

In a gripping tale that quickly grabs your interest, Gerard Murrin’s Forty Acres (ISBN: 1-931741-74-3, $22.95, Robert D. Reed Publishers) weaves a story of crisis and intrigue, set in a seemingly not-too-distant future, where heroes and villains abound. But, as is true in real life, not all the characters reveal all their facets immediately. Some are mysterious enough to keep you guessing. Just whose side is Arthur Flemming really on? Is Tamara a selfless heroine, or is she being taken in by a manipulator?

The locale is Ogle County, Illinois, but all the rules have been changed. As the summary states, “… this story foreshadows the look and feel of the mid-21st century given the continued loss of land to commercial and residential development. In Murrin’s fictional America, the federal government enacts radical legislation in an attempt to control land-use practices, resulting in a political landscape that is unrecognizable. Local power brokers quickly learn to manipulate the new system, outlawing dissension groups while continuing to devour open space at an alarming rate.”

Get acquainted with the dedicated members of the tiny Land Preservation Society, who in their efforts to stop the behemoth of unrestrained developers, have been forced underground. Like the first-century Christians in the catacombs, they seek to spread their message of preservation while attempting to survive being annihilated by the greedy Caesars of the government-land development alliance.

Meet people like Professor Tom Sanders, a tireless researcher, president of the LPS; beautiful and courageous Tamara Hopkins; aging activist Andy Cemanski, whose heart is in the right place but sometimes acts too rashly for the good of the cause; and their opponents, devious County Clerk Nathan Coulter and John Gardner of the Gardner Development Company. Then there’s the wild card, Arthur Flemming. Where does he fit into this scenario? It all comes together at Meador Farms, the crucial battleground where the LPS makes a desperate last stand.

Murrin successfully combines his message of the need for rural land conservation with all the twists and turns of a Sherlock Holmes detective story. This one’s a real page-turner!

Forty Acres is available from Robert D. Reed Publishers, P.O. Box 1992, Bandon, OR 97411, phone (541) 347-9882, fax (541) 347-9883; or e-mail Web site:

From the Dec. 20-26, 2006, issue

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