The Tightening Dark: An American Hostage in Yemen

Benjamin Buchholz, Sam Farran

Hachette Books, 2020

Agent: Elise Capron

The riveting memoir of a Lebanese-Muslim-American and thirty-year US Marine veteran, who was seized in Yemen and spent six months in captivity--and an inspiring reminder that the best parts of the American dream are the dreamers.

As air strikes carpeted Yemen's capital, Sam Farran, a Muslim American who had immigrated from Lebanon at an early age and spent thirty years serving his adopted country in the US Marine Corps, was one of only two Americans in the war-ravaged country. They were there to conduct security assessments for a variety of international firms. Days after their arrival, they were brutally seized, separated and taken hostage by Houthi rebels. Sam would spend almost half a year suffering a horrific ordeal that would test his endurance, his loyalty and his very soul.

Every day his Muslim captors asked him as a fellow Muslim to betray America--and to turn against what he had been for three decades: a proud Marine--in exchange for his freedom. Would he give in to the Houthis in exchange for freedom and a return to his Middle Eastern, tribal roots? In the end and despite the daily threats to his life, Sam found the strength to resist, and came out of his experience no longer a man of two countries, but rather an American.

The Tightening Dark is an intimate, riveting and inspiring memoir of heroic strength, courage, survival and commitment to country. And a reminder that the best parts of the American dream are the dreamers--those who pledge to being American whether born on American soil or not.


“Farran offers insightful details about the complex situation in Yemen and the larger forces at play in the Middle East. This is an illuminating look behind the headlines.” Publishers Weekly

"A fine memoir and a disturbing hostage drama with a happy ending." Kirkus Reviews

"An interesting glimpse into Farran's bifurcated identity." Booklist

“Like so many diplomats and Marines around the world, Sam Farran’s decades’ long career involved tremendous risk. This story captures the riveting nightmare of the dreadful scenario we all train for, and hope never happens: being taken hostage.”Ali Soufan, author of The Black Banners and prominent terrorism expert

“Sam Farran, like so many other Marines and servicemembers of all kinds, fought to keep America safe, ready to make the ultimate sacrifice. As a Muslim boy who immigrated to Dearborn, Michigan, he represents the best of America, its diversity, its open arms, and its opportunity. Sam's powerful story is worthy of your time.”Tom Ridge, first Secretary of Homeland Security and 43rd Governor of Pennsylvania

“This gripping story sheds important light on one of the Middle East’s most entrancing but troubled countries. It should be added to the reading list of anyone seeking to understand Yemen’s recent turmoil and its ongoing struggle to emerge from conflict and poverty.” Matthew H. Tueller, former US Ambassador to Yemen and current US Ambassador to Iraq