GAINESVILLE, Ga. -- In the violent underground novel "Absolved," right-wing militia members upset about gun control make war against the U.S. government. This week, federal prosecutors accused four elderly Georgia men of plotting to use the book as a script for a real-life wave of terror and assassination involving explosives and the highly lethal poison ricin.

The four suspected militia members allegedly boasted of a "bucket list" of government officials who needed to be "taken out," talked about scattering ricin from a plane or from a car speeding down a highway past major U.S. cities, and scouted IRS and ATF offices, with one man saying, "We'd have to blow the whole building like Timothy McVeigh."

Federal investigators said they had them under surveillance for at least seven months, infiltrating their meetings at a Waffle House, homes and other places, before finally arresting them Tuesday, just days after discovering evidence that they were trying to extract ricin from castor beans.

The four gray-haired men -- Frederick Thomas, 73; Dan Roberts, 67; Ray Adams, 65; and Samuel Crump, 68 -- appeared in federal court Wednesday without entering a plea and were jailed for a bail hearing next week.

Thomas and Roberts were charged with conspiring to buy an explosive device and an illegal silencer. Prosecutors would not say whether the men actually obtained the items. Adams and Crump were charged with conspiring to make a biological toxin.

Relatives of two of the men said the charges were baseless. The public defender assigned to the case had no comment.

Prosecutors said Thomas was the ringleader who talked of carrying out the sort of actions described in "Absolved," an online novel written by former Alabama militia leader Mike Vanderboegh. In the book, the militia members build rifle grenades and drop explosives from crop dusters.

In the book's introduction, Vanderboegh calls it a "cautionary tale for the out-of- control gun cops of the ATF."

"For that warning to be credible, I must also present what amounts to a combination field manual, technical manual and call to arms for my beloved gunnies of the armed citizenry," he wrote. "They need to know how powerful they could truly be if they were pushed into a corner."

In an interview, Vanderboegh said he didn't know the four men and bears no responsibility for the alleged plot. "I'm glad that the FBI has apparently short-circuited some weak-minded individuals from misinterpreting my novel," he said.