Genetically, I’m almost completely from the British Isles — I’m Welsh, Irish, Scottish and English. And since I’ve lived in both England and Jamaica, I ask you, why wouldn’t I love pirate stories? This past year I’ve been on a pirate kick and have read four very different swashbuckling books. Two were nonfiction and two were fiction.
First, I read Michael Crichton’s fiction book, “Pirate Latitudes”. It was set in the Caribbean around 1665 and tells the tale of how English “privateers” went after the Spanish ships carrying gold from the New World back to Spain. Nothing new here. Most considered themselves patriots in that they fought a guerrilla war against Spain and the Spanish colonies.
Crichton being the genius that he was, R.I.P., adds enough historical facts to this story to make it a plausible tale. And of course he adds his own wild ideas, some humor, some sex, some rum and away we go! The captain of the Cassandra, Charles Hunter, is the very manly hero. When Hunter hears that a Spanish galleon full of gold has docked at a nearby island, he is quickly at work putting together a motley crew of characters in preparation for attack. I won’t spoil it, but it is worth the read. I would recommend it as a summer beach read, especially if you can hear the surf breaking against the shore.
Second, I read a fantastic nonfiction book titled, “Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean: How a Generation of Swashbuckling Jews Carved Out an Empire in the New World in their Quest for Treasure, Religious Freedom — and Revenge”, by Edward Kritzler.
Edward Kritzler spent a lot of time in Jamaica researching his book using historical documents preserved there in the national archives. A well known Jewish Jamaican, Ainsley Henriques, provided some of the funding for his research. Here is a link to “Pieces of the Past” from the “Jamaican Gleaner” (a Jamaican newspaper) about the Jews in Jamaica.
This article is a fascinating read by itself. I recommend reading it as it compliments the book, “Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean”.
After being expelled from Spain during the late 1400s (during the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella), the Jews that were able to leave lost everything. Those that ventured to the New World found revenge in piracy against the Spanish by attacking the Spanish ships. This is a chapter of Jewish history that has been overlooked. The book also does a good job of explaining this period in Spanish history and the diaspora in general. Again, I am not going to copy the story, as Edward Kritzler does much a better job of it than I ever could.
“Jewish Pirates”, needs a bit more attention than you could give it at the beach. Still, it is wild and woolly enough to keep you engrossed. It is what I’d call a very fun history book.
Third I read, “If a Pirate I Must Be. . .The True Story of “Black Bart”, King of the Caribbean Pirates”, by Richard Sanders.
Again, this is nonfiction. Mr. Sanders goes way beyond the mere history of “Black Bart”, the pirate. The book does a great job of explaining shipping at that time, slaving ships, the Royal Navy, tropical disease and so much more. Again, it is a really fun history book. The book also deals with Black Bart’s sexuality and perhaps reveals the origination of the greeting, “hello, sailor!”
This could be a good read for a cruise, as the ocean as a backdrop would add so much ambiance. Just don’t lose yourself and start singing, “yo, ho, ho” at the bar or the other passengers may make you walk the plank.
Last, I reread, “Treasure Island”, by Robert Louis Stevenson. If you have a Kindle from amazon, you can download it for free (which I did). Thanks, amazon!
This book was so much better than I remembered. It’s a classic tale that has never lost its appeal. And, of course, the hero is the boy Jim Hawkins. The beauty is seeing how our Jim tricks and defeats the horrible Long John Silver. It is full of adventure, the silliness of adults, and lots of “pirate talk”.
Again, what a fun book to read at the beach! Or under the covers at night with a flashlight, like when you were a child.
So — that’s it for pirates for now. And, if you noticed, I never mentioned Johnny Depp even once. . .ooops.