Monday, August 8, 2011

Pirates & the Caribbean

I recently returned from the Caribbean, which made me think of my favorite historical novel about pirates, Michael Crichton’s Pirate Latitudes (okay, it’s the only historical novel about pirates I’ve read other than Treasure Island; in fact, I’m not even aware of other pirate novels, although I’m sure there are plenty).

The novel was discovered on Crichton’s computer after his death and is only his third novel I’d characterize as historical fiction, the other two being The Great Train Robbery and Eaters of the Dead.  (I’m not counting Timeline, even though much of the novel takes place in the Middle Ages, because it’s really about time travel, which I consider science fiction.)   I found the novel to be a well-researched and fun read, especially when imagining what the Caribbean must have been like in the days of pirates and privateers. 

I’ve reviewed the novel on and Amazon and posted a copy after the picture of the book’s cover.  But with thoughts of the Caribbean still dancing in my head, I wonder: has anyone else read a novel about pirates that’s worth reading?

At barely 300 pages, Pirate Latitudes is a quick read that will remind Michael Crichton fans of The Great Train Robbery – except with pirates instead of Victorian-era thieves. 

Set in 1665, Pirate Latitudes involves a team of privateers, each with unique talents, who are hired to capture a treasure-laden galleon from an island fortress ruled by a brutal Spanish commander.  The novel’s protagonist is Captain Charles Hunter, a Harvard educated privateer from the Massachusetts Bay Colony, but it’s his crew that makes the novel so enjoyable, including a Jewish explosives expert, a French assassin, a female marksman (who disguises herself as a man), and a mute strongman nicknamed The Moor.  In addition to a seemingly impossible mission, there’s a thrilling battle at sea, a hurricane, and a twist at the end.  This is not Crichton’s best novel, and I’m not even sure he was finished with it since the novel was discovered on his computer after his death.  But I’m glad it was published.  Pirate Latitudes is a thoroughly enjoyable read set during a fascinating period of history.      


BJB said...

Long live The Dread Pirate Roberts! (The Princess Bride was a book before being a movie.) Crichton's Pirate Latitudes is the only full-length novel I have read about pirates, but I can recommend several short stories by Robert E. Howard in which Conan the Barbarian and Solomon Kane deal with pirates. Conan himself did a stint as a pirate captain along the Corsair coast. Separately, but related, there are, of course, many wonderful novel set at sea during the times of pirates, although not concerning pirates per se. These novels can satisfy the craving for sea-faring adventure, too.

3f82772e-d15c-11e1-8456-000f20980440 said...

I read Pirate Latitudes and came away feeling that Crichton had only complete his first draft. I've read plenty of his works--as well as being a writer myself--and the normal feeling of depth was missing. As an outline for a movie, this works well enough, but as a finished novel, and from a renowned writer like Crichton, this fails just a bit. A good story, but only the bones without the flesh.
If you hunger for pirates, especially unusual pirate tales, try Jolly Roger and Dragons on Nook or Kindle.