Review: The Buccaneer’s Realm

Rating: ★★★★☆
The Buccaneer’s Realm
by Benerson Little

Already a fan of The Sea Rover’s Practice (being the only book on pirate tactics written by a former Navy SEAL), you can imagine I was looking mighty forward to Benerson Little’s next book, The Buccaneer’s Realm: Pirate Life on the Spanish Main, 1674-1688.

Many books on piracy – in my experience – are entry level. They are written on the assumption that the reader has little or no prior knowledge of the subject matter, and therefore start at the beginning. I suppose this makes sense as it casts the widest net for gaining readers, but the downside is that many books on piracy cover the same basic turf again and again. While I don’t know Little’s intentions, it does seem to me that he has departed from this 101 template in favor of a more exploratory book of Buccaneering 201. Continue reading

Review: If a Pirate I Must Be…

Rating: ★★★★☆
If a Pirate I Must Be…
by Richard Sanders

What really gets me about true historical pirates is the clichés. Unlike the clichés set forth by the Wicked Witch of the West – who really didn’t look or act much like real witches at all – pirate clichés do have many roots in truth. Some of the most famous pirates such as Blackbeard, Morgan, and Bellamy demostrated many of the qualities one expects from pirates – including the swilling of rum, the terrorizing of locals, and the wearing of tricornered hats. But it’s these same common features that make each pirate’s unique departures from the cliché stand out all the more. Continue reading

Review: Quelch’s Gold

Rating: ★★★½☆
Quelch’s Gold: Piracy, Greed, and Betrayal in Colonial New England
by Clifford Beal

It was the golden age of Piracy – a privateer out of New England went “freelance”, violating his letter of marque and plundering a fortune in Portuguese gold. Upon his return home, he was tried and sentenced amongst a deafening uproar of injustice in a region only recently recovering from the Salem Witch Trials. To this day, folks still seek the gold these pirates left behind, while living in a nation founded partly on sparks generated by this very pirate’s conviction. And odds are, you don’t have a clue who I’m talking about.

John Quelch was in many ways the very embodiment of a 1704 pirate. Beginning as a legal privateer, he followed much in the footsteps of his more famous predecessor Captain Kidd as he abandoned the terms of his commission in favor of hunting more lucrative prey. The evidence is pretty clear, and quite damning. That Quelch and his men, armed with a Letter of Marque to hunt the French in the Northern Atlantic instead headed south to Brazil to plunder Portuguese gold is pretty much beyond question. And yet, in the eyes of history this is far from an open-and-shut case, leaving many questions. Continue reading

Review: Empire of Blue Water

Rating: ★★★★½
Empire of Blue Water
by Stephan Talty

Come for the pirates, stay for the earthquake…

Captain Morgan – we’ve heard the name, drank the rum, but how much do we actually know about the guy? Actually, unlike with many pirates, quite a lot is known about Henry Morgan. His exploits are exceedingly well documented. And in Empire of Blue Water, author Stephan Talty does a splendid job of relaying Morgan’s adventures in a manner that’s both detailed and entertaining. Continue reading

Review: The Republic of Pirates

Rating: ★★★★½
The Republic of Pirates
by Colin Woodard

I’ve often stated my aversion to “general history of pirates” type books. They quite often cover the same turf as each other, and so many names and events tend to blur together in my wee brain. I’ve also lamented the inherit dryness often found in some historical texts – too many details and too little drama don’t bode well for a book unless I’m hoping to use to help me fall asleep. Fortunately The Republic of Pirates has me covered on all accounts – it’s well written and entertaining while remaining informative. And it doesn’t endeavor to be an all-encompassing “who’s who” of pirates. However, author Colin Woodard does take a unique approach by focusing on, not one pirate, nor all pirates, but instead a small batch of pirates – several household-name pirates who were in fact contemporaries, cohorts, and even friends. Continue reading

Review: Caribbean Pirates

Rating: ★★★½☆
Caribbean Pirates: A Treasure Chest of Fact, Fiction, and Folklore
by George Beahm

Caribbean Pirates: A Treasure Chest of Fact, Fiction, and Folklore, is exactly as it claims – a vast collection of pirate data culled from many sources. In the past I’ve reviewed books of this same format, and questioned the usefullness of such works, this being the digital age where information is never more than a few mouse-clicks away. Author George Beahm, however, has no small experience in this matter – he’s previously written a large line of pop culture reference books, with topics ranging from Harry Potter to seafood (and pretty much everything in between.) Having read Caribbean Pirates, I can now see the value of such a book, as Beahm does an excellent job of not only collecting, but compiling, processing, and conveying pirate data into a final product that’s both informative and entertaining. Continue reading

Review: And a Bottle of Rum

Rating: ★★★☆☆
And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails
by Wayne Curtis

By the author’s own claim, “And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails” is not an effort to claim that the history of America was defined by rum, so much as it’s an effort to share just what that history was, and to do so through the prism of rum as it reflected the times. From the early days of grog and flip, to the more recent history of Mai Tais and Mojitos, rum has always been a product of the current culture, and methods of its consumption changed accordingly. Continue reading

Review: Tales of the Atlantic Pirates

Rating: ★★★★★
Tales of the Atlantic Pirates
by Geoffrey Girard

I’m going to be honest – I was not looking foward to reading this book. The simple fact is that, at a glance, it has little unique to offer. The back cover essentially claims it to be a collection of short stories about pirates – and that’s about it. But therein lies the tragedy, as many folks – shortsighted individuals such as myself – might grab this book from the shelf, half-heartedly read the description, and then put it back with a ho-hum attitude. And that would be a shame, as this book is nothing short of brilliant.

Tales of the Atlantic Pirates is composed of 13 short stories, ranging from 1671 right up through 2006. Each is historically inspired, sometimes borrowing historical events and figures, other times injecting a small dose of folklore-based supernatural. And each story concludes with a brief paragraph or two that explains the historical (or folk-lore) inspirations that led to the creation of said story. Continue reading

Review: Booty: Girl Pirates on the High Seas

Rating: ★★★½☆
Booty: Girl Pirates on the High Seas
by Sara Lorimer

Girl pirates were a rarity. In the male-dominated world in which pirates resided, coupled with the complications aroused (heh) by women at sea – real and imagined – there just wasn’t much room for femine scallywaggs wishing to engage in a bit of pillaging and Spaniard skewering. But as in any time period, there were a few headstong lassies who found the gumption within themselves to buck the system and take to life of piracy. Anne Bonney and Mary Read are the two most famous, and certainly the only lady pirates the average person might be able to name. Grace O’Mally and Cheng I Sao have found their ways into the hearts and minds of hardcore pirate enthusiasts, but any other female pirates seem to elude all but the most diligent historians. Continue reading

Review: The Sea Rover’s Practice

Rating: ★★★★★
The Sea Rover’s Practice: Pirate Tactics and Techniques, 1630-1730
by Benerson Little

During my time running, I’ve read many, many pirate books. And in doing so, I’ve developed exactly two heroes. The first was Kevin Rushby for possessing the wherewithal to truly – and I mean truly – explore the waters and cultures between Cape Town and Madagascar. And only now have I found a second author of truly heroic status. Benerson Little has written a book without precedent – a small tome of combat knowledge as it applies to our pirate forebears. Be it ship-to-ship, hand-to-hand, or just plain deceit and cheating, the tactics are all here and explained in glorious detail. So why does this make Little a hero? Because he speaks from experience.

It’s one thing for a historian to write about old naval tactics. It’s quite another when that historian is a former navy SEAL. Continue reading