Victory in Tripoli: How America’s War with the Barbary Pirates Established the U.S. Navy and Shaped a Nation
by Joshua E. London
Having read several historical novels of late, it occurs to me that one thing they most all lack is a proper story arc. For example, in a typical pirate biography Pirate A was born, raised, raids this city, raids that ship, yaddy-yaddy-yadda, and then dies. Real life rarely offers the proper format of dramatic elements that make for traditional storytelling, which can make for historical novels that are sometimes a bit winding and seemingly aimless.
No such danger with Victory in Tripoli – we have both a protagonist and an antagonist, a beginning, middle, and even an exciting conclusion. And we of course have pirates – it’s all here!
Long before the United Stated won its independence, the Barbary Nations had established a unique relationship with the major European powers – namely that of terror, extortion, and downright piracy. Continue reading
by Stephen R. Bown
Scurvy! Say it with me now – Scurvy! Few words seem so salty and piratey, and it’s downright fun to say. But what exactly is it?
Stephen R. Bown covers the story of scurvy and the quest for its cure by tracing the efforts of three distinct individuals – James Lind, James Cook, and Gilber Blane (the surgeon, the captain, and the gentleman, respectively.) These men’s stories each make for a gripping read, and together they tell a fascinating tale about a terrible affliction that not only crippled its individual victims, but entire navies as well. Throughout most of history, long voyages manned by malnourished sailors short on Vitamin C inevitably gave way to a variety of dreaded symptoms, from spongy, bleeding gums to decades old wounds reopening. It’s easy to see how scurvy rose to such infamy, especially in days before nutrition was widely understood, and its cause was routinely attributed to unrelated factors such as poor sanitation or impurity of thought. Continue reading
A Hanging Offense: The Strange Affair of the Warship Somers
by Buckner F. Milton, Jr.
Now normally I side with the pirates – it’s in my nature. But in this story I just had to root for the naval captain. Sorry, not story – this is history. And a fascinating piece at that. Word has it that at the time these events gripped the nation (the OJ trials of the 1800s, I suppose,) but today not many have heard of the Somers. 19 year old Philip Spencer was a midshipman, the son of the secretary of war, and trouble. Insubordinant from the get-go and selfish to boot. That may be all forgivable, but when he’s stationed on the Somers, a training vessel manned almost entirely by children, well, that’s when I draw the line and playful mutiny becomes cold-blooded murder. Of course, Captain Mackenzie learned of the plans in advance and dealt with it as best he could, but you can read about that yourself. Continue reading
“Pirates of Silicon Valley”? Yeah, right. This is the most fraudelent movie title since “The Neverending Story.” Not one freakin’ pirate, just a bunch of computer geeks going to meetings. No ships, no wenches, not even a single “Yarrr” throughout this entire 95 minute disaster. This movie claims to be based on a true story, but I looked up Bill Gates and Steve Jobs in every pirate encyclopedia I have, and neither is mentioned even once – so they weren’t even real people, apparently.
I mean, if they had a movie about Blackbeard going to business meetings, then I could at least give them partial credit for putting a real pirate in the film – even if he wasn’t doing piratey things. But this is a movie, supposedly about pirates, that depicts non-pirates doing nothing remotely piratey. What a crock.