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: Pirate Ghosts and Phantom Ships

Rating: ★★★☆☆
Pirate Ghosts and Phantom Ships
by Thomas D’Agostino

Pirate Ghosts & Phantom Ships, by Thomas D’Agostino, is a collection of dozens of tales regarding seagoing spectres and maritime tragedy. And, at least by some accounts, every word of it’s true.

Pirate Ghosts is an easy, interesting read, with each chapter being its own short story regarding some aspect of the restless dead, with firm roots in folklore and coastal legend. Not all the tales directly involve pirates, although many do (I skipped around to read those chapters first), and readers will be delighted to see more than a few familiar names, including Blackbeard, Sam Bellamy, Captain Kidd, and Black Bart. 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: Pirateology

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Pirateology certainly isn’t the only explore/activity book on pirates, and to be perfectly honest, I’m not sure if it’s even the first. But it’s most certainly one of most involved. Far from a simple history of pirates, each page takes on the feeling of a pirate-hunter’s scrapbook, complete with journal entries, pictures and keepsakes, and hidden secrets. Readers can find bags of gold dust, scraps of pirate flags, and – if they’re very, very thorough – even the secret location of Arabella Drummond’s treasure. 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: Pirate Soul

Rating: ★★★½☆
Pirate Soul: A Swashbuckling Journey Through the Golden Age of Pirates
by Pat Croce

The bookstores are swarming with “general history of piracy” books. There are quite literally dozens of them. Styles range from large-scale textbooks with lots of graphs and pictures to text-based novels to numerous children’s books. Yes, the shelves are swarming with pirate history books. So why should Pat Croce’s new book, Pirate Soul, be anything special? Simply put, it isn’t a book – it’s a pirate activity center tucked between two covers. 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: Hunting Pirate Heaven

Rating: ★★★★★
Hunting Pirate Heaven: In Search of the Lost Pirate Utopias of the Indian Ocean
by Kevin Rushby

OK, get this. The author is hanging out on the beach one day and talks to a stranger who mentions how pirates once built their own kingdoms in Madagascar. The author then decides to go check it out for himself, but rather than fly or rent a ship he mooches, finesses, and bribes his way one island at a time, meeting the strangest assortment of folks along the way.

This man is my hero. 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