One for the Books: The only good pirate is a fictional pirate ... By Mary Louise Ruehr

By Mary Louise Ruehr Published:

It's too bad they don't write old-fashioned adventure stories like the classic "Treasure Island" anymore. But wait -- someone did!

"Silver: Return to Treasure Island" by Andrew Motion is a marvelous sequel to the original. Motion's writing style even evokes the atmosphere and setting of the original.

It's July 1802. Young Jim Hawkins, son of the Jim Hawkins of "Treasure Island" (the author sums up the first book in a couple of paragraphs), lives with his father in an inn on the river. One night, a mysterious visitor beckons him to join her in her boat. It's Natty, the daughter of Long John Silver. The aged Silver wants Jim and Natty to go back to the island and retrieve the rest of the treasure left there. Naturally, the boy is intrigued.

Jim describes what he sees as they approach the ship on which they will sail: "The smell of tar and freshly cut wood was wonderful -- as wonderful as the figureheads of the ships all around me which had looked at the other side of the world, and now were jutting above my own head, and also above the heads of sailors with rings in their ears and whiskers curled into ringlets and pigtails." On the ship, they encounter pirates, murder and debauchery, not to mention the savage sea itself.

After one particularly tense encounter on the island, Natty exclaims, "(It) scared the life out of me when I saw that old pirate, with the wind blowing dust in my face and Spyglass Hill all black in the distance. Every drop of blood in me sank to my feet."

The book hooked me almost immediately. It gets pretty violent, and there's one thing that happens that's simply wrong. But I really liked the characters, the setting, the re-creation of the mood of the first book. There's even a talking bird.

It is an excellent adventure, for all ages.

For a nonfiction look at pirates, check out "The Pirates of Somalia: Inside Their Hidden World" by Jay Bahadour. The author met with real-life pirates in Puntland, in Northeast Somalia, one of the most dangerous places in the world. There are about 500 pirates operating around the coastal city of Eyl, and there are three other key pirate ports in the area.

Piracy is an entire industry there: Ransom money is split among the men who capture the ship; investors who pay for the ships, fuel, tracking equipment and weapons; guards who watch the hostages; suppliers of food and water; and translators. Some even goes to the poor as charity (which makes the pirates popular with the locals).

Today's pirates "are hard to track down," writes the author, but he managed to locate and interview some of the treacherous men (one assured him that he was "quite harmless on land"), and he explains what drove them to piracy, how they go about what they do, how many attacks there have been, and international attempts to stop them.

It's an interesting travel memoir as well as a historical and sociological study, and it has a section of black and white photos.

"Pirates Don't Say Please!" by Laurie Lazzaro Knowlton, illustrated by Adrian Tans, is for kids, ages about 3 to 7. Billy's pretending to be a pirate, with a pirate hat and cutlass, and he even has a parrot perched on his shoulder. His rude pirate behavior doesn't fly with his mother: "Leave your ... pirate ways at the door," she says, "or it's off to the brig with you."

He won't behave, so she sends him to "the brig" (his room), where he imagines he's on a pirate journey, sailing to an island and digging up treasure. But when he gets hungry, he decides to become a polite prince who says "please" to his mother. The illustrations are big and colorful. Very nice. Hardcover, 8.5 x 11 inches, 32 pages.

For some silly fun, try "The Pirates! In an Adventure with The Romantics" by Gideon Defoe. Defoe's fifth Pirates! novel is set in 1816, when the "Pirate Captain and his Terrifying Troop of Capricious Cut-throats" meet up with the Romantic poets Byron and Shelley. The poets are bored and hire the pirates to take them on a quest for excitement. The plot involves something about Eskimos on Lake Geneva, a mysterious code, a famous mathematician, the search for a library book, and a cursed castle in the Carpathian Mountains.

It's a bit bizarre and disjointed, but laughable, as when the captain says, "We all have those bleak sort of days when everything seems hopeless. A monkey's eaten your sextant, some native witchdoctor has sold you a cursed eye-patch, your crew won't shut up about gastropods."

I'd say it was a cross between Lemony Snicket and Douglas Adams. Some of the humor is a bit risqué, so I don't recommend it for young kids, but I do think anybody who liked "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" would probably like this series.

What would a list of pirate books be without a romance novel? In "Seduced by a Pirate" by Eloisa James, Sir Griffin Barry (from "The Ugly Duchess," also by James) is a pirate who's gone straight. He knew his wife for only a day before they were married 14 years ago, and after a disappointing wedding night, he went off to sea the next day.

Now he's back, with a wounded leg and a royal pardon, and wants to resume their marriage. But she's been busy while he was gone. Let's just say he hears the pitter-patter of several little feet around the house.

It's a simple plot, with no real conflict, and fittingly for a romance novel, it's a bit bawdy.

But it's super-short; just when this e-book starts to get interesting, it's over.

"Wake of the Perdido Star" by Gene Hackman (yes, the actor) and Daniel Lenihan is an old-fashioned, action-packed swashbuckler of a novel, set on the high seas. Jack O'Reilly, 17, sets off from Massachusetts in 1805, heading for Cuba, and ends up sailing around the world, becoming "Black Jack" O'Reilly. Don't expect literary loveliness or philosophical insights, but if you want a rousing good time, this could be it.

Copyright © 2013 by Mary Louise Ruehr.

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