Author: George Macdonald Frasier
Softcover: 405 pages
Publisher: Harper Collins
First published 1983
ISBN: 0 00 647017 3
Alert readers may have noticed that in THE PYRATES occasional liberties have been taken with history, geography, seamanship, haute coutre, French, archaeology, and even logistics--try sailing a small boat from Madagascar to the Isle of Aves and back and see how long it takes. For this no apology is offered; you were warned on page 13.
--From the AFTERTHOUGHT
Frasier is most well known for his Flashman
series of books, tales of a decided anti-hero and his meanderings through 19th century world history. In Flashman Frasier tries his damned best to maintain historical accuracy and plausibility. The Pyrates
is Fraser letting go of all that rot and just having more fun than you can shake a blunderbuss
The story follows the adventures of Colonel Tom Blood (a decided bounder, cad, and the antihero of this story) and Captain Long Ben Avery (square-jawed and annoyingly perfect) as they try and recover the seven pieces of the sundered Royal Crown of Madagascar and avert a political distaster for King Charles.
Being a story primarily about plot and character, I'll avoid spoilers by introducing you to the rest of the wonderful Dramatis Personae.
Our antagonists are the Pyrates themselves, whom, though technically afoul of the law, you would honestly much rather have at your next party rather than either of the the Heroes. They include Calico Jack Rackham, the strong jawed masculine leader of the pack. Black Sheeba, a seething ebony sex goddess as likely to smoulder against your shoulder as slice you in two. Firebeard, the dim witted but enthusiastic land mass of a pirate given to lighting firecrackers twisted into his beard. Bilbo (no relation), a foppish would-be gentleman, but wicked with a rapier despite his horribly pinching boots (they're at the height of fashion, so don't imagine he's about to remove them.) Happy Dan Pew, who as a result of childhood accident believes himself erroneously to be quite French. And finally, Akbar the Damned. He is the least detailed pirate with the absolute least screen time. (Probably not even Equity.) Akbar is a cruel mideastern corsair deeply connected with the slave trade who negotiates parimarily with his cutlass.
Like a great road movie, we're taken on a meandering journey with this motley cast of charactures, meeting a wonderfully diverse and variously insane cast of supporting characters, from the drippins-loving Solomon Shafto to the black-widow-yo-yoing Don Lardo to the drinking-chocolate-addict Princess of the Sun. Near the end we even meet a retired Anne Bonney. Not to mention the love interests collectively bent on conquest of Long Ben: Vanity, the pink-cheeked scheming British coquette, Donna Meliflua the steamy Latin princess, and the aforementioned Black Sheeba, who finds her mad pride undone with lust for our Hero.
This all plays out against a beautifully painted world stage, traveling as we do along the currents between Jolly Old England, Haughty Madagascar, Lordly Cartagena, salty points between, and of course, lots and lots of action on the high seas. Frasier even lets us finally know what exactly (if not where) is Dead Man's Chest. Tell me Defoe wouldn't have given his left eye to know just that.
Few other books have ever made me laugh out loud as much, marvel at the well-crafted cliffhangers (even after multiple readings), or feel as much sorrow and longing for adventure when I finish the last page. Like a good mug of rum, this book is sweet, fun, slightly intoxicating, and not trying to pretend it's champagne. It's every pirate movie and story you ever loved rolled into one. For these reasons I highly, highly recommend the Pyrates.