The Incorrigible Harriet Dumont

Summer Pirate Reading


It wasn’t planned, but this seems to be a summer of pirate reading. (As every summer should be, but it’s not always supply meets demand.) In this post: John Silver x 2, and James Hook.

I started out with Mary Jones historia by Elin Boardy, which has waited patiently for me for a couple of years, and I immediately regretted letting it wait, because I fell in love with it.
Before Treasure Island, Long John Silver ran a tavern in Bristol with his wife. This book is the story as told by their kitchen girl, Mary Jones, and additionally the story of Silver’s creole wife Dolores. There’s one timeline before the treasure hunt, and one starting with Silver’s death on Hispaniola, years later. It is the women’s story, but significantly, though Silver, alive or dead, is always a powerful presence, Mary and Dolores are not merely women the story happens to: the stories about their lives are the important ones. Women’s history (with a wlw love story) well balanced with metaliterary pirate history.

Then I had to reread Stevenson’s original Treasure Island, since the first time was easily 30 years ago, and then probably abridged and certainly in Swedish. It was very fun to read literally all the pirate tropes and staples – eye patches, parrots, treasure maps, rum, ”By the powers”, Fifteen Men on a Dead Man’s Chest &c &c – from the very source that’s made them last to this day (though apparently we have Robert Newton to thank for ”Arrr, matey!”). And I think the pirates were crueller and more devious than in the version I read as a kid.

Funnily enough, while reading these I was also catching up on Black Sails, and I did think that Silver in both these books would have been played by Toby Stephens rather than by Luke Arnold – but then, quite a few years and hardships will have passed. Jessica Parker Kennedy would make a good Dolores.

After these and after some space opera (but Captain Uisine of Ann Leckie’s upcoming Provenance could easily be classified as a space pirate) –

Lost Boy: The true story of Captain Hook by Christina Henry. ”Peter promised we would all be young and happy forever. Peter lies.” This is the story of Neverland as told by Jamie, the very first boy Peter fetched over from The Other Place, his right hand, his best friend … and the first boy who starts to question Peter. The island is really a very dangerous place to be, not only because of pirates and monsters, but because if Peter’s happy, everyone is happy, but if Peter’s not … It’s a gruesome tale, and probably not one for someone who idolises the character of Peter Pan.

Currently: Pirate Utopias: Moorish Corsairs & European Renegadoes by Peter Lamborn Wilson, and season 4 of Black Sails.

Upcoming: The Queen of Swords by R. S. Belcher, and Magic of Blood and Sea by Cassandra Rose Clarke. And perhaps someone has more suggestions?