Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Pirate Latitudes by Michael Crichton

Having read and loved, ‘Timeline’ by the same author, I was intrigued to see if he could teach me anything new about the 17th Century. I shouldn’t have been so confident, for he managed it on page three!

Pirate Latitudes takes place in the Port Royal of 1665, when Charles II’s Jamaican colony is under serious threat, besieged on every side by the voracious Spanish empire. The king wants the island farmed, but sends no farmers to till the infertile soil. He also wants as much Spanish gold as he can get, but is not willing to send troops to Jamaica to protect it, so the Governor is forced to employ privateers to do his work for him.

As a result, Port Royal is a refuge for criminals of all kinds who live and double-deal amongst its taverns and brothels. Privateers plunder the Spanish outposts at will, with an agreed cut of the spoils going to the Governor and King Charles.

When a treasure galleon lies at anchor off the heavily protected Spanish island of Matanceros, Captain Charles Hunter takes an interest. Capturing this ship mean he will be able to take on Philip of Spain's most ruthless enforcer, Cazalla. The scene is ripe for a swashbuckling adventure with all the excitement of the best pirate novel, and Michael Crichton does not disappoint.

The story begins with a colourful description of life for the British in Jamaica, the arrival of a convict ship, where the governor takes his pick of the female criminals, a new secretary with outmoded ideas about how the colony should be run and the hanging of a pirate thrown in for good measure.

The story then takes an unexpected curve into black humour and wit, fun and turns out as a jolly good romp through 17th Century West Indes, where life is cheap, everything is up for grabs if you are brave enough and law is pretty much non–existent.

If you like a combination of Eroll Flynn’s Captain Blood and Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow, you will enjoy this lively story.
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