I'm very excited to introduce Frank Delaney's latest novel - a sequel to the beloved classic Treasure Island entitled JIM HAWKINS AND THE CURSE OF TREASURE ISLAND.
For regular readers of this blog, you'll know that Frank Delaney is one of my favourite authors, and I've reviewed his books here before.
So here's a teaser for you all which includes a bit about the book and a free excerpt of the Prologue.
Happy reading everyone!
Jim Hawkins, the cabin-boy hero of Treasure Island, has grown up. With his fortune from the South Seas, he has expanded and improved the family inn, the old Admiral Benbow, on the coast of Somerset, where, from behind the bar, he regales travelers with tales of Long John Silver, Ben Gunn, Billy Bones, and the parrot that shrieks "pieces of eight, pieces of eight"—Cap'n Flint. Then one day, the mail coach deposits a beautiful stranger and her young son, and asks Jim to help her find somebody—Joseph Tait, one of the pirates they left behind on Treasure Island.
About the Author
Frank Delaney has earned top prizes and best-seller status in a wide variety of formats—prolific author, television and radio broadcaster, journalist, columnist, screenwriter, lecturer, playwright and scholar. His podcast series, Re:Joyce, deconstructing, examining and illuminating James Joyce’s Ulyssesline-by-line, in accessible and entertaining five-minute broadcasts, and posted each week on his website and iTunes, has just passed its first million downloads. A lifelong admirer of Robert Louis Stevenson, and originally publishing under the pseudonym, Francis Bryan, Delaney wrote Jim Hawkins & the Curse of Treasure Island as a work of affection and homage to the original Treasure Island.
PROLOGUE: GROWN TO MAN'S ESTATE
Seven years after I returned from the sea I became twenty-one, a man's majority. My mother told me I should now become my father's successor beneath the sign of the Admiral Benbow. I embraced my inheritance and took over the running of the inn.
My ambition to become a good landlord was helped by the riches for which I had risked my life, and which we now began to use a little. With my dividend from Treasure Island I improved the inn, fitting brass and glass from Bristol, and purchasing tables and chairs made of Somerset yew. The old sea dog, Captain Billy Bones, whose fatal map caused us our misery and our adventure, said when he first came to us that the Admiral Benbow was "a pleasant sittyated grog-shop." I meant to make it more than that and I believe I have done so.
In those unhappy days we had lacked business. Our remoteness was foremost among the old pirate's reasons for coming to us. Yet, although his vile presence had brought great hardship to my mother and me, we acknowledged that Billy Bones had also been the cause of our wealth. His oilskin packet, with its map marked OFFE CARACCAS, brought us the treasure, and it helped to increase our trade—because upon my return the men of the district crowded the inn to hear my account. Whatever my youth and excitability, I believe I did not decorate the story too much; it needed no ornament. And my listeners drank much ale as they smacked their lips at the adventure.
Word of my yarns spread and we acquired customers from far beyond our boundaries. As the months and soon the years passed, almost every day brought a new visitor. Many of these were sailors, bound for Bristol or Plymouth with their haversacks. They sought out our inn because its young host had a wonderful tale to tell of pirates and treasure!
My mother felt unease at my stories and thought me immodest. I replied that she must think too of our trade, and how it had grown. The Admiral Benbow, once a lacklustre tavern in lonely Black Cove, had become a busy port of call. We often smiled—that Billy Bones, having chosen our inn as a quiet place to hide, became the cause of making it bustle. At such a moment my mother would murmur again that she prayed for his departed soul but feared it too blackened to be saved.
Whenever I thought of him and the other pirates, I was comforted by the feeling that it had all passed. No more would we hear Blind Pew and his dreadful tapping in the clear air of a frosty night. Nor would I wince again at the crushing force of his grip upon my arm; nor shudder at the great green shade over his empty eyes; nor ever more endure the sound of his cruel, cold, ugly voice. Nor should I need to scan the headlands for Long John Silver, the sea cook with one leg, whose spectre so frightened Billy Bones.
As we grew in substance, I hired sufficient help. This brought to an end my mother's daily burdens. She rested her body a little more, but not her mind—nor her tongue; her pronouncements from her upstairs parlour became more vigorous than I had known, yet she still guided rather than forced me towards good decisions. I bought two horses, one for me and one for our general purposes, and some land by the inn for the horses to graze upon, and against a day when we might think it necessary to build anew. (Indeed, we built straightaway—a stable, which we had never before been able to offer travellers.) The parish, which formerly pitied us behind their hands, looked to the young landlord of the Admiral Benbow and his dignified mother with interest and, I think, pride.
Our new fortunes also helped to honour my dear father. He lies in the churchyard overlooking the waves at Kitts Hole where I honoured him with a fine headstone. My mother shall lie beside him in the same plot, but not, I hope, for many years yet. Old Taylor, the gardener, who died during my absence in the South Seas, was buried nearby during the stormiest day my mother believes she ever saw.
That windswept little graveyard will be my last resting place too and I hope I will not be carried there until generations have passed. But that will be a vain hope unless I can cease taking risks, such as the adventure I am now about to relate.
My part in this new story still baffles me. Why would any sensible man, especially having known such fearful experiences as I had, ever leave our haven? Yet I did. Again I travelled to that island where I killed Israel Hands. Again I climbed those slopes where my friends once thought I had deserted them in favour of cutthroat mutineers. Indeed, were it not for the great bravery and loyalty of my comrades in those adventures, Dr. Livesey, Squire Trelawney and the redoubtable Captain Smollett, I might have died on Treasure Island—yet I revisited those frightful shores. It seems to go against the credible: why did I return to a place I hated and which haunted my worst dreams?
That is a question which you, my reader, may rightly ask. It was no desire to repeat such exploits that drove me back. Yes, we had left some treasure there—a considerable amount, because we had not had men enough to heave it nor space enough to stow it. But the lure of that trove played little part in my return. The truth is—new and powerful feelings drove me.
These began as compassion and soon grew to something more difficult to describe or name, something exciting, warm, overwhelming. There was also fear; one day, I found myself, of a sudden, trapped in circumstances where I was accused and in danger of the law's worst penalty. If I must be honest, my natural foolishness (which I try to control) also played a part.
Perhaps I hoped also to lay the ghosts of the old nightmares. Often, as I lay in my bed, the wind came up from the cove and raved near the chimneys. The windows rattled and as the inn sign swung and creaked, I heard in my dreams the surf along the island's horrid shore. On such nights the wretched words of Long John Silver's parrot cackled and droned across my brain: "Pieces of Eight! Pieces of Eight!"
So here I am, taking up my pen again. While I set down every awful thing that took place, I seek your judgement. Place yourself where I sat on a certain summer day in the year of grace 17———. Direct your thoughts towards the assistance asked—implored—of me. As you read my account, measure me against your own thoughts— judge me according as you think you, yourself, would have acted in such unexpected and difficult matters.