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Cindy Vallar, Editor & Reviewer
P.O. Box 425, Keller, TX  76244-0425


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Captain in Calico                                        The Pyrates

Cover Art: Captain Calico
Captain in Calico
By George MacDonald Fraser
The Mysterious Press, September 2015, ISBN 978-0-8021-2438-8, $26.00

E-book ISBN 978-0-8021-9079-6, $26.00


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Although Fraser died in 2008, Captain in Calico was the first novel he attempted to write. He chose a subject which had long fascinated him – pirates, and two in particular, John “Calico Jack” Rackham and Anne Bonny. What makes this retelling different from others are the twists Fraser added and the way he chose to portray this pair.

The story opens from the perspective of Master Tobias Dickey, first secretary/man-of-affairs/close confidant to Governor Woodes Rogers. It is 1721when a pirate steals into Dickey’s room seeking a private audience with the governor. (The front-door approach doesn’t work since there’s a price on the pirate’s head.) Dickey’s loyalty is to the governor and he calls for the guard, but the intruder refuses to speak to anyone except Rogers, and his calm demeanor convinces Dickey to acquiesce.

Once he is alone with Rogers and Dickey, the pirate reveals his identity – John Rackham, former quartermaster to the notorious Charles Vane. John seeks a pardon, claiming he was forced to join Vane, who refused to accept the King’s Grace when it was first offered two years ago when Rogers arrived in the Bahamas to put an end to the pirates. Rackham and his men have amassed a fortune in silver and want to live as honest men, but Rogers offers him only one way to obtain the pardon he so desperately seeks. Acceptance means the betrayal of his men and the loss of both his ship and the silver, but gaining his freedom to marry his true love seems a small price to pay. Only later, after he has lost everything, does he discover the lady in question is now betrothed to the governor.

After sustaining an injury in a duel with another pirate captain, Jack meets the beautiful, bold, and dangerous Mistress Anne Bonny, the wife of a wealthy plantation owner with a sadistic bent. She tends Jack’s wound and enlists his assistance. The governor plans to send the silver he acquired from Jack away from the island for safe keeping. She will learn the particulars of the ship carrying the treasure and when it will depart, if Jack can come up with a vessel and the men to help her steal the treasure. Against his better judgment, Jack agrees.

But Woodes Rogers is neither stupid nor unaware of how pirates work. He is a formidable foe, yet Jack is certain he can be outfoxed. Alas, as any pirate knows, the best laid plans often go awry.

Readers will notice the absence of one person from this tale who usually is associated with this pair of pirates. This is because Mary Read never makes an appearance. In fact, in this version she never even exists. This is strictly a tale of Jack and Anne. Jack is portrayed as a wronged hero who makes the best of whatever situation fate deals him, even when that means the hangman’s noose. Anne’s portrayal is of a woman who cares only for herself and will do whatever is necessary to get ahead in the world. Captain in Calico may lack some of the polish of Fraser’s later works, but I disagree with earlier publishers’ rejections of this novel. I thoroughly enjoyed this retelling that’s a remarkably fresh and old-fashioned swashbuckling adventure.

  Read an excerpt

Review Copyrighted ©2015 Cindy Vallar


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Cover Art: The Pyrates
By George MacDonald Fraser
Lyons Press, 2003, ISBN 1-58574-800-5, $16.95
Put every swashbuckling movie ever made into a bowl shaped like a pirate ship. Stir in one suave and daring hero, a beautiful and spoiled maiden in search of a husband, and one antihero who’s either at the wrong place at the right time or the wrong time at the right place. Spice this concoction with four notorious pirates of varying degrees of evilness and one depraved and masochistic Spanish don hellbent on ruling the world. Decorate with a gold crown encrusted with gemstones, cannibals, deserted islands, damsels in distress, dungeons, and conniving merchants.

This hilarious and outrageous novel crosses the boundaries of time to extract juicy tidbits from various historic time periods and incorporates elements from the twentieth century to entertain and pay homage to the buccaneers of yore. Every time you think it can’t get any better, or worse, the characters lead you down another path you don’t expect. Within these pages you’ll find King Charles II, Samuel Pepys, Calico Jack Rackham, and Anne Bonny, as well as references to Errol Flynn, Xavier Cougat, and Dracula. As crazy as it sounds, Fraser spins a seamless tale where every character and setting seems perfectly natural. Pirated from history and our daily lives, the elements that make up The Pyrates provide a rollicking adventure from the royal halls of England to the pirate haven of Madagascar to the Caribbean where pirates hunted their prey.


Book Review Copyright ©2004 Cindy Vallar

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