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The History of Maritime Piracy

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

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Books for Adults - Fiction

Cover Art: The Big Book of Swashbuckling Adventure
The Big Book of Swashbuckling Adventure: Classic Tales of Dashing Heroes, Dastardly Villains, and Daring Escapes
Selected and introduced by Lawrence Ellsworth
Pegasus Books, 2014, ISBN 978-1-60598-650-0, $24.99 / Ł14.99
Also available in e-book formats

In his introduction, Ellsworth identifies what comes to a reader’s mind when someone says “swashbuckler”:
[A] hero who’s a bit of a rogue but has his own code of honor, an adventurer with laughter on his lips and a flashing sword in his hand. (ix)
The author then goes on to explain where such tales came from and how they evolved from fallen gentlemen and nobles to include the likes of buccaneers and pirates. He also shares their rise and decline in books and films, even though they continue to entertain us by whisking us back in time to bygone eras where we can escape the stress and doldrums of our everyday lives. This big book contains fifteen stories and three poems, many of which originally appeared in early magazines or anthologies that are no longer easily available to readers.

Prior to each story, Ellsworth includes a short introduction to the author, his/her writing, and the tale included in the collection. For example, many readers may be familiar with Sabatini’s Captain Blood and Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, but these characters are far from the only ones these authors created during their careers. The only authors lacking such introductions are Lilian Nicholson and Farnham Bishop, which is surprising since Sabatini has two introductions. While some swashbucklers, such as Robin Hood, Zorro, or the Scarlet Pimpernel, are well known to readers, others are strangers or men not often portrayed as such. Two examples of the latter are Cardinal Richelieu and Edward Low. The length of the included pieces varies from one or two pages (the poems) to eighty-four, “Pirates’ Gold.”

The stories and poems that comprise this collection demonstrate that these larger-than-life heroes and their thrilling adventures continue to appeal to readers young and old alike. So on the next dreary, cold day or in the dark of night, curl up with a cup of warm brew and delight in these daring escapades where fearless swashbucklers match wits and swords with treacherous villains, and where twists of fate will surprise and astound. (Those of particular interest to pirate readers are marked with a red asterisk* next to the title.)

Sword and Mitre by Rafael Sabatini
When the vicomte refuses a generous posting a fair distance from Paris, he finds himself first threatened with betrayal to Cardinal Richelieu for killing his nephew in a duel, and then a prisoner of the Marquis de Castelroc. All because the marquis intends to marry the woman who has captured the vicomte’s heart. The vicomte extricates himself from his cell, but on his way to rescue his fair damsel he happens upon a gentleman waylaid by three knaves. A true cavalier, the vicomte is obliged to assist, but doing so may prevent him from reaching his love before the marquis.
The Sin of the Bishop of Modenstein by Anthony Hope
King Rudolf of Zenda enjoys an evening of dice with Count Nikolas of Festenburg, who wants the castle and estate of Zenda for himself. Over time, he maneuvers the king into a situation in which the honorable monarch must surrender these to the count. When Count Nikolas moves into the castle, he discovers that Rudolf’s sister, Princess Osra, still resides there, unaware of her brother’s losses. When the count sees her, he must have her as well, even though she wants nothing to do with him, and no one seems willing to come to her rescue.
*Pirates’ Gold by H. Bedford-Jones
Captain George Roberts needs a ship to sail to Virginia, but there are no berths available until he makes the acquaintance of Captain Low, who offers him the job of chief mate aboard the King Sagamore. Pursued by the authorities, a reformed pirate turned goldsmith entrusts Roberts with a snuff box and asks him to deliver it to Low. Only after the ship makes sail does Roberts realize that Low is better known as the pirate Bloody Ned, but he assures Roberts this voyage is a legitimate one to recover buried treasure. The presence of the goldsmith’s daughter seems to back up this assertion. Yet gold can lead even god-fearing men astray, and before long Roberts wonders who to trust and how to extricate himself with his reputation intact.
The Queen’s Rose by Sidney Levett-Yeats
An aristocrat forced to become a jester-cavalier to the king of France, Pompon becomes embroiled in a plot to discredit Mary of Scotland. If the queen weds the dauphin, the alliance between France and Scotland will be strengthened, which the Spanish ambassador intends to prevent no matter who gets in the way.
*Cheerly O and Cheerly O by Jeffery Farnol
A shanty-like poem about pirates who meet death.
Seńor Zorro Pays a Visit by Johnston McCulley
With drink in hand, sitting before a fire on a stormy night, Sergeant Pedro Gonzales regales the tavern keeper and Don Diego Vega, a man who abhors violence, with tales of what he will do should the cunning masked highwayman named Zorro ever have nerve enough to match swords with him. But the sergeant should be careful what he wishes for, and remember that a braggart’s tale rarely ends as he predicts.
How the Brigadier Played for a Kingdom by Arthur Conan Doyle
Summoned to Paris to consult with Napoleon, Brigadier Gerard, a French Imperial hussar, happens upon the emperor’s dying emissary and is entrusted with delivering secret papers to a German prince. Not everyone in Germany wants to ally themselves with Napoleon – a fact Gerard soon discovers when he comes to the aid of a Polish princess, only to soon find that she has stolen the papers. Undeterred and having a good idea what they contained, Gerard continues on to the castle to deliver the message. His attempts to see the prince are thwarted by his wife, who sides with those who wish Germany to remain free.
Robin Hood Meets Guy of Gisborne by Pierce Egan
When the Sheriff of Nottingham is unable to stop Robin Hood and his merrie men from robbing the rich and giving to the poor, Sir Guy of Gisborne devises a plan in which he will separate Robin from his men and slay him, while the sheriff goes after Robin’s men.
*The Buccaneer’s Last Shot by Farnham Bishop
The buccaneers storm a Spanish fort at the mouth of the Chagres River in 1671 in this poem.
White Plume on the Mountain by Alexander Dumas
With the assistance of Cardinal Richelieu, Louis XIII and his army cross the Alps one winter in support of the Duc de Nevers’ claim to Mantua. If the Comte de Moret’s daring maneuver fails, the Spanish contender to the region will thwart the French king’s endeavors.
The King of Spain’s Will by John Bloundelle-Burton
While Europe wars over who should sit on the throne of Spain, the Grey Musketeers are sent to intercept a scheming cardinal, thought to be carrying the dead king’s will, which names his successor. But when a girl called Damaris disappears, Adrian Trent wonders if he and his fellow musketeers are after the wrong courier.
The Cabaret de la Liberté by Baroness Orczy
A gang of cutthroats threaten the daughter of a guillotined aristocrat, who supposedly told her where he hid his fortune. If she refuses to marry one of them, they will denounce her to the Committee of Public Safety, during the Reign of Terror. Her true love is thwarted in his attempts to safeguard her, until the Scarlet Pimpernel intervenes.
The Bride of Jagannath by Harold Lamb
In 1609 India, a young chieftain weds the beautiful daughter of another clan. Soon after she arrives at her new home, the powerful abbot announces that she has been chosen as the annual bride of Jagannath, the god of the poor. But the chieftain refuses to give up his wife, and is willing to die to save her from the lecherous abbot. It is up to a Muslim warrior and a Christian Cossack to rescue the young bride.
*The Pirate Sea by Lilian Nicholson
This poem recounts how the sea, like a siren, wreaks her vengeance on the men who venture upon her.
*Captain Blood’s Dilemma by Rafael Sabatini
After Arabella Bishop denounces Peter Blood as a pirate, the buccaneer takes to the bottle, wallowing in self-pity until the Governor of French Hispaniola extends an offer of honorable employment in service to the French king. But the Baron de Rivarol, who commands the naval forces, scorns the buccaneers and disregards their valuable advice regarding an attack on Cartagena. When the baron reneges on their contract, Blood vows to reclaim what is rightfully theirs. As they pass near Port Royal, they stumble across a badly wounded English ship and rescue the survivors, one of whom offers Peter a chance to become the honorable man that Arabella might love.
Crillon’s Stake by Stanley J. Weyman
When a desperate newcomer to Paris gambles away his money playing dice, his opponent offers him one last chance to recoup all that he has lost. If the newcomer loses, he must forfeit his life should he fail to murder Crillon, a trusted friend of the king’s. Crillon suspects there is more to this than just a simple game of dice, and vows to uncover the truth of the matter, even if he must die doing so.
The Black Death by Marion Polk Angellotti
Tasked with settling the terms for peace, Sir John of Montecchio visits his home on the way to Florence. But his castellan fears for Sir John’s life. There are those who do not want peace, and a mysterious woman climbs to the highest hill and, lighting a torch, seems to signal to someone outside the walls before disappearing from the castle. Since he must proceed on his mission, Sir John departs, but the plague runs rampant along the road he would normally take. His only alternative is a less traveled path, but the markers that should show the way aren’t where they belong.
*The Fight for Black Bartlemy’s Treasure by Jeffery Farnol
Martin Conisby and Lady Joan Brandon are shipwrecked on an island, where they fall in love. All is well until pirates come in search of buried treasure.

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Review Copyrighted ©2015 Cindy Vallar

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