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Cindy Vallar, Editor & Reviewer
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The Black Corsair                                        Queen of the Caribbean

Cover Art: The Black Corsair
The Black Corsair
By Emilio Salgari
Roh Press, 2011, ISBN 978-0-9782707-8-0, US $16.95
Ebook available from Amazon.com

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Set during the days of the Buccaneers, this tale of adventure and revenge opens with a small boat, rowed by two men, approaching a pirate ship. Carmaux and Van Stiller, who followed the Red Corsair, bring sad tidings to the man who captains this vessel. The Governor of Maracaibo, a Flemish count named Van Guld, is now responsible for the deaths of all three of the Black Corsairís brothers Ė one through betrayal and two by hanging them for piracy. As the Red Corsairís body sinks into the sea, the Black Corsair vows to hunt down and slay not only his nemesis, but also all who bear his name.
 
On the voyage back to Tortuga, the Buccaneers happen upon a rich prize bound for Maracaibo. Under the guidance of the Black Corsairís second in command, a young man named Henry Morgan (destined to become the greatest of the Buccaneers) leads the boarding party that captures the Spanish ship. Aboard is the beautiful Honorata Willerman, a Flemish duchess who captures the Black Corsairís heart even though a gypsy once foretold the deaths of his three brothers, and that a beautiful woman he loved would lead to his own demise.
 
When the Thunder reaches Tortuga, the Black Corsair joins with Jean David Nau, the infamous LíOllonais, and Michael the Basque to attack Maracaibo with a fleet of eight heavily armed ships and 650 pirates. Honorata is to remain on Tortuga, but with the help of Carmaux and Van Stiller, as well as Moko the snake charmer, she stows aboard the Thunder. Just before the Black Corsair and his men disembark to attack the wealthy city, she and the Black Corsair confess their love and he explains why he seeks vengeance on the governor. Will he succeed? Will his brothers finally rest in peace? And if he returns, what then? How will the Black Corsair react when he learns Honorataís secret?
 
I am indebted to Nico Lorenzutti, who has translated some of Salgariís novels from the original Italian, for introducing me to this author. The Black Corsair, first published in 1898, is an exciting tale of swashbuckling intrigue and honor.  The lush tropics with its beautiful, yet deadly, flora and fauna come to life as the Black Corsair and his men face danger and quandaries not easily solved. Originally written when few had visited South America and the Caribbean, Salgari renders the exotic jungles in a manner reminiscent of the accounts written by the Buccaneers themselves, men like Lionel Wafer and William Dampier. History has left us with a one-sided view of the sadistic Nau, but Salgari brings this notorious pirate to life in such a way that the reader meets a three-dimensional character with both a good and a bad side. While some elements of piratical history are seamlessly woven into the story, Salgari steps away from the story at one point for a brief explanation as to who, what, and when about the Buccaneers. Fans of Rafael Sabatini and Captain Blood or his other swashbucklers will enjoy finding another author who writes in a similar vain. Readers who like heroes who are bigger than life and have dark sides will soon find themselves fans of Emilio Salgariís works. As a reader, I fall into both categories and as I read The Black Corsair, childhood memories of curling up on a stormy day to read about heroes forced into lives of crimes to right wrongs and rescue fair maidens in the clutches of wicked villains surfaced. 

Read the first 3 chapters
Learn more about Emilio Salgari
Meet the Black Corsair


Book Review Copyright ©2011 Cindy Vallar

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Cover Art: The Queen of the Caribbean
The Queen of the Caribbean
By Emilio Salgari
Translated by Nico Lorenzutti
Roh Press, 2015, ISBN 978-1-987886-15-3, $16.95
Also available in ebook format

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Four years have passed since the Black Corsair first swore to avenge his brothersí deaths and then fell in love with the daughter of the man who murdered them. His vow forced him to abandon her at sea in a long boat during a storm, but her death has haunted him as do the spirits of his brothers who still cry out for justice. Finding Duke Van Guld has proven a somewhat elusive goal, for he is wily and always slips away just before the buccaneers arrive. This time, though, stories of a beautiful woman, rescued during a storm, bring the Black Corsair and three of his men into the lionís den. That two thousand Spaniards and another 150 soldiers defend the Spanish city of Puerto Limon means little to them, for they are just annoying gnats whom the buccaneers of Tortuga have been terrorizing for years. They visit the dukeís home to question his steward, who has knowledge of this woman and her present location. That they might also learn the current whereabouts of the duke only adds to their determination to find what the Black Corsair seeks.

While Van Guldís steward answers their questions, he remains loyal to his master and springs a trap meant to capture the Black Corsair. In the ensuing battle, the Black Corsair is wounded, but Yara, a native girl in Van Guldís household, helps him escape. She loves the Black Corsair and knows that with his help she can exact payment from her master for murdering and enslaving her family and tribe. Once aboard their ship, the surgeon Exquemelin heals the buccaneer captain. But leaving Puerto Limon proves trickier than expected, for Spanish warships block their exit. The Black Corsairís second in command, a young man named Henry Morgan, devises a risky plan and, in true swashbuckling fashion, the buccaneers make another daring escape. Once free, they sail for Vera Cruz to meet up with Nicholas Van Horn, Laurens de Graaf, and Michel de Grammont, three of the most respected buccaneers of Tortuga. Together they plan to raid Vera Cruz, and allow the Black Corsair to finally deliver justice to Duke Van Guld. Only then will he be able to find his lost love, Honorata Van Guld.

Reading The Queen of the Caribbean is akin to participating in a death-defying, high-wire act where readers lack a safety net to catch any who fall. Salgariís characters face extreme situations where they are pitted against overwhelming odds, but they swashbuckle their way through this tale that deftly melds history with fiction. When first written, the exotic worlds in which the buccaneers lived and preyed were still unfamiliar to many readers, so the author includes passages reminiscent of the travel journals published by the pirates of this historical period Ė men like William Dampier, Alexandre Exquemelin, and Lionel Wafer. Today, these passages slow down the storyís pace, but they also allow readers to catch their breath from all the hair-raising, heart-stopping fixes from which our heroes must extricate themselves. No true pirate fan should miss this historical novel where some of the most famous buccaneers step off the page and into the present to enlist your participation in one of their grand adventures through the Spanish Main.
Read an excerpt
Learn more about Emilio Salgari 

 
Review Copyrighted ©2015 Cindy Vallar

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