Cindy Vallar, Editor & Reviewer
P.O. Box 425, Keller, TX 76244-0425
Books for Adults - Fiction
When John Stairs, a witness for the Crown, took the stand in the Halifax courthouse, he recounted a harrowing tale of what transpired aboard the Three Sisters on 13 September 1809. When the schooner he captained set sail three days earlier, on board were the crew (John Kelly, Thomas Heath, and Ben Matthews) and several passengers (Edward Jordan, his wife Margaret, and their four children). While Stairs was in his cabin, Jordan tried to shoot him through the skylight. The ball grazed his nose and face before entering Heath’s chest, killing him. Stairs went to arm himself, but found his weapons missing. He met Jordan, armed with pistol and axe, at the ladder. Stairs called for help, but Kelly was in league with Jordan and Matthews was wounded. Then Mrs. Jordan joined the struggle. Fearing for his life, Stairs jumped overboard and was rescued by a fishing schooner three hours later.
The Pirate Rebel is the fictional account of this real incident in Canadian history. Peirce’s tale begins where history left off, providing readers with a plausible version of events that led Edward Jordan, also known as Ned, to become a pirate. The story begins in Ireland at a time when the brotherhood would force England to depart the Emerald Isle once and for all, but the uprising goes awry and, when facing death, Ned trades his freedom for those of the ringleaders. That treacherous deed haunts him in spite of his making a fresh start and marrying Margaret McMorran.
Eventually, the past catches up to Ned and rather than die at the hands of the brotherhood, he and his family immigrate to New York. There he is forced into illegal activities, so he and the family flee again, this time to Canada. Whenever fortune seems to smile on him, fate intervenes and takes Ned down paths he’d rather not tread. He fears sooner or later the nightmare that has visited him since his youth will come true – he will meet the hangman’s noose.
Peirce pulls no punches as she weaves a tale of misadventure and misfortune that drive Ned Jordan into piracy. She skillfully recreates the Ireland, New York City, and Canada of the late eighteenth and early nineteen centuries, where life for the disadvantaged was a daily struggle fraught with unforeseen danger and disaster. While not a person to admire, Ned becomes a living person with whom the reader empathizes. No matter how much one hopes Ned’s dreams will come true, the reader senses it is a futile wish. The cards are simply stacked against him.
Accounts of Canadian piracy are rare, and the story of Edward Jordan and the Three Sisters is one that most readers encounter only from the victim’s viewpoint. Peirce provides a plausible viewpoint from Ned’s perspective, allowing readers to better understand why some men and women followed the sweet trade.
Book Review Copyright ©2009 Cindy Vallar
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