Cindy Vallar, Editor & Reviewer
P.O. Box 425, Keller, TX 76244-0425
Books for Adults - Nonfiction
Pirate Soul: A Swashbuckling Journey Through the Golden Age of Pirates
by Pat Croce
Running Press, 2006, ISBN 0-7624-2756-7, $29.95
From 1690 to 1730 – a mere forty years – the greatest number of pirates preyed on ships navigating the high seas. This “golden age” produced some of the best-known pirates, although their exploits have since intermingled with romanticism and legend. Within the pages of this interactive book, Pat Croce (founder of the Pirate Soul Museum in Key West, Florida) recaps this period in piratical history. Among the topics covered are Port Royal and Madagascar – two of the most notorious pirate havens – ships, reasons for going on the account, life at sea, tactics, Jolly Rogers, punishments, and pirates in pop culture. A “Rogues Gallery of Legendary Pirates” completes this introduction with Sir Francis Drake, Sir Henry Morgan, Captain William Kidd, Henry Every, Thomas Tew, Benjamin Hornigold, Edward “Blackbeard” Teach, Charles Vane, Anne Bonny, “Calico” Jack Rackham, Mary Read, Major Stede Bonnet, George Lowther, Edward Low, and Bartholomew “Black Bart” Roberts.
Earlier this year, John Matthews came out with an interactive book for children entitled Pirates. Croce’s book is a treasure-filled exploration aimed at adults. Your journey begins when you “unlock” the clasp that closes the book and ends when you unseal the envelope at the end of Pirate Soul to reveal a replica of the Jolly Roger on display at the museum. (This is one of only two known authentic pirate flags to exist today.) In between you can read and hold various proclamations and documents, maps, a glossary, pirate articles, and playing cards. You can also feel the quill of an 18th-century pen, the grittiness of black powder, or the knots in a cat-o’-nine-tails.
Colorful artwork and photographs of artifacts, like Thomas Tew’s treasure chest, further enhance this journey to the past. Although the print is small, Croce packs a lot of information into his introduction. If some of the script of the documents is difficult to read, he provides access to them via the museum’s website, and combined with the visual and hands-on experiences for the reader, Pirate Soul is a true rogue’s treasure. A worthy addition to any self-respecting pirate’s library, and as promised in the title, a rousing swashbuckling introduction to the Golden Age of Piracy.
Pirate Soul Museum
Book Review Copyright ©2006 Cindy Vallar
Q&A with Pat Croce, author of PIRATE SOUL
In addition to the book, you’ve created a $10 million dollar interactive pirate museum in Key West. Why the fascination (some might say obsession) with pirates?
Ever since I was a young boy, I was fascinated with the bold and adventurous exploits of pirates in movies like Captain Blood with Errol Flynn and books like Treasure Island. I loved their wild spirit and passion for the high seas and uncharted islands -their quest for gold and riches that would never have been available to them being born into England’s poor lower class. And I loved their fight against the aristocracy!
Do you think there’s a special reason why the country has become so enamored of all things pirate in the past few years (Pirates of the Caribbean film series, skull & crossbones printed attire...)?
The skull & crossbones have been a symbol for rogues and outcasts for over 300 years and have been adopted over the ages by bikers, magicians, and other subcultures to demonstrate their nonconformity. I think the pirate brand has never died and has gotten even hotter recently because of the success of Disney movies combined with bikers going main stream and designers using the pirate logo in a variety of fashions and products.
What’s your most prized pirate possession?
My most prized possession is the pirate treasure chest of Captain Thomas Tew (with provenance). It’s the only existing pirate treasure chest in the world. In second place would be the extremely rare jolly roger flag -- there is only one other in a museum in Finland. In third place would be the 1699 handwritten journal of Captain Kidd’s last voyage. All are on display at Pirate Soul Museum in Key West.
Is it true that you have a skull and crossbones tattooed on one of your teeth? Any other tattoos we should know about?
Yes, I have a skull & crossbones (Pirate Soul logo) impregnated on my molar, and skull & crossbones on my left hand, pirate ship on my left forearm, and a pirate parrot on my right shoulder.
Who would you say is your favorite pirate and why?
My favorite pirate is Blackbeard. He was larger than life. He had three pairs of flintlock pistols strapped across his chest, a sword dangling from his hip, dagger stuffed into his sash, and during battle he placed slow-burning matches in his long black beard and under his hat to scare his victims into surrender. No need to ruin the prize or injure his crew. And his crew were well disciplined when the jolly roger was hoisted.
Are you planning any expeditions for undiscovered treasure?
Yes, I am presently working with lawyers and the government of Haiti to receive exclusive permission to salvage Captain Henry Morgan’s 34-gun warship, the Oxford. My exploration partner and I started on this operation over two years ago, but the governmental process was interrupted by the Haitian civil war.
What's next for Pat Croce?
Now that I'm a grandfather, I have a children’s pirate picture book slated for spring ’07 -- My Pop-Pop is a Pirate.
Interview used with permission
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