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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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Sea Robber                                Buccaneer

Cover Art: Sea Robber
Sea Robber: The Adventures of Hector Lynch, Pirate
By Tim Severin
MacMillan, 2009, ISBN 978-0-230-70971-3, £12.99 / CAN $29.99

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The last thing Hector Lynch needs is another complication in his life. Especially John Cook, a man who participated in a buccaneering raid that almost landed Hector at Execution Dock in Wapping. Only Maria’s false testimony saved him, and now Hector’s mission in life is to reunite with the young Spanish woman who has captured his heart. Reaching that goal, however, is fraught with unexpected dangers and complications.

Cook’s unexpected appearance at the Danish fort where slaves await transport to the West Indies fills Hector with both dread and hope. Pursuing a legitimate trade as supercargo on a Danish slaver, he can’t quite puzzle out why his friend, Jacques, should not accept Cook’s invitation to visit a fellow Frenchman who’s dying aboard Cook’s ship. Those suspicions are well founded for the next morning, Cook threatens to kill Jacques unless Hector and his other friends – Daniel (a Miskito Indian) and Jezreel (a former logwood cutter) – don’t interfere in Cook’s seizure of the Danish slaver.

Left with no other choice, Hector, Jacques, Daniel, and Jezreel find themselves pirates once again. The only saving grace? Cook’s destination will bring Hector closer to Maria. After rounding Cape Horn, they encounter Charles Swan and the Cygnet, which eventually leads to Hector’s separation from his friends and imprisonment at Valdivia, a Spanish settlement on the western side of South America, for piracy. Extricating himself from this predicament and reuniting with his comrades proves to be only the first of many challenges the four men face as they journey to the Spice Islands in search of Maria.

Sea Robber is the third installment in the Hector Lynch series. Reminiscent of the travel logs that buccaneers like William Dampier and Lionel Wafer published, this book takes readers to the exotic East Indies and introduces us to a far different type of pirate than those found in the Caribbean. A combination thrilling roller coaster ride and harrowing boat ride through jungle waters where danger lurks at every turn, this book enthralls readers until they find themselves venturing into unknown territory with Hector, Jacques, Daniel, and Jezreel, cheering on these characters no matter what obstacles are placed in their paths, and wondering if they will survive to continue the journey.

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Book Review Copyright ©2009 Cindy Vallar

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Cover
              Art: Buccaneer
Buccaneer: The Adventures of Hector Lynch, Pirate
By Tim Severin
Pan Books, 2008, 978-0-330-44316-6, £6.99, US $22.99, CAN $14.99

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Hector Lynch and Daniel, a Miskito Indian, became friends during their captivity as slaves of the Barbary corsairs in Algiers. Along with Jacques Bourdon, a branded thief who escaped from a French galley where he was serving out a life sentence, and two others, the men voyage to the Caribbean aboard an abandoned ship discovered in West Africa. Being set upon by buccaneers led by a man named John Coxon, Hector finds himself a prisoner to be ransomed because he feigns a relationship with the current governor of Jamaica, Sir Thomas Lynch, while his friends are taken to Petit Guave where the authorities will decide their fates.

Coxon’s plan to redeem himself with the former admiral of the buccaneers, Sir Henry Morgan, backfires when it’s revealed that Hector is not of the same family as the governor. Made a laughing stock at a public gathering, Coxon vows revenge. The only way to save himself is to get passage on a ship departing Port Royal, but to do that Hector requires money. He finds temporary employment copying maps, but these are secret charts that he’s to tell no one about. When Coxon shows up with several others to obtain the maps, Hector takes one of the charts and flees to the docks where he uses the document to secure passage to Petit Guave to reunite with his friends.

The only problem is the captain has no intention of stopping there. He’s bound for Campeachy to pick up a load of logwood. On arriving at their destination, Hector is sent ashore to see that the logwood cutters gather the wood for collection while the captain takes the ship farther along the coast to obtain additional timbers from other cutters. Hector makes the acquaintance of Jezreel, a retired fighter who displayed his talents for money in London. When a ferocious storm, followed by a flood, destroys the logwood camp, Jezreel decides to quit this life and accompanies Hector on a journey along the coast to find new transportation. Before long, Hector comes across Dan and Jacques, but the arrival of buccaneers poses a problem. Since the four men all have skills the pirates can use – Hector can navigate and speaks Spanish; Dan can fish and knows the rainforest; Jacques is a superb chef; and Jezreel is an accomplished fighter – the friends become buccaneers. What they don’t realize at the time is that among the captains gathering to raid Spanish settlements to acquire treasure is John Coxon, a man who will go out of his way to see that Hector pays for embarrassing him and stealing from him.

My first thought as I began to read Buccaneer was there was an abundance of coincidence, but at this same time I was writing my article on Rafael Sabatini’s Captain Blood where I came across this passage in that novel.

An intelligent observation of the facts of human existence will reveal to shallow-minded folk who sneer at the use of coincidence in the arts of fiction and drama that life itself is little more than a series of coincidences. Open the history of the past at whatsoever page you will, and there you shall find coincidence at work bringing about events that the merest chance might have averted. Indeed, coincidence may be defined as the very tool used by Fate to shape the destinies of men and nations.
The truth behind this observation struck me, so I set aside my reservations and let Buccaneer sweep me back into a past where the New World was relatively unknown and each day was an adventure for men who dared to risk the unknown. My problem was that while John Coxon was a real pirate, he’s not one of great renown or one with whom I have a particular interest. My opinion changed once Hector and his friends join the gathering horde of buccaneers as they set out to capture Santa Maria, a Spanish town rich in gold. The men on this expedition read like a who’s who of buccaneers: William Dampier, Basil Ringrose, John Watling, Peter Harris, Edmond Cook, Richard Sawkins, and Bartholomew Sharpe. So deftly does Tim Severin bring these men to life that I felt as if I attended a gathering of old acquaintances. I immersed myself in the exploits of these men just as Hector and his friends do. If you want to experience life as a buccaneer, I guarantee this second book in the Hector Lynch series accomplishes this with such adeptness you may wonder whether you’re still living in the twenty-first century, or if Severin has discovered the secret of time travel and whisked you back to the seventeenth.

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Book Review Copyright ©2009 Cindy Vallar

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