PIRATE BOOKS. Reviews and Recommendations

There are many pirate books available on this subject, both factual and fictional. Most of the factual pirate books rely almost entirely on information obtained from, “A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pirates ”, written by Captain Charles Johnson. He was a contemporary of Blackbeard, Bartholomew Roberts, William Kidd etc. and it is thought that his research included interviews with pirate crewmembers. Historians are reasonably satisfied with the basic accuracy of his accounts and allow him his occasional journalistic fancies!

For a time, this pirate book was believed to be the work of the Robinson Crusoe author, Daniel Defoe. There are still publications of the title available, which credit Defoe with the authorship, ‘Daniel Defoe’ perhaps being the pseudonym of Charles Johnson, or vice versa. Historians more recently refute that belief, but the controversy continues and makes for another good pirate story! Whoever wrote the book, if you are looking for early accounts of these most famous of pirates, this is a good place to begin.

"The Pirates Own Book" written by the Marine Reseach Society, is a pirate book first published in 1837 and reprinted in 1993. It includes individual chapters about some of the usual suspects – Blackbeard, Vane, Rackham, Bonney & Read, etc. But also has chapters about names of pirates of whom I personally knew nothing. There is also a ‘Pirate’s Song!’ An interesting book written in early nineteenth century style.

"Howard Pyle's Book of Pirates" is GREAT! This book also includes many of the well-known names but often in fictionalised situations and sometimes only playing ‘bit’ parts in a fictional character’s adventure. An additional attraction for me lies in the illustrations. Many of them in colour and are familiar, in that Howard Pyle’s pictures have been used to illustrate many other books about pirates. Without doubt, he could claim to be the ‘Arthur Rackham’ of pirate illustrators!

Of all the books that I have read, my personal favourite is “Captain Kidd’s Cat”, written and illustrated by Robert Lawson. It was published in 1956 and is now out of print, although I notice that copies are being auctioned on the Internet and current prices for a copy in good condition are around $36.00.

(I really shouldn’t mention it but mine came from a charity shop and cost me only £2.00!)

Lawson’s book is very accurate and tells William Kidd’s story in a very sympathetic way through the eyes of McDermot, his ship’s cat! As indicated earlier, I spent a lot of time personally researching Kidd and his betrayal, for our Greenock schools presentation. My final production would have been quite different if I had owned this pirate book at the time. It is fun, tells the tale with great authority and it is very readable. If you are fond of true pirate stories, then you must get a copy of this one.

Additional books from my personal library that I can recommend are ‘The Buccaneers’, by Neil Grant (ISBN 0207955832) and ‘Pirates and Privateers’, by Jeremy Pascall (ISBN 0853408807). Both books are out of print and I am currently unable to suggest a supplier – Check out second-hand bookshops and CHARITY SHOPS!