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Fascinating Insight into Life on the High Seas
on 13 August 2006
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and read it cover to cover. There are several pages of glossy black & white photos and illustrations. The author's range and grasp of his subject matter is enormous, from piracy in fiction to piracy in Hollywood. Best of all, in my opinion, is the history and meticulously researched subject matter. As an example, Cordingly quotes from the original trial transcripts of Captain Kidd and he writes so sympathetically that one feels almost sorry for the blackguard! Cut-throats who relied heavily on intimdation and menace (hence the skull and crossbones) are dealt with sympathetically and straighforwardly without falling into sentimentality.
The author explains convincly why men - and sometimes women - turned to piracy. He reveals pirates to have had a strange kind of democracy: they voted for their own captain and shared the spoils of piracy between them in a pre-drawn up agreement that would rival any modern day stuffy corporate partnership.
Cordingly exposes the myths, e.g., walking the plank, buried treasure and even provides a fascinating history of the development of coins, the word 'pesos' apparently is directly derived from the Spanish for 'pieces of eight' as is 'escudos'.
A very interesting book if you enjoy history and loved the film, 'Pirates of the Caribbean' (Johnny Depp is closely modelled on Blackbeard). Well-balanced and well-written (apart from an annoying habit of using the word, 'which' instead of, 'that').
The naval & geography narrative is good, too. Cordingly describes the ships, brigantines and sloops lovingly and masterfully.