The Pyrates Paperback – 2 Jun 2008
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Praise for ‘The Pyrates’
‘Its all there right down to a Dead Man’s Chest, cleavages that are everything they should be and characters in sea bootswho say nothing but “Arr!” and “Me Hearty!” in a plot that is wonderfully absurd.
‘Fabulous…you’ll want to stay up all night reading this one.’
‘The most wonderfully idiotic lovesong to swashbucklers ever set to Korngold trumpets. Fraser again proves himself the master.’
New York Times
Praise for ‘Black Ajax’:
‘Mr Fraser is a great historical novelist and in Black Ajax he is at the very top of his form. Damme if he ain’t.’
Christopher Matthew, Daily Mail
‘This is not a flashy novel, wearing its learning noisily. It’s rigorous, intelligent, meticulously horrifying. Wonderfully well done.’
Nicci Gerrard, Observer
“An Unfathomable Delight” The New Yorker--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title. See all Product description
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Top customer reviews
McDonald Fraser has written a meta-textual swashbuckler, replete with authorial comments, self-conscious in-jokes, gleeful anachronisms and cinematic references. This is a "marmite" matter - you'll either love this kind of thing or hate it. I would be displaying a personal bias if I marked the book down on solely that account. While I very much enjoy the accurate historical context which sends a shiver down the spine as Flashman lurches from near-miss to almost-disaster, I was prepared to hold my fire and read the book on its merits.
Sadly, I do not think McDonald Fraser pulls it off. The anachronisms are too many, too silly, and too jarring. But that is not all. The action sequences are written without the light touch we are used to, and the plot is too predictable, too repetitive. The humour doesn't work because none of the characters - not even the Flashman-like Colonel Blood - is sufficiently fully rounded and human, so we don't care enough about their misadventures, while the constant anachronisms undermine the effectiveness of the "in-period" stuff.
This could have been a fantastic book if Fraser had given it his best shot. Clearly he wanted to do something different, and he was getting on by the time he wrote it - but oh, we can only mourn the novel we didn't get; the one which might have consisted of Colonel Blood's narrative in plea for another free pardon, after events rooted in the real events of the Spanish Main. History is quite exciting enough without needing to jazz it up with lumps of Hollywood flummery.
A TV film was made in 1986. It was, as I recall, dire.
Some reviewers have lamented that The Pyrates isn't like the Flashman books. True, but neither is Mr American, nor is The General Danced at Dawn. They are different, but great in their own individual way.
The hero of THE PYRATES is Captain Ben Avery, RN, the handsomest, most chivalrous, noblest, most incorruptible, bravest, most dutiful, and most unseducible man ever to wield an officer's sword on behalf of His Majesty. In Avery, as with every other of the novel's characters, Fraser has lovingly created a caricature. In any case, the time is "the old and golden days of England". King Charles occupies the throne. Ben is ordered to secretly convey a priceless crown to the King of Madagascar. On the same outbound ship are Admiral Lord Rooke and his gorgeous daughter Vanity. Of course, seafaring rascals capture the vessel, steal the crown, abandon Ben on a sandspit, and sell Vanity into white slavery. The tabloids (!) blame Avery for the debacle, and the remainder of the book has our superhero valiantly struggling to rescue honor, crown and Vanity from assorted scoundrels and near things. Of course, even the villains are occasionally endearing, especially if they're British, e.g. Colonel Blood, RA (Cashiered), a darker version of Avery without the ethics or meticulous dress code. And, needless to say, Captain Ben is besotted with Vanity, though his appreciation for her considerable charms is entirely platonic, anything more prurient unbecoming an officer and a gentleman.
Since a small movie plays in my mind whenever I read fiction, the chief delight of this swashbuckling caper is the way Fraser attaches period-piece incongruities to the plot which result in hilarious "sight gags" and other absurdities. Contemplate the following: laundry chutes in a Spanish galleon, meal-seating announcements aboard a pirate ship, buccaneers getting drunk and rowdy on captured Perrier, eau de cologne by the barrel or the handy bucket size, a pirate chief's stock portfolio, the deplorable lack of Kleenex in a fetid orlop prison, shipboard ruffians being entertained by a puppet show, pirate disability insurance, the limited number of headsets for men set adrift in small boats, threats of a horrible death by bicycle pump (?), or the French buccaneers' battle cry of "Remember Dien Bien Phu!" Imagine what Mel Brooks could do with this material!
THE PYRATES is about fifty pages too long. Those parts of the non-stop action that include the South American Indian tribe and the insanely evil Spanish Viceroy, Don Lardo, were unnecessary digressions better left on the cutting room floor. However, that minor flaw didn't prevent me from laughing out loud on several occasions, causing my wife to throw alarmed glances my way. Yes, I think even the Queen would be amused.
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Most recent customer reviews
Why oh why can't we have a Kindle edition?Read more
But can be a good read for Fraser fans anyway, don't think I will read it again...Read more
If you haven't read it just buy a copy.
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