As David Cordingley quite emphatically illustrates in this entertaining romp through the 'Golden Age' of Anglo-American piracy, there was very little romance to the life of a pirate. The classic image of the pirate captain, all aristocratic airs, flowing Carolingian locks and frock coat, ruling dictatorially over his crew of his jolly tars, owes very much more to Peter Pan and Treasure Island than it does to reality. Whilst there was a 'pirate code', most pirate ships were in fact proto-democracies and there was very little walking-the-plank and almost no buried treasure.
Cordingley focuses almost exclusively on Anglo-American piracy in the waters of the Caribbean and off the American shoreline; there are few mentions of French, Spanish or Dutch pirates, and only the occasional aside into Chinese piracy, most notably when touching on Ching Shih, a former prostitute who at her height presided over 300 junks manned by somewhere between 20,000 and 00,000 men! He covers almost every aspect of the life of a pirate: storms, shipwrecks and life at sea; the heat of battle; women pirates; pirate haunts and hideouts; the violence and torture of captives; imprisonment, trial and execution.
What I found most surprising are the legends built up around some entirely undeserving characters, whereas others who were arguably far more notorious in their day seem to have been forgotten by history. I'd never heard of Bartholomew Roberts, perhaps the most dangerous pirate on the seas in his day, whereas Captain Kidd seemed to have had very little career as a pirate at all, at least compared to the lingering fame of his name, and Captain Morgan arguably wasn't a pirate at all, but a legitimate privateer.