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review 2018-03-22 18:31
Blackbeard: The Birth of America Reviewed By Dr. Wesley Britton
Blackbeard: The Birth of America - Samuel Marquis

Blackbeard: The Birth of America

Samuel Marquis

Print Length: 544 pages

Publisher: Mount Sopris Publishing (February 6, 2018)

Publication Date: February 6, 2018

Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC

ASIN: B078YMVZ8F

https://www.amazon.com/Blackbeard-Birth-America-Samuel-Marquis-ebook/dp/B078YMVZ8F

 

 

Reviewed by Dr. Wesley Britton

 

Over the years, I’ve read a number of Samuel Marquis’s historical thrillers. I’ve become a fan who’s happy with pretty much every volume, many of which are set during World War II. Among the many surprises of his new Blackbeard is the time period the story is set in. I’ve never associated Marquis with the early decades of the 18th century or the seas of the Caribbean and the pirates that sailed on them circa 1716-1718.

 

Another major surprise is Marquis’s portrayal of Blackbeard, the privateer turned pirate. I was surprised to see the pirate always referred to as Edward Thatch and not Edward Teach, the surname I always associated with Blackbeard. Well, Google for both names and both names will come up in multiple entries. Whatever handle Marquis gives his character, few readers are likely to anticipate seeing Blackbeard painted in the most heroic portrait possible, at least for the first two/thirds of the book. 

 

Marquis’s Blackbeard tries to avoid violence by only attacking ships that offer little resistance to minimize the carnage his crew might endure.   He’s a giant figure, a charismatic leader able to use eloquence to sway his extremely democratic sea-farers to his point of view. The pirates operate within the rules of the “articles” that give every man an equal vote in important decisions and an equal share in any booty. There is no racism.  We see this most evident in the character of Cesar, a former black slave now devoted to Blackbeard.

 

The pirates’ motives are in part economic, part political, and part a lust for the free life.  At first, pirate captains have charters given to them by royal governors based in the New World to attack Spanish and French ships.  But many dislike British King George from the House of Hanover and would prefer the crowning of James III from the House of Stuart.   For such reasons, Blackbeard’s small but powerful flotilla start attacking British ships in part to rebel against those who are rich and abusive to the common man.   The pirates start describing themselves as “Robin Hoods,” distributing wealth much more fairly than royal charters.

 

Another major character is Steede Bonnet, a Barbados plantation owner who throws it all away to become a pirate for the freedom of a life at sea despite his less than adequate knowledge of sea-going ways. Woven throughout the scenes set in the Caribbean and up the Atlantic coast, we also spend time on land with Alexander Spotswood, the despotic, vindictive and tyrannical lieutenant governor of Virginia. For Spotswood, capturing Blackbeard is a political move calculated to curry favor in England.  Very unpopular with his colony’s citizens, he suppresses any desires brought to him from the Virginia House of Burgesses that might erode his powers. He despises the new term of “Americans” and, in many ways, embodies the complaints the founders of the United States would fight against in just over fifty years.

 

So the “Golden Age of Piracy” is portrayed as the precursor for the American Revolution with Blackbeard and his cohorts the real patriots, at least in their own opinion.    In Marquis’s realm, these salty dogs never lacked for self-righteous self-justification. I suspect it’s my own preconceived notions, but I frequently found it difficult to accept the verisimilitude of these noble scalawags. I am perhaps a modern victim of the propaganda that cast Blackbeard as a vicious criminal in Boston newspapers of the time. I was also put off a bit by Marquis frequently repeating his points over and over which seemed like rather overdoing it. Padding?

 

The book never really builds up a head of steam, at least until the final third where Blackbeard realizes his flotilla has grown too large, that the British admiralty is about to end the age of freebooting piracy, and he makes some turning-point choices very different from what we’ve come to expect from him. Lots of surprises in this fast-moving section of the book.

 Throughout, Marquis’s gifts for description and character development are on full display to take his readers to times and places that, in this case, are captured in ways few of us would expect.    His closing end notes make it clear he sketched out most of this novel drawing from a wide spectrum of resources, many of them of rather recent vintage.

 

So, from page one to his appendices, unless you too are a Blackbeard scholar, Blackbeard: The Birth of America will be a constantly eye-opening series of surprises. You’ll feel certain you’re learning something as the story progresses. Pirates as the original American revolutionaries? Marquis builds a vivid and convincing case that is so.  

 

 

This review first appeared at BookPleasures.com on March 20, 2018:

http://1clickurls.com/IALg5lv

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review 2018-03-08 14:42
Brief biographies of fascinating women, ideal to dip in and be inspired to learn more.
Bad Girls from History: Wicked or Misunderstood? - Dee Gordon

Thanks to Alex and the whole team at Pen & Sword for providing me a paperback copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

Although totally unplanned, I find myself writing this review on the International Women’s Day 2018. One can’t help but wonder about the title of the book, not so much the wicked or misunderstood part (some definitely seem to fall into one of the two categories, while many share characteristics of both, although that depends on the point of view), but the Bad Girls. In my opinion, it makes perfect sense for the argument of the book, as the expression bad woman has a certain meaning and connotations attached to it (very moralistic and misogynistic), while perhaps bad girl allows for a more playful and varied reading. And it has nothing to do with age (the catalogue of historical figures examined by the author includes a large number of women who died quite young, but there are others who lived to ripe old ages as well). It is, ultimately, a matter of self-definition. But I digress.

This book shares a collection of brief biographies (the vast majority are under a couple of pages long), of women, organised in a number of chapters that group women in several categories (although some overlap and the author has to make a choice as to which group a particular figure belongs to). These chapters are: 1) Courtesans and Mistresses; 2) Madams, Prostitutes, and Adulterers; 3) Serial Killers; 4) ‘One-Off’ Killers; 5) Gangsters, Thieves and Con-Artists; 6) The Rebel Collection – Pirates, Witches, Megalomaniacs, Exhibitionists. The book also contains a brief bibliography (I guess otherwise a second volume would have been necessary just to include all the sources), and there are pictures of the women (portraits, photographs, illustrations), and also documents, newspaper cuttings, letters…

Although I was familiar with quite a few of the women featured (in the case of Mata Hari, for example, I had read a book about her not long ago, although in many others I still discovered things I didn’t know) there were also quite a number that I had heard the names of but didn’t know much about, and others that were completely new to me. I have no doubt that most people reading this book will think about other women they would have added to the collection, but I would say all of the women included deserve to be there. This is not a judgment of character though, as that is not what this book is about. The author’s style is engaging and, despite the briefness of the vignettes, she manages to make these women compelling (and horrifying in some cases), and she is at pains to try and paint as balanced a picture as possible, rather than just present them according to the prevalent morality of their time. Reality and legend are sometimes difficult to tell apart, but the author, tries (and at times acknowledges defeat and provides the most interesting versions of a woman’s story available).  

Among the many women in the book, I was particularly intrigued by Jane Digby (1807-1881), a lover of travel and an adventurer who also had a talent for choosing interesting men, Enriqueta Martí (1868-1913), who lived in Barcelona and who, according to recent research might not have been guilty of the horrific crimes she was accused of (I won’t talk about it in detail, but let’s say that, if it was true, she was not called The Vampire of Barcelona for nothing), Princess Caraboo (aka Mary Baker: 1791-1864), who knew how to come up with a good story, or Georgia Tann (1891-1950), that I felt intrigued by when I read that Joan Crawford (who has featured in one of my recent reads) had been one of her clients. But there are many others, and of course, this is a book that will inspire readers to do further research and look into the lives of some of these women (or even write about them).

The women in each chapter are organised in alphabetical order, and that means we jump from historical period to historical period, backward and forward, but there is enough information to allow us to get a sense of how society saw these women and how class, patronage, social status, money… influenced the way they were treated. There are personal comments by the author, but she is non-judgemental and it is impossible to read this book, especially some of the chapters, without thinking about the lot of women, about how times have changed (but not as much as we would like to think, as evidenced by recent developments and campaigns), and about how behaviours that from a modern perspective might show strength of character, intelligence, and independence, at the time could condemn a woman in the eyes of society, ruining her reputation and/or destroying her life.

A book to dip in to learn about social history and the role of women, and also one that will inspire readers to read more about some of these women (and others) that, for better or worse, have left a mark. A great starting point for further research into the topic, and a book that will make us reflect about the role of women then and now.

 

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review 2018-03-06 11:49
Hustle of the Gunman (Galaxia Pirates #4) by A.M. Halford
Hustle of the Gunman [Galaxia Pirates 4] (Siren Publishing Classic ManLove) - A.M. Halford
Hustle of the Gunman is the fourth book in the Galaxia Pirates series. In this instalment, we have the exact opposite of insta-love. Instead, Darrel has been in love with Toby for over eight years, but Toby wants nothing to do with him. Toby finally succeeds in pushing him away, only to have a change of heart and realise Darrel is who he wants after all. There are reasons for him pushing Darrel away, but nothing that is explained in too much detail. In fact, it is just skimmed over, which is a shame when it has impacted his life to such an extent. It is during a job that goes wrong that Toby realises exactly how much Darrel means to him, and is determined to show him, just so long as Darrel survives.
 
There were parts of this book that I loved - the longing from afar between both Toby and Darrel, and Toby's mastery of knives, for example. Unfortunately for me, it was never explained why he mastered them. What drew his interest to knives and swords, in this space age of laser guns etc? And although his upbringing was rough, why did it impact his life for so long?
 
This was well written, don't get me wrong. The pacing was smooth, and it was action-packed. There are moments of steam, as well as tenderness. The characters are familiar but I'm still learning new things about them with each book. I would recommend this book as I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. However, it just didn't 'push my buttons' like some of the other stories have.
 
* A copy of this book was provided to me with no requirements for a review. I voluntarily read this book, and my comments here are my honest opinion. *
 
Merissa
Archaeolibrarian - I Dig Good Books!

 

Source: sites.google.com/site/archaeolibrarian/merissa-reviews/hustleofthegunmangalaxiapirates4byamhalford
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review 2018-02-08 05:00
The Puritan Pirate (Pirates of Port Royal #1) by Jules Radcliffe
The Puritan Pirate - Jules Radcliffe

3.5 stars I think is a fairer rating. 

Everything goes oh too well for our characters. Even the most evil event leaves (physically) only bruises and sore muscles. Not that I am complaining, mind you. 


Another minus for me is the unfinished business. Killjoy, Chacal, Spanish in general - those are still loose ends. I almost wish there was less talk and love making.... oh, who am I kidding!

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review 2018-01-29 06:34
The Pirate & I (Devil's Duke #2.5) by Katharine Ashe
The Pirate and I: A Novella (Devil's Duke) - Katharine Ashe

Despite the name of the book there wasn’t really any swashbuckling or much presence of pirates yet the story included a bit of adventure and plenty of romance. 
I had trouble following the storyline when it started and it wasn’t until way past the middle part of the book that everything started to make sense. I think some of that had to do with the fact that this novella is part of a series and that to fully enjoy it other books in the series will need to be read first. 

All in all it was still entertaining and different what with Esme’s unique talent, the theft of a dog, and a rogue trying not to fall again for the woman he once thought lost to him. 

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