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Pirate Latitudes: A Novel by Michael…
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Pirate Latitudes: A Novel (original 2009; edition 2009)

by Michael Crichton

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Member:hemlokgang
Title:Pirate Latitudes: A Novel
Authors:Michael Crichton
Info:Harper (2009), Hardcover, 320 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***
Tags:USA, Audiobook, Mystery/Suspense

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Pirate Latitudes by Michael Crichton (2009)

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Michael Crichton

Pirate Latitudes

HarperCollins, Hardback, 2009.

8vo. 312 pp. Endpapers map "The Spanish Main 1665" by Andrew Ashton.

First published, 2009.

Contents

Part I: Port Royal
Part II: The Black Ship
Part III: Matanceros
Part IV: Monkey Bay
Part V: The Mouth of the Dragon
Part VI: Port Royal

=================================================​

I have not been able to discover when Michael Crichton (1942–2008) wrote that novel and whether he considered its publication at all. For something found posthumously on his computer, it feels finished, even polished. I daresay if Michael had lived to submit it for publication himself, it would have been a little more polished, with more fully fleshed historical background, but I don’t think it would have been much better. The few names of real people clumsily inserted here and there, for example the French buccaneers L’Olonnais and Levasseur, are no great assets.

The story is bawdy and brutal, with sex and violence taking the upper hand virtually all the time, though never both at the same time. As early as Chapter 2, there is a gruesome description of hanging; if that bothers you, you had better stop reading there and then. The finale could have come straight out of The Godfather. Meanwhile Michael makes a free use of every cliché adventure sea stories in general and pirate novels in particular have used since time immemorial: massive amphibious operations against impregnable forts, epic sea battles, treasures that change hands, nasty Spanish commanders, aristocratic damsels in distress, hungry cannibals with poisonous darts, sea monsters that specialise in sinking ships, anything you like. Suspension of disbelief is a prerequisite for enjoying this novel. If you want something realistic, in other words something dull, you had better not start reading this at all.

The characters are boldly sketched and colourfully larger-than-life, but they are not unduly romanticised. These pirates are hardly the conventional terror of the high seas characteristic of piratical fiction. Though skilful marksmen and merciless enough with sharp blades, they are indifferent seamen, ridiculously superstitious and can even be scared (of sharks and venomous snakes, for example). Charles Hunter, our protagonist, is an educated native of Massachusetts and an English patriot; in the seventeenth century a legerdemain like that was still possible. There are traces of the proverbial gentleman-pirate in him, but fortunately for the reader they are not too prominent. Sir James Almont, the governor of Jamaica, is unscrupulous enough to be interesting. Due to the Caribbean climate, he has adopted delightful bluntness of speech quite impossible in the English court. Then there is the “damnably pretty” Anne Sharpe, an English girl who well knows that the porn industry does not degrade women. On the contrary, it elevates them to the status “Masters of Men”. From the bunch of cutthroats led by Hunter, I have lingering memories only of Lazue, a female pirate with the most beautiful eyes in the world, namely those that see like a cat in the dark and spot dangerous shallow waters better than any other instrument, and Sanson, a sinister Frenchman who cannot be trusted but is much needed in certain predicaments.

Some reviewers have wailed that the novel is not about pirates at all. In a way, they are right. Set in 1665, the story captures the golden age of buccaneers, the English buccaneers in Jamaica anyway, rather than the Golden Age of Piracy (that’s the official term in piratology) which did not take place until the beginning of the eighteenth century. The buccaneers were originally hunters of wild cattle around the Caribbean islands, but by the mid-century they had switched to the more lucrative profession of privateers, pirates on official duty to the Crown that is. Michael Crichton, as you would expect from him, had done his homework and his account of the subtle politics of privateering, publicly denounced as piracy but privately very much encouraged, is exemplary. It was a mutually beneficial agreement. The Crown received part of the plunder and could count on the buccaneers for protection from the Spanish, while the pirates – oops, the privateers! – had a save port for repairs and secured market for the booty. Port Royal was the Caribbean equivalent of the Wild West at the time. Officially it was a British colony, captured from the Spanish in 1655, but unofficially it was left at the mercy of the buccaneers with whom the governor had to be on friendly terms. The relationship between Almont and Hunter in the novel, which may or may not have been based on that between Henry Morgan and Sir Thomas Modyford, conveys the callous scheming and the sturdy respect that must have been instrumental in such friendships.[1]

This is not Michael Crichton’s best novel. It’s not even his best historical novel: The Great Train Robbery (1975) is superior to it in every possible way. But it’s a jolly nice romp through the Caribbean well worth the time of pirate buffs and/or Crichton fans. The story is straightforward enough, but it does keep a few surprises in store. It is no more unbelievable than that of most adventure novels; neither are the characters, for that matter. And when it comes to page-turning excitement, Michael Crichton is just about unbeatable.

PS Andrew Ashton’s map of the Caribbean in this edition is pretty, but it does lack some important details mentioned in the story. The inset map of the fictional island of Matanceros is more helpful, but it too does not always agree entirely with the text.

__________________________________________________​
[1] For an excellent overview of the subject, see Buccaneers 1620–1700 Osprey, 2000, authoritatively written by Angus Konstam and beautifully illustrated by the late Angus McBride. ( )
1 vote Waldstein | Apr 24, 2016 |
Check out my review for this book on my blog, Opinions of a Bookaholic. http://opinionsofabookaholic.blogspot.com/2013/02/pirate-latitudes-michael-crich... ( )
  M_Sawtelle | Apr 6, 2016 |
I admit to feeling trepidation when I read the jacket and discovered the manuscript for this book was discovered in Michael Crichton's files after his death. Sometimes an author puts away a book for good reason and does not want it published.

Turns out, this was a quick and entertaining read, though it had a "Pirates of the Caribbean" feel to it and I found myself thinking how odd it was that I was familiar with so many of the islands mentioned in the book, from playing Sid Meyer's Pirates video game.

Crichton writes swashbuckle with the best of them. We have a roguish hero, a damsel in distress, and evil villain, a crew both treacherous and true, a lady pirate who bares her breasts to stun her enemies just before she cuts their throats, and even a sea monster.

Recommended for those who enjoy light, adventure fiction that is well-written. ( )
  debs913 | Apr 2, 2016 |
This is an unusual book for Michael Crichton in that it is not science fiction. The story is action packed and amusing but is too adventurous to be credible. I am unclear on the motivation to write such a frivolous story but I still liked the story. ( )
  GlennBell | Mar 21, 2016 |
Ending was a little hasty and unfinished-seeming but I enjoyed the rest of it very much; it read more like a Clive Cussler novel than a Michael Crichton one, but I've always enjoyed the former so that was okay by me. Would have easily been for stars if the ending hadn't been so abrupt. ( )
  BraveNewBks | Mar 10, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 139 (next | show all)
Not surprisingly, Crichton’s book is at least halfway to being a film: indeed, it is more interesting to read as an extended film treatment than as a book in its own right. It is in effect the "novelization" of an (as yet) unmade film, leaving language as the temporary incarnation of a work intended for the eye rather than the page.
 
Crichton’s devoted readers knew how taut and exciting his books could be and how much fascinating minutiae he could deliver. They won’t mistake “Pirate Latitudes” for one of his best. Its posthumous publication is bittersweet, and no amount of “Smart there with the jib!” talk can disguise that. The Crichton reputation and legacy are based on works far heartier than this.
 
It may make a dandy movie but, as a novel, it's forgettable, and then some.
 
When it comes to sharp, slick techno-thrillers that you can polish off on a flight to Chicago, there's never been anybody better. But a hackneyed historical novel filled with bosomy maidens and blustery old navy dialogue (''Mizzen top blown!'') is not what Crichton should be remembered for. This is one chestful of doubloons that should have been left hidden in the sand.
 
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Sir James Almont, appointed by His Majesty Charles II Governor of Jamaica, was habitually an early riser.
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The woman obviously thought he was a barbarian--or, worse, a Puritan. He smiled in the darkness at the thought. In fact, Hunter was an educated man.
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Book description
The Caribbean, 1665. A remote colony of the English Crown, the island of Jamaica holds out against the vast supremacy of the Spanish empire. Port Royal, its capital, is a cutthroat town of taverns, grog shops, and bawdy houses. In this steamy climate there's a living to be made, a living that can end swiftly by disease -- or by dagger. For Captain Charles Hunter, gold in Spanish hands is gold for the taking, and the law of the land rests with those ruthless enough to make it. Word in port is that the galleon El Trinidad, fresh from New Spain, is awaiting repairs in a nearby harbor. Heavily fortified, the impregnable harbor is guarded by the bloodthirsty Cazalla, a favorite commander of the Spanish king. With backing from a powerful ally, Hunter assembles a crew of ruffians to infiltrate the enemy outpost and commandeer the ship, along with its fortune in Spanish gold. The raid is as perilous as the bloodiest tales of island legend, and Hunter will lose more than one man before he even gets to shore, where dense jungle and the firepower of Spanish infantry stand between him and the treasure.
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The Caribbean, 1665. Pirate captain Charles Hunter, with backing from a powerful ally, assembles a crew of ruffians to take the Spanish galleon, "El Trinidad," guarded by the bloodthirsty Cazalla, a favorite commander of the Spanish king himself.

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