Sunday, January 3, 2010

Pirate Latitudes

Pirate Latitudes by Michael Crichton
Hardcover, 312 pages
HarperCollins, November 2009
ISBN-13: 9780061929373
highly recommended

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 himself. With backing from a powerful ally, Hunter assembles a crew of ruffians to infiltrate the enemy outpost and commandeer El Trinidad, 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 sets foot on foreign shores, where dense jungle and the firepower of Spanish infantry stand between him and the treasure. . . .

My thoughts:

Pirate Latitudes is a rollicking, fun pirate story and a fast, easy read. No, it's not what you'd normally expect from Crichton, but it is a completely satisfying pirate novel that includes the historically accurate portrayal of the times that you would expect from him. A case could be made that Crichton never intended to publish this novel as is since it was found in his files after his death. Or one could speculate that perhaps he would have fleshed it out more in parts before publication. Admittedly it is not Crichton at his best. Setting all that aside, personally, I'm glad it was published. I found it immanently readable and enjoyable. Those who felt The Pirates of the Caribbean movies veered too far from reality will appreciate this pirate story of a privateer. Even when writing an entertaining pirate yarn Crichton is the standard others hope to reach. highly recommended


Sir James Almont, appointed by His Majesty Charles II Governor of Jamaica, was habitually an early riser. This was in part the tendency of an aging widower, in part a consequence of restless sleep from pains of the gout, and in part an accommodation to the climate of the Jamaica Colony, which turned hot and humid soon after sunrise. opening

As the former governor, Sir William Lytton, had warned him in London, Jamaica was "not a region burden by moral excesses." pg. 5

For a man with the gout, even a brief journey by coach over cobbled streets is agonizing. For this reason, if no other, Sir James loathed the ritual of attending each hanging. pg. 8

Undeniably, Port Royal was a wealthy town - some say it was the richest in the world - but that did not make it pleasant. Only a few roads had been paved in cobblestones, brought from England as ships' ballast. Most streets were narrow mud ruts, reeking of garbage and horse dung, buzzing with flies and mosquitoes. pg. 8

For the hundredth time, he thought to himself how much more hazardous life was in Jamaica when the commander of the garrison was a dandy and a fool, instead of a serious military man. pg. 10

"There are no pirates in Port Royal," Almont said. pg. 20

"...Therefore privateering is openly encouraged. But not piracy, Mr. Hacklett. And that is no mere quibble." pg. 22

"I have heard it," Hacklett said. "Furthermore, I have heard he is a murderer, scoundrel, whoremonger, and a pirate."
At the word "pirate" Hunter's arm flicked out across the table with extraordinary speed. It fastened in Hacklett's hair and plunged his face into his half-eaten mutton. Hunter held it there for a long moment.
"Dear me," Almont said. "I warned him about that earlier. You see, Mr. Hacklett, privateering is an honorable occupation. Pirates, on the other hand, are outlaws. Do you seriously suggest that Captain Hunter is an outlaw?" pg. 39-40


Literary Feline said...

I was thinking this sounded different from Chricton's other books. I am glad you enjoyed it, Lori. It sounds like a fun adventure.

Lori L said...

It was a fun book to read!

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

This is on my to review list, but I have not had a chance to read it. Sounds different but good. Thanks for posting your review.