Grab your sword and hop aboard for a mix of fiction and nonfiction pirate-themed reads. Curated by Willie Nettles.
Cinnamon and Gunpowder by Eli Brown
The year is 1819, and the renowned chef Owen Wedgwood has been kidnapped by the ruthless pirate Mad Hannah Mabbot. He will be spared, she tells him, as long as he puts exquisite food in front of her every Sunday without fail. To appease the red-haired captain, Wedgwood gets cracking with the meager supplies on board. His first triumph at sea is actual bread, made from a sourdough starter that he leavens in a tin under his shirt throughout a roaring battle, as men are cutlassed all around him. Soon he’s making tea-smoked eel and brewing pineapple-banana cider.
But Mabbot – who exerts a curious draw on the chef – is under siege. Hunted by a deadly privateer and plagued by a saboteur hidden on her ship, she pushes her crew past exhaustion in her search for the notorious Brass Fox. As Wedgwood begins to sense a method to Mabbot’s madness, he must rely on the bizarre crew members he once feared: Mr. Apples, the fearsome giant who loves to knit; Feng and Bai, martial arts masters sworn to defend their captain; and Joshua, the deaf cabin boy who becomes the son Wedgwood never had.
A Clash of Steel: A Treasure Island Remix by C. B. Lee
audiobook on Playaway
1826. The sun is setting on the golden age of piracy, and the legendary Dragon Fleet, the scourge of the South China Sea, is no more. Its ruthless leader, a woman known only as the Head of the Dragon, is now only a story, like the ones Xiang has grown up with all her life. She desperately wants to prove her worth, especially to her mother, a shrewd businesswoman who never seems to have enough time for Xiang. Her father is also only a story, dead at sea before Xiang was born. Her single memento of him is a pendant she always wears, a simple but plain piece of gold jewelry.
But the pendant’s true nature is revealed when a mysterious girl named Anh steals it, only to return it to Xiang in exchange for her help in decoding the tiny map scroll hidden inside. The revelation that Xiang’s father sailed with the Dragon Fleet and tucked away this secret changes everything. Rumor has it that the legendary Head of the Dragon had one last treasure—the plunder of a thousand ports—that for decades has only been a myth, a fool’s journey.
Xiang is convinced this map could lead to the fabled treasure. Captivated with the thrill of adventure, she joins Anh and her motley crew off in pursuit of the island. But the girls soon find that the sea—and especially those who sail it—are far more dangerous than the legends led them to believe.
In Deeper Waters by F.T. Lukens
Prince Tal has long awaited his coming-of-age tour. After spending most of his life cloistered behind palace walls as he learns to keep his forbidden magic secret, he can finally see his family’s kingdom for the first time. His first taste of adventure comes just two days into the journey, when their crew discovers a mysterious prisoner on a burning derelict vessel.
Tasked with watching over the prisoner, Tal is surprised to feel an intense connection with the roguish Athlen. So when Athlen leaps overboard and disappears, Tal feels responsible and heartbroken, knowing Athlen could not have survived in the open ocean.
That is, until Tal runs into Athlen days later on dry land, very much alive, and as charming—and secretive—as ever. But before they can pursue anything further, Tal is kidnapped by pirates and held ransom in a plot to reveal his rumored powers and instigate a war. Tal must escape if he hopes to save his family and the kingdom. And Athlen might just be his only hope…
Jean Laffite Revealed: Unraveling One of America’s Longest-Running Mysteries by Ashley Oliphant
Jean Laffite Revealed: Unraveling One of America’s Longest Running Mysteries takes a fresh look at the various myths and legends surrounding the life and death of one of the last great pirates, Jean Laffite, exploring the theory that Laffite faked his death in the early 1820s and re-entered the United States under an assumed name. Beginning in New Orleans in 1805, the book traces Laffite through his rise to power as a privateer and smuggler in the Gulf, his involvement in the Battle of New Orleans, his flight to Galveston, Texas and eventual disappearance in the waters of the Caribbean, then picking up the trail as he makes a return into the country under a new identity. The tale follows Laffite’s subsequent journey across the South and his eventual end in North Carolina, where he died in 1875 at the age of ninety-five. Backed up by thorough research and ample documentation, the book contradicts the prevailing thought about the disappearance and death of Laffite, making a compelling case that is sure to intrigue and inspire scholars and history buffs for many years to come.
The Pirates Laffite: The Treacherous World of The Corsairs of the Gulf by William C. Davis
At large during the most colorful period in New Orleans’ history, from just after the Louisiana Purchase through the War of 1812, privateers Jean and Pierre Laffite made life hell for Spanish merchants on the Gulf. Pirates to the U.S. Navy officers who chased them, heroes to the private citizens who shopped for contraband at their well-publicized auctions, the brothers became important members of a filibustering syndicate that included lawyers, bankers, merchants, and corrupt U.S. officials. But this allegiance didn’t stop the Laffites from becoming paid Spanish spies, disappearing into the fog of history after selling out their own associates.
William C. Davis uncovers the truth about two men who made their names synonymous with piracy and intrigue on the Gulf.
Pirate Latitudes: A Novel by Michael Crichton
book on CD / book on CD
Jamaica in 1665 is a rough outpost of the English crown, a minor colony holding out against the vast supremacy of the Spanish empire. Port Royal, Jamaica′s capital, a cut-throat town of taverns, grog shops, and bawdy houses, is devoid of London′s luxuries; life here can end swiftly with dysentery or a dagger in your back. But for Captain Charles Hunter it is a life that can also lead to riches, if he abides by the island′s code. In the name of His Majesty King Charles II of England, gold in Spanish hands is gold for the taking. And law in the New World is made by those who take it into their hands.
Word in port is that the Spanish treasure galleon El Trinidad, fresh from New Spain, is stalled in nearby Matanceros Harbor awaiting repairs. Heavily fortified, the impregnable Spanish outpost is guarded by the blood-swiller Cazalla, a favorite commander of King Philip IV himself. With the governor′s backing, Hunter assembles a roughneck crew to infiltrate the enemy island and commandeer the galleon, along with its fortune in Spanish gold. The raid is as perilous as the bloody legends of Matanceros suggest, and Hunter will lose more than one man before he finds himself on the island′s shores, where dense jungle and the firepower of Spanish infantry are all that stand between him and the treasure.
With the help of his cunning crew, Hunter hijacks El Trinidad and escapes the deadly clutches of Cazalla, leaving plenty of carnage in his wake. But his troubles have just begun.
The Pirates of Somalia: Inside Their Hidden World by Jay Bahadur
Somalia, on the tip of the Horn of Africa, has been inhabited as far back as 9,000 BC. Its history is as rich as the country is old. Caught up in a decades-long civil war, Somalia, along with Iraq and Afghanistan, has become one of the most dangerous countries in the world. Getting there from North America is a forty-five-hour, five-flight voyage through Frankfurt, Dubai, Djibouti, Bossaso (on the Gulf of Aden), and, finally, Galkayo. Somalia is a place where a government has been built out of anarchy.
For centuries, stories of pirates have captured imaginations around the world. The recent bands of daring, ragtag pirates off the coast of Somalia, hijacking multimillion-dollar tankers owned by international shipping conglomerates, have brought the scourge of piracy into the modern era.
The capture of the American-crewed cargo ship Maersk Alabama in April 2009, the first United States ship to be hijacked in almost two centuries, catapulted the Somali pirates onto prime-time news. Then, with the horrific killing by Somali pirates of four Americans, two of whom had built their dream yacht and were sailing around the world (“And now on to: Angkor Wat! And Burma!” they had written to friends), the United States Navy, Special Operation Forces, FBI, Justice Department, and the world’s military forces were put on notice: the Somali seas were now the most perilous in the world.
Jay Bahadur, a journalist who dared to make his way into the remote pirate havens of Africa’s easternmost country and spend months infiltrating their lives, gives us the first close-up look at the hidden world of the pirates of war-ravaged Somalia.
Silver: My Own Tale as Written by Me with a Goodly Amount of Murder by Edward Chupack
I am Silver, and there is no other pirate like me on these waters.
This being the last testament of the infamous pirate Long John Silver, you would do well not to trust a word in its pages. Held captive aboard his own ship, the “Linda Maria, ” he is to be taken to England, where he will hang at the king’s pleasure. But he has another plan: to tell a tale of treason, murder, a lost treasure that would rival King George’s own riches, and what really happened on Treasure Island . . . if Long John Silver is to be believed.
But is he?
His beginnings as a pickpocket on the streets of Bristol are as dark as the rest of his deliciously devious life. Taken to sea by the pirate captain Black John, Silver soon learns the arts of his trade: the sword, saber, and pistol. He makes his trade in plundering, cheating, ransacking, and murder—more murders than he can bother to count. British, Frenchmen, Spaniards, and Portuguese all fall before him. He takes exceptional pleasure in murder, but never such pleasure as he finds in his search for a most uncommon treasure. To find that treasure he must heed the words of a dead man, solve the ciphers in a well-worn Bible, forgo the love of an extraordinary woman, and climb over the corpses of friend and foe alike to arrive at Treasure Island and find his fortune.
But Silver’s tricks are never done. Before he greets the hangman at Newgate Square, he will have one last secret to reveal. Hidden in these pages are clues that lead to his remarkable discovery. And although King George’s bounty for this notorious scourge may be handsome indeed, the captain who has captured Silver would not mind adding Silver’s riches to his own purse. He will let Silver tell his tale in the hope of learning clues to the treasure’s location. And if “you” were to mark his words as well, you might discover the whereabouts of that treasure yourself.
So we shall, for now, allow Long John Silver to spin his stories, tales of adventure and betrayal, gold and jewels, love and murder.
And he will never leave out the murder. Not Long John Silver.
Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates By Brian Kilmeade
book on CD
Only weeks after President Jefferson’s inauguration in 1801, he decided to confront the Tripoli pirates who had been kidnapping American ships and sailors, among other outrageous acts. Though inclined toward diplomacy, Jefferson sent warships to blockade Tripoli and protect American shipping, and then escalated to all-out war against the Barbary states.
The tiny American flotilla—with three frigates representing half of the U.S. Navy’s top-of-the-line ships—had some success in blockading the Barbary coast. But that success came to an end when the USS Philadelphia ran aground in Tripoli harbor and was captured. Kilmeade and Yaeger recount the dramatic story of a young American sailor, Stephen Decatur, who snuck into the harbor, boarded the Philadelphia, and set her on fire before escaping amid a torrent of enemy gunfire.
Another amazing story is that of William Eaton’s daring attack on the port city of Derna. He led a detachment of Marines on a 500-mile trek across the desert to surprise the port. His strategy worked, and an American flag was raised in victory on foreign soil for the first time.
Few remember Decatur and Eaton today, but their legacy inspired the opening of the Marine Corps Hymn: “From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli, we fight our country’s battles in the air, on land, and sea.”
Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates tells a dramatic story of bravery, diplomacy, and battle on the high seas, and honors some of America’s forgotten heroes.
*All summaries courtesy of the publisher unless otherwise noted.