This is a tale of swashbuckling adventure on the high seas of the 17th century. Captain William Kidd was not actually a pirate, but employed by King William III to track down pirates and requisition their treasure - the semi-legal role of the "privateer". As a counterpoint to his story, Zacks also tells the forgotten story of his great rival, ...
This is a tale of swashbuckling adventure on the high seas of the 17th century. Captain William Kidd was not actually a pirate, but employed by King William III to track down pirates and requisition their treasure - the semi-legal role of the "privateer". As a counterpoint to his story, Zacks also tells the forgotten story of his great rival, Robert Culliford, an utterly ruthless buccaneer who flew a blood red flag which signified "no mercy" and whose surgeon was named Jon Death. Kidd's and Culliford's paths were to cross again and again during the course of their lives, but in a tale of double-crossing, betrayal and political scandal, the outcome was not as expected. One of these men would end up hanging on the gallows of the London dockside; the other would walk away with the treasure.
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The author apparently did considerable research - a plus. However, some of the detail of the research is not entirely relevant - a negative. All in all, joyful reading and a facinating journey. Educational as well.
Mar 6, 2008
Five Star Account of the Kidd Saga
I rarely give any book a five star rating but I DO for this one. A historian, Richard Zacks, painstakingly hunts down evidence of the whole long saga of Kidd's life and travels, and the misbegotten final privateering trek to the East Indies. He even finds the crucial lost letters of marque that would have solidified Kidd's claim that the ships he robbed were legal prey when he looted them. An incredible job. The book is sprinkled with period art, maps, actual court testimony and text of letters. An impressive list of sources plus a helpful index in the back. Bravo.
Publishers Weekly, 2002-05-06 Entertaining, richly detailed and authoritatively narrated, Zacks's account of the life of legendary seaman William Kidd delivers a first-rate story. Though Kidd, better known as Captain Kidd, was inextricably bound with piracy and has popularly gone down as a marauding buccaneer himself, Zacks (An Underground Education) argues that he was actually a mercenary backed by the English government and several New World investors to track down pirates and reclaim their stolen wares. The book is cogent and replete with supporting evidence without the heavy-handed feel of some scholarly work. What really sets the book apart is Zacks's gift as researcher and storyteller. He highlights the role of an undeniable pirate, Robert Culliford, in Kidd's tale and pits the two men against each other from the outset, constructing his book as an intriguing duel. Aside from the tightly constructed plot, Zacks also wonderfully evokes the social and political life of the 17th century at land and at sea, and he takes turns at debunking and validating pirate folklore: while it appears the dead giveaway of a skull and crossbones made it a rare flag choice, Zacks contends that pirates did often wear extravagant clothing and were as drunk, cursing, hungry, horny... and violent as myth would have them. Augmented by such details and driven by a conflict between Kidd and Culliford that keeps the pages flying, Zacks's book is a treasure, indeed. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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