The Republic of Pirates explores the early 18th century of the American colonies and the Caribbean, which was the era of pirates like Samuel “Black Sam” Bellamy, Charles Vane, and Edward “Blackbeard” Thatch. Although told in narrative style, most of the information comes from newspapers, letters, journals, etc. from the time, place, and people presented. According to a note on the cover of my edition, this book was the inspiration for the NBC mini-series “Crossbones”. I liked the tv show, so I picked up the book. I have to admit, I was surprised by the apparent historical accuracy, not only of Crossbones, but also other recent pirate stories, including the Disney movie franchise Pirates of the Caribbean.
The narrative style makes the book easy to read, not an easy feat for a history based on archival research. The downfall for me was in the organization. I would have preferred to have the narrative presented in more chronological fashion because there are so many figures involved. With organization based more as a series of biographical portraits of the most notorious pirates, it’s hard to remember figures who appear in minor roles in different stories, and it’s also hard to see how the lives of the various people involved intertwine.
The other troublesome factor is that there are questions raised or directions suggested that don’t follow through. For example, the subtitle of the book is “Being the True and Surprising Story of the Caribbean Pirates and the Man Who Brought Them Down”. This phrasing suggests to me that the pirates and Woodes Rogers will get roughly even page-time; they do not. Another example is the story of a doctor (I think it was a physician; it’s hard to remember) who is forced to serve on a pirate ship who refuses payment for something, a move which apparently saves his life later on, but what happens to him in the future related to refusing the gift is not presented. I admit it is possible I just missed that part as there is a lot of detail and information (which is a good thing) and people’s names are hard to remember if they haven’t been mentioned in a while.
I honestly did like this book. The research is strong and the stories are interesting. Even if piratey things are not your geekdom, The Republic of Pirates and its focus on the era as both history and legend is informative and worth the minor (really they aren’t too bad) difficulties of the book.