An irresistible tale of swashbuckling pirates in the New World from master storyteller Michael Crichton
Jamaica, in 1665 a lone outpost of British power amid Spanish waters in the sunbaked Caribbean. A barren, inhospitable country barely under the rule of law. A sleazy seaport of rum and villainy… and the last place imaginable from which to launch an unthinkable attack on a nearby Spanish stronghold. Yet that is exactly what renowned privateer Captain Charles Hunter plans to do, with the connivance of Charles II's ruling governor, Sir James Almont.
The target is Matanceros, considered impregnable with its gun emplaqcements and sheer cliffs. And Hunter's crew of buccaneers must battle not only the Spanish fleet but other deadly perils – raging hurricanes, cannibal tribes, even sea monsters. But if his ragtag crew succeeds, they will make not only history… but a fortune in gold.
A tale rich in research and historical detail, ‘Pirate Latitudes’ is in the best tradition of Crichton's storytelling powers.
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For many years, Michael Crichton's name was a byword for intelligent, cutting edge fiction, frequently utilising striking new developments in science as the basis of his narratives, or (most famously in Jurassic Park) extrapolating scientific possibilities into highly exciting (if implausible) tales of adventure. After his recent death (at a relatively young age), it was salutary to remember that his writing career had been a very long one -- so that when he took a concept that he might have used before (i.e., high tech amusement park goes disastrously wrong with fatal consequences for visitors) he could ensure that there was a lengthy gap so that people barely noticed (look at the plots of Westworld (1973) and the aforementioned Jurassic Park). And now we have his final book, published posthumously, Pirate Latitudes. For once, though, it looks as if Crichton were following the pack rather than leading it -- but things are not that clear cut as they might initially have seemed.
Pirate Latitudes takes the reader back to 1665, when Charles II’s Jamaican colony is under serious threat, besieged on every side by the voracious Spanish empire. At the centre of this troubled outpost is its crowded capital, Port Royal, a lively (if festering) hangout for criminal dregs, who inhabit its taverns and brothels. This is the time of the privateer, when (with tacit royal sanction), ship's captains could make sorties against Spanish ships and outposts, plundering at will -- just so long as the Governor and King Charles are taken care of. Michael Crichton's protagonist in this colourful mix is Captain Charles Hunter, educated at Harvard and a man with keenly developed survival instincts. He is made aware a treasure galleon, which is at anchor in the heavily fortified Spanish island of Matanceros, and Hunter’s interest is piqued -- not least because this means he will be able to take on Philip of Spain's most ruthless enforcer, Cazalla. The stage is set for what will either be a glorious bit of naval smash-and-grab or that will end in the ignominious death of Charles Hunter and his motley crew.
All of this, of course, suggests that Crichton (always a man aware of the commercial possibilities of any material) had been looking at the phenomenal success of the Pirates of the Caribbean series of films, and there is no doubt that some of the spirit of fun to be found here echoes that of the Johnny Depp-starring movies. But Crichton clearly remembered an earlier era, and the swashbuckling style of the (less parodic) Errol Flynn adventues is actually the template here (you'll notice the comparisons drawn here are cinematic rather than literary -- but Michael Crichton always straddled the two fields, and was a successful film director as well as novelist). Perhaps Pirate Latitudes isn't the final triumphant legacy we might wish for from Crichton, but (taken in the right spirit) it's uncomplicated, fast-moving fun. --Barry ForshawReview:
Praise for 'Next':
'A wonderful farrago, energetically stirring up a lot of scientific, medical, business and legal issues… marvellous.' Evening Standard
'A satirical black-comedy thriller… Crichton writes likes Tom Wolfe on speed… completely brilliant… top form.' Daily Mail
'One of the most reliable purveyors of brain-engaged fiction at work today… he is too good a writer not to nail us… diverting stuff.' Daily Express
'Be very afraid… expertly blending science fact with fiction, Crichton sets up mind-boggling scenarios where doctors, lawyers, scientists and big business play God… the pace and intrigue last to the final page.' News of the World
'"Next" is 'The Da Vinci Code' with smarts. Own up, your guilty pleasure holiday reading awaits.' SFX
'Thought-provoking and at times frighteningly real, 'Next' is a demanding but enjoyable read.' Woman
'A satiric polemic…compelling… extremely funny… a convincing and scary warning from Crichton' Sunday Times
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