You should know up front that this is not a typical tale of piracy nor is it Crichton’s version of Pirates of the Caribbean. If you’re expecting that, you will probably be let down.
What Pirate Latitudes is, however, is a fairly realistic and fast-paced tale of high seas adventure in Port Royal, Jamaica circa 1665. Captain Charles Hunter, backed by the Governor of Jamaica, is a well-known privateer who has a plan to perform one of the most daring raids of the time. His goal is to attack a Spanish fort and steal a galleon which they suspect holds gold from the New World.
What Happens in Port Royal, Stays in Port Royal
We are treated to a raucous group of sailors, the Sleazy Housewives (and mistresses) of Port Royal, and enough drinking to make the Mad Men proud.
The first few chapters pulled me into the time period and I really got a feel for what Port Royal was probably like at the time. Crichton shares some character details which reinforce this nicely and provide a stark contrast between life in Jamaica and the plague that was happening back in Europe. This was a nice touch because it was a nice reminder that there is a wider world out there.
Although I didn’t expect a Disney-style story, it was a lot less piratey (?) than I would have liked. The politics of the region were well covered and I found it rather intriguing. The thinly veiled jabs that England and Spain would take at each other is almost comical until I remember that real people lost their lives over the petty squabbles of rich people.
For being a ruffian, I found Captain Hunter to be a likeable character. His motivation in the story is straight forward. Hunter leads a group of sailors that he has frequently worked with, yet Crichton glosses over most of this back story. Disappointingly, the end of the book was rather predictable. The two villains were striking characters.
Pirate Latitudes is a good, not great, story that is worth reading if you enjoy historical fiction.
Pirate Latitudes in Theaters
I’m not holding out high hopes that it will be good. Spielberg has had a few mediocre films lately – Eagle Eye, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Cowboys & Aliens, Real Steel and Terra Nova. Hopefully, it’s not like the Transformer movies with Michael Bay’s overplayed, corny slow-motion scenes. Heh, maybe Spielberg will pull a Bay and make Captain Hunter an alien…and instead of Spanish gold maybe it’ll be a crystal skull. Hmm…