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Blackbeard: America's Most Notorious Pirate Paperback – April 1, 2007

3.9 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Konstam, the Scottish author of more than 50 maritime history books here explores the dreaded Blackbeard, "the archetypal pirate of the age...and one of the most fearsome figures around." Konstam makes a thorough, exciting examination of 18th century pirate life, with wonderful details such as the pirates' code, which can read as a precursor to America's own Bill of Rights: "Every man has a Vote in Affairs of Monument, has equal Title to the fresh Provisions, or strong Liquors, at any Time seized & use them at pleasure." However, the author's portrait of the seadog fails for two reasons: first, very little is known about Blackbeard, and Konstam hasn't been able to uncover much that's new; "we must assume" becomes a frequent, frustrating qualifier when the book focuses on its subject. Secondly, Konstram is fond of cliches: a ruler's power base collapses "like a house of cards" while another is able to "walk the political tightrope;" and the feared pirate himself "would stop at nothing to get what he wanted." The padding necessary to produce a lengthy version of Blackbeard's story produces a work that has little of the dash and derring-do readers will expect from the biography of a pirate, and ends up painting Blackbeard less as a terror of the high seas than a bully with a big boat. Illustrations.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

The so-called golden age of pirates (roughly, the first two decades of the eighteenth century) still conjures up images of tough, hardy, colorful rogues who chose to live outside the bounds of conventional society. Perhaps the best known of the pirates was Edward Teach, better known to contemporaries and to history as Blackbeard. Konstam is a former naval officer and marine archaeologist who has written extensively on piracy. He has provided an interesting and exciting biography of an enigmatic figure who defies easy categorization. Konstam does not romanticize Blackbeard, or the life of pirates in general. Blackbeard was apparently a ruthless, brutal man. He was by no means the most successful pirate, and his string of spectacular "achievements" lasted less than two years. Thankfully, Komstam spares us blather about "pirate honor," but he convincingly maintains that Blackbeard was a compelling figure with great seamanship skills and an audacious temperament, which inspired men to follow him. This is a thoroughly enjoyable chronicle of an interesting life and interesting era. Jay Freeman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley (April 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780470128213
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470128213
  • ASIN: 0470128216
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 0.8 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #228,640 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This was an interesting book but I found the detail on the sloops and sea adventures dragging at times. The discussion about the conflict between the Virginia Governor and the North Carolina Governor over handling Blackbeard and his men was an interesting backdrop for Blackbeard's ultimate demise.

What was most interesting was the privateering influence on the motivation to become a pirate. When countries at war would hire privateers to conduct state-sponsored piracy at sea, was it any wonder that these men who knew little but privateering would turn to piracy once the wars ended and their letters of marque rescinded?

There were interesting details about the sea and navigating the waters in the early 1700's, but at times the book dragged on in details that made it difficult to keep an interest in the subject. It is obvious that the author did a great deal of research and used his expertise in sailing and sea faring to add to the material in the story.

Overall, a 3-star rating is my review of an interesting book that does point out how short-lived the pirate times were in the early 18th century.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a grand tale of Blackbeard and piracy in the Caribbean in the early 1700's. Working against limited and sometimes contradictory historical records, the author creates a great story and divines the truth of what actually happened in that period of time. Most of all, this is a well written book that encourages you to flip to the next page. The narration is crisp and paints a vivid picture of the times. The research is well done and draws the complete scene, understanding the main people, their motivating factors, and how they all collated to form history

Why I take off one star: While this is a very good book, actually only about half the book is about Blackbeard himself. The book really doesn't start talking about Blackbeard as the main topic until about page one hundred (of 300 pages) There are really no swashbuckling tales of grand pirate fights, of trading canon blasts and boarding ships in epic swordfights. Most pirates were just actually gangs of thugs who used boats as their vehicles and canons as their means of intimidation. They scared and cowed their victims into submission, and were sensible enough to run when the force of authority came into view. The book is more about the business, conditions, and times of piracy, then of the individual pirates themselves and any great seafaring stories. Therefore, the real story is a lot less than the often romanticized tales of piracy. There's actually less interesting material to craft a story than one would expect.

The most compelling moment in the book is near the end, when Blackbeard meets the might of her Majesties Royal Navy. Standing up to the fight, this is a Hollywood scene when Blackbeard engages his opponents in a ship vs. ship battle.
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Format: Paperback
First off I wanted to mention that I've tried researching as much as I can on Blackbeard (or Edward Teach/Thatch). This book was actually the last one I got into in my "travels" to the bookstores, library, and internet. Thankfully it also seems to be the best one of the bunch.

I'll say that aside from reading books like Pirates! from the author I was not familiar with his writing at all. But after opening this book and beginning to read through it I was pleased that it wasn't going to be a dry historical reference. Most books based on history are very drawn out and boring. You often times get a lot of names, dates, and the addition of useless information pushed into one another and can get confused. This book has a decent narrative that slowly introduces new characters and then covers them fairly well.

Now the biggest problem I had with this book is that it's so broad. The book is titled Blackbeard... but can often go pages without mentioning him. You end learning about Pirate history or the background of a particular ship before you get to the meat and potatoes of what Blackbeard had to do with what you're reading about. For someone wanting to learn more about the Pirate culture and history it was a treat for me. But, for the average reader who might want to know about Blackbeard specifically... this can mislead them.

The second problem we're faced with (at no fault of the author) is the lack of information/resources. There really isn't a whole lot of information on the man (Teach). You have your sources like Captain Johnson (who we don't even know the background of), news articles (who let's face it... often embellish on facts to make their stories more interesting), and government documents (which can be edited as well).
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Angus Konstam's book on the life and times of Blackbeard the Pirate is well researched and well written. It reads smoothly and places Blackbeard into the historical context of the times in which he lived. Other reviewers have criticized Mr. Konstam for the amount of historical context he presents as he weaves his Blackbeard narrative but this approach is necessary not only for the paucity of actual historical information available on Blackbeard but also to break through the popular media stereotype of the man. For the casual reader, Mr. Knostam's book is the best I have read on the subject and he manages to walk the fine line between providing a good historical narrative and not falling into the trap of becoming immersed in historical detail. The footnoting convention Mr. Knostam uses is a little unusual in that in his desire not detract from the narrative, he makes looking up cited references a little more difficult but this complaint is more style than substance. Mr. Konstam's book is a wonderful companion to the more scholarly treatment of Blackbeard provided in Mr. Robert E. Lee's earlier work entitled "Blackbeard the Pirate, A Reappraisal of His Life and Times" and the two works together will give the reader a good understanding of just who was the historical Blackbeard and what was going on in his world to shape his actions. Recommend Mr. Knostam's book to anyone interested in this period of Colonial America's maritime history, it is an easy read and very informative.
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