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.
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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 FreemanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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