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Captain Blood (Penguin Classics) Paperback – December 31, 2002
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"Glorious...I never enjoyed a novel more than Captain Blood." —Norman Mailer
"One of the great unrecognized novels of the twentieth century, and as close as any modern writer has come to a prose epic." —George MacDonald Fraser
About the Author
Rafael Sabatini (1875-1950) was born in Italy to two opera singers, and often joined his parents on their professional tours of Europe. In 1918, he became a British subject and worked for the British Intelligence during World War I. He published his first novel, The Lovers of Yvonne, at the age of 27, and continued to produce numerous historical novels, short stories, plays, screenplays, and some biographies. Scaramouche was first published in 1921, followed by Captain Blood in 1922. Sabatini died in 1950 while vacationing at a Swiss ski resort.
Gary Hoppenstand is a professor in the Department of American Thought and Language at Michigan State University. He has researched and published widely in the areas of popular culture and popular fiction studies, and he edited the Penguin Classics editions of Anthony Hope's The Prisoner of Zenda/Rupert of Hentzau and A.E.W. Mason's The Four Feathers. He is the past president of the Popular Culture Association, and the current editor of The Journal of Popular Culture.
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The story of Peter Blood may well be familiar to you if you're a fan of old movies. It's a classic film with a classic score, and is one of Errol Flynn's most famous starring roles, though I think I prefer Robin Hood. In any event, I found it impossible to separate the Peter Blood of this book from Flynn's portrayal of him, and so heard every line spoken with Flynn's lightly ironic and insouciant tone. That's not a bad thing in a book so filled with men, ships, sea, ships, men, to the point where it all begins to swim (pun intended) in front of your eyes as you read. When Blood comes onscreen, and forgive me but I see this in a cinematic light, the action picks up, and I think this may be due in large part to the association with Flynn's Peter Blood, and my greater familiarity with the movie.
I'd read Captain Blood a good many years... okay, decades ago when I had more tolerance for this kind of thing. I don't mean the writing is bad, but it's pulp-y and it didn't hold my attention this time around. I counted on it for a measure of distraction and it didn't entirely deliver on that promise. Had it been shorter, tighter, I think it would have been exactly the palate cleanser, and distraction from the weight of life that I needed. As it is, it became a chore to read, and that's a shame because Sabatini's writing does have charm. He almost defines the Swashbuckler genre, having penned not only Captain Blood, but Scaramouche, and The Seahawk as well.
This is summer reading, beach reading really. If you're lying in the sun with the sound of water lapping the shore, you can look up from your book and see a galleon anchored just beyond the reef, and she's flying the Jolly Roger! But unless you finish the book in a breathless rush, I'm guessing you'll put it down and not pick it up again for a long while. It's mind candy. That's not a bad thing. Clearly this book, and the others I mentioned, have stood the test of time. They're just not compelling, at least not to my way of thinking.
So I'm declaring this one a No Guilt read. Read what you want, put it down when you want, pick it back up only if you want, and have some fun with it. It's not to be taken too seriously.
I wish someone would do a remake of Captain Blood, the movie. The Errol Flynn movie is still good, but with today's special effects, it could be really good if they didn't ruin it like Disney ruined the Pirates of the Caribbean movies with too much absurdity. The books are great though.
By the way, there are two sequels of this book. They do not take place after this book, but are more adventures that would have been during the time of this story, but didn't get put into this book because it would have been a lot more pages. These sequels are both as enjoyable as this book to read.
Since all of Rafael Sabatini's books are now in the public domain, one great perk for people who have a Kindle or an iPhone with a Kindle app, you can get these books for free as eBooks.
This pirate story is the father of all pirate stories, and it is, of course the basis of the movie by the same name. If ever a literary character was created to be played by Errol Flynn, it was Peter Blood. This book is loads of fun, but I think it stands as a work of literature. After all, it's been in print more or less continuously for about 90 years. Read the book, see the movie. (The movie is one of my all time favorites as well; I can't resist Errol Flynn and a good sword