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An amazing true story, exciting from cover to cover
on May 8, 2015
I had the very great privilege to see Captain Richard Phillips speak in person at a university and I have to say, it was thrilling. His talk started out a tiny bit stilted and rehearsed and he seemed a tad nervous (kind of ironic that an audience would make him at all jittery after what he went through at sea), but as the talk went on, it got much more intense. For some reason he couched the talk in a sort of "business achievement" format (which I gather was probably suggested to him by his booking agency) and those parts were OK, but again, a bit stilted. But once he got back into the memories, once he began to relive his fears and his accomplishments (and failures) those five days at sea, the talk got very exciting.
I had bought this book before the talk but didn't get a chance to read it all the way through. But the next day I sat down and read the entire book and I'm so glad that I had it right there. I was able to use the book to relive parts of the talk and to better understand some of the fine points of his very brave adventure. When you see a movie of an event like this, you have to wonder how much is Hollywood and how much is reality, but after having seen him talk and having read this book, that movie is extremely close to portraying exactly what happened. In the Q&A after the talk, in fact, someone asked him that very question: How much of the movie was invented for drama? His reply was that while certain bits of the timelines were altered in small ways and certain events that happened weren't actually shown (in the movie and news stories there were only three shots fired, for example, but in reality many were fired), most of the movie was a very accurate reflection of actual events.
If that's the truth, and I believe it is, this is one very brave guy. In the face of near certain death, he put his ship's cargo and his crew ahead of his own life--and he figured out a way to outwit the pirates very early on. It was a gamble, but it saved everyone's lives.
I highly recommend both this book and the film. Books like this always have a ghost author involved because, let's face it, he's a sea captain not a writer, but it is his voice that comes through. And I really hope that the writing bug will get ahold of the Captain, because I'd love to hear more about the sea and about his life as a Merchant Marine.
If you get the chance to see Captain Phillips speak, do whatever you have to do to get there. In the meantime, what a great summer read this is--I can't wait to read it a second time. My only regret is that I didn't get an opportunity to ask him to sign my book! Next time.