Written by Stephen Talty the complete title is: "Empire of Blue Water: Captain Morgan’s Great Pirate Army, the Epic Battle for the Americas, and the Catastrophe That Ended the Outlaws’ Bloody Reign".
It’s the tale of Captain Morgan: privateer to his English King and pirate to the Spanish Empire. It’s a historical tale - of greed and lasciviousness and of ambition and pride. It is as much a story of the buccaneer haven of Port Royal and it’s most famous citizen - Captain Henry Morgan. Written like an adventure story but one that sticks to the facts, it is a swashbuckling engagement. Talty constructs a composite character named Roderick based on various accounts of the caribbean pirates of the time. A must read in my opinion.
Captain Morgan was a Welshman who left home - to seek glory and to make his fortune in the Americas. The book takes one through the paces of the political situation of Europe at the time and how it caused the rise of the privateers. It briefly delves into the preceding years talking about Cromwell’s Western Design and how Morgan sailed the oceans as part of the grand plan. The religious politics and palace intrigue shrouding both the English and Spanish thrones forms a constant backdrop in the first half of the book. It details life in Port Royal in Jamaica which is the English privateers’ foot in the door to the Americas.
The rest of the book is all about Morgan’s rise to the Admiral of the Port Royal militia. The early raids show his grit and determination and his abilities as a leader. It also details the organizational system of the pirates. The pirates are shown to be democratic in the way they choose their target, decide upon the strategy to take a fort or embankment and having a system of compensations and benefits that was far better than the ones that the working class man could get at home in England or Wales at the time.
The Americas then, were under the sway of the Spanish empire. The Vatican had divided the new world between the catholic nations of the time. England being protestant is left out. The Spanish mine vast quantities of Gold and other precious materials from the Americas and transport them across the Atlantic to Spain. The small and large Spanish towns in the Americas act as conduits to the passage of the treasure and also have their own economy based on trade among them. These towns and cities are what the privateers target. The pirates curiously are more of land raiders than terrors at sea. Most of the raids are conducted against cities near the coast. Talty portrays Morgan as a terrible seaman -beaching the ship one time, being unable to navigate rough weather another time.
However what he lacks in the seamanship, he makes up in leadership, guile on the field and raw nerve. The chapter “An amateur english theatrical” shows him pitting his wits against a superior force at sea and at the end one realizes that history had to thrust status of legend on the man. One sees his leadership abilities put through tremendous strain during the raid on Panama as his forces starve and have to march through treacherous terrain to get to Panama.
Towards the end of the book, the changing geo-politics and fickle nature of alliances in Europe cast the privateers as the general enemy of both the English crown as well as the Spanish main. Morgan has to choose between his comrades and the crown. The last parts of the book talk about the disaster after Morgan’s death that destroys the city of Port Royal.
The book is great. A treat for history aficionados.
The Millenium Trilogy - The girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The girl that played with fire and The girl that kicked the hornets nest is one of the better attempts at pop fiction that you can read.
It’s gripping, fast-paced and has plots replete with all the mandatory twists needed for a thriller.
Set in Sweden, it follows a brilliant - but socially inept young girl - Lisbeth Salander, who hacks computers and performs background verifications of people for a security firm’s clients. That’s her job in the initial parts of the trilogy at least.
The girl with the Dragon Tattoo introduces the main characters of the trilogy. It is also (in my personal opinion) the best book of the series. Mikael Blomkvist - an investigative reporter for a magazine named “Millenium” is another primary character. Quite the charmer as far as women are concerned and also someone of professional integrity, he is an honest journalist that exposes corporate thuggery and is the workaholic that forms the primary supporting character of the plot.
The girl with the Dragon Tattoo - so named as out main protagonist - Lisbeth has several tattoos and a prominent one that features a dragon, starts with Mikael Blomkvist losing a case of libel against Hans-Erik Wennerstrom a billionaire and industry titan. Facing jail-time and a hefty fine, Blomkvist has to step down from Millenium’s board to the consternation of his staff and Erika Berger who is his friend and co-founder and Managing Director of the Millenium. In an attempt to distance himself from the Millenium, he reluctantly accepts a freelance assignment in Hedeby, a tiny island, from Henrik Vanger the patriarch of the Vanger family and the former CEO of the family run Vanger Enterprises. The assignment is a cold case which Henrik wants solved. It’s the disappearance of Harriet Vanger, Henrik’s great-neice several decades earlier. Henrik, being extremely fond of her, left no stone unturned in trying to find her albeit unsuccessfully. He entices Blomkvist with a hefty fee and a promise to give him enough material to damage Wennerstrom and salvage his pride and to reclaim his reputation. Vanger is convinced that Harriet was murdered and further more by someone of the family.
Here on begins a plot that is an unabashed page turner. The quirks of the different members of the family, the parallel threads of Lisbeth Salander, Erika Berger all weave seamlessly into the story.
The girl who played with fire and The girl that kicked the hornet’s nest are essentially a single book. Probably split it into two to enable people to carry them around better. (Geriatrics like me haven’t yet gotten around to the idea of the Kindle.)
Anyway the last two parts of the trilogy are a bit more fluffy as compared to the first one (again, it’s my opinion) and have Lisbeth portrayed as a super-woman of sorts. It delves into Lisbeth’s past and shows why she is the way she is.
It starts with a young freelancer that comes over to the Millenium to do a feature on sex-trafficking. His report shows how a bunch of small timers traffic and exploit women from the former Soviet nations to Sweden. The Millenium is all set to publish the story when the freelancer and his girlfriend are killed. As Blomkvist launches his probe into the murder and true to the books title, all hell breaks loose. He discovers that the freelancer unwittingly stumbled upon a conspiracy of which Sapo - the counter-intelligence arm of Sweden and it’s secret “black ops” arm - “The Section” are party to. Lisbeth Salander by a bizarre twist of is a victim of this conspiracy too.
I found the latter two books to be a just a tad bit over the top and fanciful. Of course that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable.
All in all a good read for lazy weekends.