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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Sunday, October 26, 2003

The Pirate Hunter: The True Story of Captain Kidd by Richard Zacks. New York: Theia: Hyperion Books, 2002. ISBN: 0786865334

Captain Kidd is a name that is practically synonymous with the word pirate. Almost every pirate story ever written makes some reference to the notorious Captain Kidd, and searching for his lost and buried treasure is almost equally ubiquitous in pirate lore. But here comes a book that turns that entire legend upside down. For in truth, it appears Captain Kidd was not a pirate at all, certainly not by his choice, anyhow. In fact he was hunting pirates and hoping to make money by capturing them and their ill-gotten gains.

In other words, Kidd was a privateer, not a pirate. Sometimes a narrow distinction, but an all-important one in the law of the times. Kidd was commissioned by his backers and the crown to go after the real pirates. His biggest mistake seems to have been hiring a crew of former and would-be pirates, who attempted to break free of his command, and turn pirate at every opportunity. Also, daring to enter the Indian Ocean, which the East India Company regarded as their private lake. Professional envy and enmity seems to have haunted him wherever he went, and the case against him, when he was finally tried and hanged as a pirate, was, according to this account, patently unfair, unjust, and probably illegal to boot.

If history is your thing, you'll certainly enjoy this well-researched and well-written book, covering one of the most misunderstood characters of pre-Revolutionary America and Britain.

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