William S. Crooker,
Pirates of the North Atlantic
(Nimbus, 2004)

One thinks of pirates and instantly conjures images of tall ships sailing through tropical breezes, palm trees on desert islands and the warm Caribbean oceans.

Heck, but even a pirate can get too much sun. William S. Crooker tells the tales of those who sailed northward in Pirates of the North Atlantic.

The pirates who plundered ships and villages along the New England coastline, around Nova Scotia and Cape Breton, and up into the fish-laden banks of Newfoundland are often the same who ranged into southern climes. Others, less far-ranging, never ventured into the tropics at all, preying instead on fishing boats, traders and other vessels in the cold northern seas. Even the Spanish treasure ships, following the Gulf Stream, came within a few hundred miles of the Canadian maritimes, making tempting targets for northern pirates.

In this slim, easy-to-read volume, Crooker tells us thrilling tales of famous pirates such as Blackbeard, William Kidd and Black Bart. More fascinating still, simply because they are less commonly mentioned in other books on piracy, are the likes of Edward and Margaret Jordan, Thomas Pound and Samuel Hall.

Edward Low, certainly not one of the foremost names among pirates, turns out to be one of the bloodiest. John Phillips turned pirate because he was bored with his job on land. Kidd, who once owned some of the priciest real estate in Manhattan, had no desire to be a pirate -- but he hanged all the same, and may have left a fortune in pirate treasure somewhere on a Nova Scotian shore. Hall, too, left gold behind in Nova Scotia after an overland assault on a village fell victim to a Mi'kmaq plot. Pound, on the other hand, turned pirate in 1689 out of loyalty to an overthrown New England governor.

Bartholomew "Black Bart" Roberts, who captured more than 400 ships during his career, made long memories in Trepassey Harbour, Newfoundland, when he boldly sailed among 22 moored merchant ships and opened fire, destroying all but one before sacking the town. The tales continue, with treasure hunting on Isle Haute, treachery after treachery aboard the Saladin and the vanishing crew of the Mary Celeste.

The chapters devoted to each pirate or pirate story are short but informative and entertaining. Anyone who's tired of reading the same old stories on the same old pirates should pick up a copy of Crooker's book and sail into new, much colder waters.

by Tom Knapp
29 July 2006

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