Joyce Glasner,
Pirates & Privateers
(Altitude, 2005)

Amazing Stories is a clever little line of books on Canadian history. Each has a different focus, with the topic ranging from the very broad (Canada's Rumrunners, Snowmobile Adventures, The Mounties, Ghost Town Stories) to the very narrow (Klondike Joe Boyle, Toronto Maple Leafs, Ontario Murders, The Halifax Explosion). The series is now 100 volumes old, and the centennial release is on a favorite topic of mine, Pirates & Privateers.

While the slim book is by no means an exhaustive account of piracy, it is a nicely condensed narrative of events particular to the Canadian maritimes. The book begins with an account of the privateers who sailed in search of plunder from Britain's enemies -- quite often, given the checkered history in Colonial and post-Revolutionary days, the United States -- and then proceeds to the men who turned pirate and targeted any likely ship that hove into view.

The chapters on privateering are more fascinating, mostly because so many books lean heavily on the more villainous and colorful pirates. But the privateers who set out from the shipyards of Nova Scotia, among others, helped to build a rich economy based largely on the prizes they took. Of course, privateering is by no means a certain trade, and author/researcher Joyce Glasner reports the failures as well as the successes.

Being an avid reader of books on this topic, there is much here I've seen before. It's to Glasner's credit that much of this material was also new to me, and her presentation is both informative and entertaining.

Anyone interested in Canadian or nautical history should enjoy this. Canadian history buffs might also want to check out the preceding 99 volumes in Altitude Publishing's Amazing Stories series.

by Tom Knapp
5 August 2006

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