Berkley Trade, 2011)
impose, that men must needs abide;
From the author:
This tale is recounted by an English gypsy called Lola Blaise, who knows that Captain Edward Teach is a buccaneer when she marries him but has no idea she is about to become the thirteenth wife of the infamous Blackbeard, nor does she realize the unconscionable deeds she will have to perform to avoid the fate of her tragic predecessors.
Fire on Dark Water is set in the Eighteenth Century’s ‘Golden Age of Piracy’. Lola takes us on an epic journey from her early Romany childhood, to loss of innocence in the slums of London, a horrific voyage on a white slave ship, indentured servitude on a Charleston rice plantation, life in a brothel on the ‘Pirate Republic’ of New Providence, and ultimately aboard the Queen Anne’s Revenge (Blackbeard’s flagship), as she interacts with real characters in factual situations.
Fate entwines Lola’s destiny with that of Anne Bonny, ‘Calico Jack’ Rackham, James Bonny, Blackbeard and crew – to name but a few – and as Captain Charles Johnson claims in The General History of the Robberies & Murders of the Most Notorious Pirates (1724) the “odd incidents of their rambling lives are such, that some may be tempted to think the whole story no better than a novel or romance, but . . . it is supported by many thousand witnesses,” confirming my own extensive research that the truth about these men and women is even stranger than the surrounding fiction.
Tales of daring pirates continue to capture the popular imagination and feminists have looked to Anne Bonny and Mary Reed as historic examples of tough, proactive heroines. But carried away by such romanticism we often lose sight of the fact that most buccaneers were greedy, bloodthirsty killers with addictive or pathological natures. Whereas previous books tend to sanitize their lifestyles my account is a gritty, violent, realistic portrayal of the lascivious, often manic events, acted out by dangerous drunk individuals with little left to lose. This is not a tale for the faint of heart!
From the book:
January 5, 1719
The severed head bobbed afore the mast of the pirate sloop like a grisly lantern exactly as rumor predicted. But the black eyes now only flickered intermittently when glazed by shafts of sunlight, and the septic snarl was set against further cursing. The trophy – tied by its long gory mane to the bowsprit – twisted on air like licking vipers, conjuring life where it had long since ceased to writhe. Shock had frozen the face in a roar of defiance and confusion lay trapped in the hazy whites of his eyes. A swollen tongue protruded from the black matted beard while the nose, still screwed up for battle, lay lost in the purpling wax of decaying flesh. The decapitated prize twirled ceremoniously in proof – a public deterrent for fellow buccaneers to witness.
When the townsfolk of
Now I know some folks may contend that I am far too enamored of these
sea-villains, having recently completed an account of
and Strange Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe.
But the moment I gazed at the dead
captain’s eye-pits I felt a compelling urge to begin a new book,
although possibly under some pseudonym this time.
I have a notion to write a general history
of the most notorious pirates
so that their brave and terrible deeds
may not fade unrecorded – an idea that came to me as I scanned the crowd
Thinking it strange that the most esteemed gentleman in the colony would
be holding court with such a lowly creature, I immediately enquired of a
by-stander as to who this young slattern might be?
I judged she was not yet of age, but even
under the youth and grime I could tell she was some gamy thing – all
lithe legs and wide moist eyes.
Well, consider my surprise when someone
whispered she was
It is my deepest desire to interview this trollop – for whom better to give me an insight into the outlaw’s secret kingdom? But as soon as she had identified the dangling head, she scurried into the crowd and was lost to sight. I have just heard rumor that she may be headed for one of the Carribee Islands – which is where I will begin my search as soon as I have the resources. Whatever it takes, I must find this wench. For I believe that my entire future enterprise depends upon it . . . .
“The author’s grasp of setting and period is well supported by research. Lola feels quite believable, and although she isn’t your typical virtuous heroine, she shines in comparison to the rogues who surround her. This is a unique and appealing debut”
Kathryn Johnson, Historical Novels Review (Issue 57, August 2011)