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by Margaret Hoffman

Category: Fiction / Historical
299 pages; ISBN: 0-9607300-1-X

Rating: 8/10  (Ratings explained)
Reviewer: Dan Champion


For two years, until his untimely death in 1718, the notorious pirate wreaked havoc on Atlantic coastal shipping. Many tales have been told about the bold deeds of this tall and wild sea rover, but few know about a daring crime that linked Blackbeard with the highest levels of government, a crime that would send two colonies to war and foreshadow the American Revolution.

The recent discovery off the coast of North Carolina of Blackbeard's ship, Queen Anne's Revenge, lends Margaret Hoffman's first novel an added air of interest and currency. My expectations of a novel about the most notorious pirate of the high seas were of blood and thunder, of swash-buckling battles and rape and pillage. What Blackbeard actually delivers is a thoroughly researched dramatisation of an audacious crime cooked up by Colonial Governor Charles Eden, and Blackbeard himself. The motives of the two men couldn't be more different - Eden is a callous, greedy man, obsessed with self-advancement, Edward Teach (Blackbeard's real name) participating with some misgivings in a final act of piracy which will leave him with his freedom (granted by Eden).

Colonial America is convincingly and expertly portrayed by the author, from the new aristocracy and their finery, to the grisly execution of two convicted pirates before a crowd of commoners. This particular scene is outstanding, the process of hanging, drawing and quartering delivered without sensationalism.

The single most fascinating aspect of the story is the emergence of Blackbeard's true character. It is now commonly believed that until his final days he had never killed a man, and that his reputation was largely the product an effective propaganda campaign. The juxtaposition of Eden's cold-blooded criminal demeanour with Blackbeard's true ambition (for a quiet, colonial life with his new wife) elicits a good deal of sympathy from the reader, and is well developed as the book progresses.

The only negative for me were some of the scenes between Teach and his high-class wife-to-be Mary Ormond, which I found unconvincing (however, I am a cynical man, so don't listen too hard). This aside the book is recommended to anyone with an interest in this fascinating character, as it casts an entirely new light on the true nature of the man.


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