The best books on the real Pirates of the Caribbean

Wendy K. Perriman Author Of Fire on Dark Water
By Wendy K. Perriman

The Books I Picked & Why

A General History of the Robberies & Murders of the Most Notorious Pirates

By Captain Charles Johnson

Book cover of A General History of the Robberies & Murders of the Most Notorious Pirates

Why this book?

It was long thought that Captain Charles Johnson was a pseudonym for Daniel Defoe (of Robinson Crusoe fame), the original pirate novelist. As such, this anecdotal collection of seafaring tales may be as close to historical “primary source” material as we can get! A General History has inspired several generations of nautical poems, plays, and novels about life on the account, including Fire on Dark Water. Captain Johnson’s classic book undoubtedly raised public awareness about the lives and loves of many buccaneers and it is still a fascinating read today.


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Under the Black Flag: The Romance and the Reality of Life Among the Pirates

By David Cordingly

Book cover of Under the Black Flag: The Romance and the Reality of Life Among the Pirates

Why this book?

David Cordingly’s book is useful for its accurate and lively attempt to separate pirate facts from public fiction. He sifts through childhood tales of wooden legs and parrots to highlight the harsh realities experienced by most of these violent rogues. The tortures he describes serve to remind the reader that these were desperate times full of volatile career criminals. And the women were often as dangerous as their male counterparts! While considering Anne Bonny and Mary Read, he questions “Were there other women pirates?” and “How was it possible for a woman to pass herself off as a man in the cramped and primitive conditions on board an eighteenth-century ship?” These prompts helped me to focus on the issues my own female protagonist would have to overcome during her nautical adventures. I recommend this book because it is informative, thought-provoking, and entertaining.


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Bold in Her Breeches: Woman Pirates Across the Ages

By Jo Stanley

Book cover of Bold in Her Breeches: Woman Pirates Across the Ages

Why this book?

Bold in her Breeches reclaims the tales of women pirates throughout the ages, starting as far back as 480 BC with the Greek female leader, Artemisia of Caria. Jo Stanley collects an array of diverse and interesting contributions from feminist theorists and maritime historians to record the huge number of unknown women who worked the high seas in various guises. This book helped to remove the romantic trappings from my own central character, Lola Blaise.


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Blackbeard the Pirate

By Robert E. Lee

Book cover of Blackbeard the Pirate

Why this book?

Lee’s reappraisal of Blackbeard (Edward Teach) examines the mythical persona of arguably the most notorious pirate of The Golden Age. But what is the truth behind the real man? In studying most of the extant evidence Lee displays a certain amount of respect for Blackbeard’s bravery, planning, psychological warfare tactics, and appetite for women, describing him as the “famous knight of the black flag.” This intriguing book offers an alternative view to Blackbeard the Monster.


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The Sea Rover's Practice: Pirate Tactics and Techniques, 1630-1730

By Benerson Little

Book cover of The Sea Rover's Practice: Pirate Tactics and Techniques, 1630-1730

Why this book?

Although I captain my own lake boat, I knew very little about ancient nautical sailing and warfare when I began writing Fire on Dark Water. Benerson Little’s book, The Sea Rover’s Practice, taught me about different types of crafts, weapons, battle tactics, sea villains, ship routines, sailor superstitions, methods of stealth attack, treatment of prisoners, and even the types of food eaten on board ship throughout 1630 – 1730. It was a very valuable resource.


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