The best books on the real Pirates of the Caribbean

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

Who am I?

My fascination with pirates began as a student in Bristol (UK) – the legendary hometown of Edward Teach a.k.a. Blackbeard. Later, I visited the Pirates of Nassau Museum in the Bahamas and was amazed to learn there had been women buccaneers too. I wanted to discover more about these daring females and find out what might have enticed them to brave a tenuous life on the account. As fate would have it, I now live in North Carolina near the Outer Banks where Blackbeard met his fate. These experiences inspired me to write a different kind of adventure story about the real pirates of the Caribbean featuring a strong, resilient, swashbuckling female.

I wrote...

Fire on Dark Water

By Wendy K. Perriman,

Book cover of Fire on Dark Water

What is my book about?

Fire on Dark Water tells the story of Lola Blaise, a young gypsy woman destined to become one of the infamous Blackbeard’s many wives. Thrust into the brutal world of piracy she must use every hard-earned skill in her arsenal to survive, outwitting the surrounding cutthroats and rogues to finally become the master of her own destiny. Lola mingles with many well-known characters including Anne and Jim Bonny, Henry Jennings, Charles Vane, Calico Jack Rackham, and the crew of the Queen Anne’s Revenge as she weaves in and out of real historical events. She summarizes her life with this short confession: “I was Blackbeard’s thirteenth wife – and very unlucky for him.” 

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The books I picked & why

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

Why did I love 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.

By Captain Charles Johnson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A General History of the Robberies & Murders of the Most Notorious Pirates as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Originally published in 1724-and now with an introduction and commentary by David Cordingly, best-selling author of the pirate classic Under the Black Flag-this famous account of the most notorious pirates of the day was an immediate success. Written by the mysterious Captain Johnson, it appeared in the book world at a time since described as the "Golden Age of Piracy" and vividly captures the realities of the savage seafaring existence-detailing specific events, including trials, of the day's most feared pirates. Indeed, this book has become the main source for scholars seeking to learn more about the female pirates Mary Read…

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

Why did I love 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.

By David Cordingly,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Under the Black Flag as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book sets out to discover the truth behind the stereotypical image of the pirate. Examining the rich literary and cultural legacy of piratical icons from Blackbeard to Captain Hook, the author compares the legends with their historical counterparts and comes up with some surprising conclusions. In a wider overview of the piracy myth, he explores its enduring and extraordinary appeal and assesses the reality behind the romance, answering in the process questions such as: why did men become pirates; were there any women pirates; how much money did they make from their plundering and looting; what effect did their…

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

Why did I love 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.

By Jo Stanley (editor),

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Bold in Her Breeches as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

As far back as 480 BC, when Artemisia commanded her Greek trireme, women have taken to the high seas in pursuit of life and liberty. Simultaneously revered and reviled by superstitious male mariners, the realities of these women pirates' lives have been lost in a murky fog of sexual and racial preconceptions.
Bold in her Breeches takes a wholly fresh look at these mythical figures and places them in their true historical and cultural contexts. From Artemisia to the contemporary women pirates of today, via eighteenth-century Grace O'Malley and nineteenth-century Cheng I Sao, we learn why women took to piracy,…

Blackbeard the Pirate

By Robert E. Lee,

Book cover of Blackbeard the Pirate

Why did I love 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.

By Robert E. Lee,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Blackbeard the Pirate as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard, was one of the most notorious pirates ever to plague the Atlantic coast. He was also one of the most colorful pirates of all time, becoming the model for countless blood-and-thunder tales of sea rovers. His daring exploits, personal courage, terrifying appearance, and fourteen wives made him a legend in his own lifetime. The legends and myths about Blackbeard have become wilder rather than tamer in the 250 years since his gory but valiant death at Ocracoke Inlet. It is difficult for historians, and all but impossible for the general reader, to separate fact…

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

Why did I love 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.

By Benerson Little,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Sea Rover's Practice as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

To read of sea roving's various incarnations - piracy, privateering, buccaneering, la flibuste, la course - is to bring forth romantic, and often violent, imagery. Indeed, much of this imagery has become a literary and cinematic cliche?. And what an image it is!

But its truth is by halves, and paradoxically it is the picaresque imagery of Pyle, Wyeth, Sabatini, and Hollywood that is often closer to the reality, while the historical details of arms, tactics, and language are often inaccurate or entirely anachronistic.

Successful sea rovers were careful practitioners of a complex profession that sought wealth by stratagem and…

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