Reviewer Lois C. Henderson: Lois is a freelance academic editor and back-of-book indexer, who spends most of her free time compiling word search puzzles for tourism and educative purposes. Her puzzles are available HERE and HERE Her Twitter account (@LoisCHenderson) mainly focusses on the toponymy of British place names. Please feel welcome to contact her with any feedback at LoisCourtenayHenderson@gmail.com.
Author: Samuel Marquis
Publisher: Mount Sopris Publishing
Samuel Marquis’s historically sound, but fictionally enhanced, account of the swashbuckling Edward Thache’s exploits on the high seas, primarily centered on the years 1715 to 1718, is all the more intriguing in the light of the author’s own familial connections to such a piratical heritage, with the award-winning suspense writer being the ninth great-grandson of Captain William Kidd, one of the most famous pirates in history, remembered for his plundering of the treasure troves of the Indian Ocean. But don’t be afeared, me hearties, Blackbeard: The Birth of America is bound to reward its readers with a much greater wealth of sumptuous detail in terms of its strong storyline, engaging characters and rambunctious spirit than it will ever take in terms of purchase costs.
That Marquis thrives upon his imaginings being steeped in a past of skullduggery and mayhem (at least as far as his detailed research goes) can be seen by the way in which he carefully pinpoints where each and every part of his enthralling narrative takes place. Most markedly, his seventy-two chapter headings for Blackbeard identify both the place and the date of the occurrence of the action that takes place therein. The overall structure of the book is also divided into six main parts, stretching from “The Spanish Main” to “A Conspiracy of Murder”. The linear narrative makes for an ease of pace and a fluency that enraptures and enthralls the reader in the fast-paced action that takes place throughout. In no way does Marquis reveal what lies in store for his characters, so that, even if one knows something of the history of Edward Thache, Jr., one becomes so immersed in the action that the fiction suspends the reality and one is swept up in the exploits of heroes (and brigands) of old, without anticipating the ultimate outcome, despite it being well-known by many.
Marquis is so thorough in the contextualization of his account that he provides both an extensive cast of historical figures, in terms of Captain Edward Thache and his crew, Thache’s piratical consorts and acquaintances, royal and proprietary colony government officials and citizens, British Royal Navy officers, and Thache’s love interest and family members, and a comprehensive Afterword, explaining the position that he, as narrator, took in revising the history of a man whom he sees as having been maligned, both in the pages of history and in public recall. By providing such a backdrop to his work, and by being so methodical in his approach, Marquis is able to capture both the attention of the adventure-loving public and the appreciation of the cognoscenti for his fine work of literature that is so much more than being a mere boyish account of a romp on the high seas, which is all that many other pirate stories amount to.
Marquis very humbly summates the approach that he envisages as being taken towards Blackbeard: The Birth of America as being “a work of the imagination and entertainment … [which] … should be read as nothing more.” I truly wish to dispute this statement, as I, indeed, do see it as far more. Marquis’s earnest efforts to explain how Edward Thache’s exploits can be seen against the spirit of his times, as being not those of “a cruel and ruthless villain,” but those of a person with extensive wisdom and insight into the ethos of his age, who had great personal integrity and a deep-seated sense of fealty to friends and family, are admirable. In the richness of the texture of his material, which at all times he treats with the greatest of respect and with the added depth of hindsight, Marquis far exceeds the stance of a mere raconteur and entertainer of the masses—he, in fact, becomes a public historian, with a common touch that does nothing to detract from the inherent underlying gravity of his subject matter. The subtitle of his fine work reveals it all: “The Birth of America”. In short, this multi-layered work is an outstanding example of the narration of how an individual can both transform, and inform, his place in time, both in the past and in the present, and as directed towards the future.