Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Captain Blood

I just finished reading Captain Blood by Rafael Sabatini for the third time. I have been a fan of Sabatini since several of his novels were reprinted in the 1970s but this is one of his best. It has several of Sabatini's recurring themes - a noble and witty hero who is forced by circumstances to become an adventurer and a romance foiled until the last moment by bad luck and misunderstanding.

In this book, Peter Blood is a former soldier who has taken up the more peaceful practice of medicine. He refuses to participate in the Monmouth Rebellion against James II but is arrested and convicted anyway for treating a wounded rebel. Rather than being executed, he is sent to the Caribbean to be sold as a slave. Eventually he and some of his fellow slaves escape and steal a ship. Even then, Blood's first goal was to simply resume his career as a doctor. Circumstances make piracy his main choice and he proves a natural at it.

Sabatini's hero is not a typical pirate. Instead he is honorable, rescuing women and only raiding Spain.

One section of the book was lifted from Captain Morgan's real exploits. Sabatini explains this away by saying that they were really Blood's exploits and that Morgan later claimed credit for them.

Fortunately for Blood, he is opposed at every turn by opponents whose self-importance exceeds their competence. This makes the villains of the book easy to hate.

This is one of the best pirate novels ever written. Blood is believable as a pirate with principles and, unlike Treasure Island, the book has several sea battles. If it has any faults it is that it makes these battles seem too easy. A broadside or two and the battle is decided and any blood spilled is spilt out of sight.

It should be no surprise that the book is longer and more complex than the movie which, in itself, is one of the better pirate movies.

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