Thursday, July 28, 2011

New England Pirate Museum

We visited the New England Pirate Museum in Salem, Mass. last week. It was our first visit since the early 1990s.

The museum is a small-scale operation housed in a brick building with trompe l'oeil pirates climbing up the outside walls. Tours are given every half hour. They are conducted by a guide in a "pirate" costume consisting of a lace-up shirt, black pants, sash, and bandanna. The tours last 20-25 minutes. There is a small gift shop where tours start and end.

The museum is not bad for what it is. It is mainly a series of sets with manikins dressed to represent historic pirates. Some of the sets are ambitious. The biggest one has part of a ship, a tavern, a gallows, and other building fronts. The manikins run from hokey to horrifying but they are really launching points for the guides. The real tour consists of the guide telling about various New England pirates. Many of them were unsuccessful.

The focus on New England gives the museum a fresh feel. These are pirates with a local tie-in who are seldom discussed. Bellamy and the Whydah, Blackbeard, and Kidd all had New England connections and are also mentioned.

I didn't catch and outright errors, just a few over-simplifications so even hard-core historians should enjoy the tour.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Book Review - PotC: Price of Freedom

The Price of Freedom (Pirates of the Caribbean) by A. C. Crispin is a PotC tie-in telling Jack Sparrow's back-story. It was already known that the Black Pearl was originally known as the Wicked Wench but was sunk and burned. Jack made a deal with Davy Jones to raise it. We also know that Jack's father was the Keeper of the Code and that Jack was branded as a pirate after failing to deliver a load of slaves. This novel was written to fill in the details.

The plot mainly follows Jack as he goes from first mate on an East India Trading Company ship to captain of the Wicked Wench. There are a lot of flashbacks to Jack's earlier life on Shipwreck Island explaining how he came to leave it. Jack is working for Cutler Becket and we get his back-story as well. For good measure, there is a princess from a lost colony of Egypt who is searching for her lost father and brother.

The book has several familiar cameos. There is also a pirate princess and a group of rouge pirates who do not follow the code.

It isn't a bad book but it has one major flaw - the main character just doesn't feel like Jack Sparrow. He's too nice and totally trustworthy. He plans things out ahead of time.

As pirate books go, it isn't bad. The author did a lot of research although there are some anachronisms lie the use of a Blackwall Frigate which was designed in 1830. Several other details are better researched and it provides a nice explanation for some of Jack's appearance in the movies.

I suggest waiting for paperback.