Bring It Close – the third Voyage of Captain Jesamiah Acorne

B1872

Studying the fragments of records from the period does not make matters much clearer. The only thing that stands out is that the East Coast of North America and the waters of the Caribbean were infested with privateers and pirates, where a privateer continued on as a pirate in the many brief periods of peace. In time of war, the auctioning of cargo and vessels taken by privateers was as legitimate as the systems of Prizes operated by the English Admiralty to pay a bonus to victorious crews during war. In times of peace, Governors often turned a blind eye to the auctioning of goods taken by pirates, usually in return for a share in the proceeds.

The result is that there is a rich source of stories that can be spun from a lawless age. Bring It Close is one of these stories. There is a generous cast of characters in the book. Each is nicely drawn and credible. The plot flows through the good times and the bad for the various characters. There is also some helpful background information included, with drawings and maps.

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NAME: Bring It Close – the third Voyage of Captain Jesamiah Acorne
FILE: R1872
DATE: 240913
AUTHOR: Helen Hollick
PUBLISHER: SilverWood Books 2011
BINDING: electronic, EPUB format, paperback
PAGES: 386
PRICE: Kindle, £4.49 $7.13, Paper, £10.99 $16.65
GENRE: Fiction
SUBJECT: Pirates
ISBN: 978-1-90623-662-3, ASIN B005A7VUWK
IMAGE: B1872.jpg
BUYNOW: http://tinyurl.com/qjdwrkf
LINKS: Cover design, Cathy Helms, www.avalongraphics.org
DESCRIPTION: In reviewing a novel, there is a fine line between providing enough information to encourage readers to rush out and buy a copy, and spoiling a great plot. The author has already written four books in this series and this is the third to be released. As all four stories have been provided by the publisher for review, they have been read in sequence. Each story stands in its own right, but they build on the previous stories. For a reader coming to the series at a later book, it is worth buying all the books, starting at the beginning, and reading right the way through, including the first story that the reader began with.

Bring It Close is a pirate tale and a very good one. There are all the necessary ingredients, battles, love and sex, exotic backgrounds, highs and lows, suspense and a hint of what will come in the next book in the series. The reader’s attention is held to the end of the story. The author has carried out thorough research that places this as an historical novel that is credible. As with most good series of stories, the author is clearly getting into a swing with this third tale. It is always difficult to know whether the author is getting into character, or the characters are developing depth and complexity as each story peals off another layer of the character’s onion. Each new story provides fresh space to write what would not have fitted into the earlier stories, and the new story provides scope, and need, to reveal more of the characters and particularly of the hero Captain Acorne.

It does follow the familiar format of romantic history and the concept of the Golden Age of Piracy. The reality in history is that there was not very much ‘golden’ about piracy. One of the oldest professions, piracy is like most crime. It always produces victims and the criminals frequently expend effort and thought that would have returned a better profit in a legitimate enterprise. Not much has changed down the millennia since the first pirate. It is interesting to note that non-fiction history books about pirates sell in rather smaller numbers than the fictional stories. For some strange reason, publishers fall out of love with pirate tales, even when they sell well, but publishers of non-fictional accounts of piracy, which tend to sell in smaller numbers, tend to loyally publish. It is therefore fortunate that a writer today has much greater choice of how to publish a good book. Helen Hollick has written for traditional publishers and as an independent, where electronic books now ensure that the author can publish when he or she wishes to, rather than to wait for a traditional publisher.

Piracy was long the pursuit of city and nation states, both in the form of encouraging pirates, and in operating in the guise of pirates. In the early Sixteenth Century, the French Hugenots, the English in the South West of the British Isles, and Boarder and Lowland Scots provided the corsairs who harried Spanish shipping in the area around the Azores as it made its way home from the Americas. The hoped for target was a convoy of gold ships laden with the looted treasures of the South American aborigines. These corsairs then expanded their area of operations to the Americas where they preyed on shipping and towns. The one thing the corsairs had in common was that they were Protestants and happy to operate together whatever their national leaders might think of their activities, although Elizabeth Tudor was often one of the principals funding voyages.

By the start of the Eighteenth Century, the Spanish and Portuguese no longer held exclusive control of American colonies. The French, Dutch and English all had trading centres and colonies in Central and North America and around the Caribbean. The English were already beginning to dominate in these areas and were sending a stream of merchant ships and slavers out to the area with cargoes, bringing back the produce of the colonies. The speed of a sailing ship meant that the King and Parliament in London had poor control over the colonies and many of the leading citizens were keen to cheat on the due taxes, but quick to complain about the lack of naval protection against other countries and pirates. They were also prepared to prey on fellow colonialists. There may have been laws on paper, but little law in practice.

In the Golden Age of Piracy, it could be very difficult to draw a line between the criminals and the authorities. Some English Governors never actually travelled to the colonies they were supposed to govern and instead sent a deputy out. Where the colonists elected a committee to work with the Governor, the committee was frequently ignored by the Governor and as frequently conspired to have the Governor sacked. An absence of Royal Navy warships encouraged Governors to recruit pirates who had allegedly reformed and some Governors had a very dubious past, in some cases having previously operated as pirates.

There was also added confusion because of the widespread use of auxiliary warships. England, and many other countries, failed to maintain sufficient warships in times of peace to meet the needs of the next war. It was cheap and expedient to issue papers to private ship owners and let them loose on the enemy’s merchant ships. By origin, the privateers were licensed to extract retribution and compensation on an enemy who had taken their merchant ships. This was largely a device for Protestant merchants to seek redress forcibly against Spain, which regarded any trade with Spanish colonies as illegal and in the beginning the Hugenots in La Rochelle issued most of the authorities, legitimising the corsairs on both sides of the English Channel.

Studying the fragments of records from the period does not make matters much clearer. The only thing that stands out is that the East Coast of North America and the waters of the Caribbean were infested with privateers and pirates, where a privateer continued on as a pirate in the many brief periods of peace. In time of war, the auctioning of cargo and vessels taken by privateers was as legitimate as the systems of Prizes operated by the English Admiralty to pay a bonus to victorious crews during war. In times of peace, Governors often turned a blind eye to the auctioning of goods taken by pirates, usually in return for a share in the proceeds.

The result is that there is a rich source of stories that can be spun from a lawless age. Bring It Close is one of these stories. There is a generous cast of characters in the book. Each is nicely drawn and credible. The plot flows through the good times and the bad for the various characters. There is also some helpful background information included, with drawings and maps.

The only area of criticism is of the evolving publishing industry and not of the author, or of the story. This book, and the other three in the series that are already published, was supplied as an eBook for review. For a reviewer this can be helpful because email does not suffer the delays of postal services. Unfortunately, the eBook market is still in its early days and book distributors have been more interested in trying to build a lock on customers through employing their own electronic formats that do not work well on all eBook reading devices, even where a particular format is claimed, suggesting compatibility with devices from other suppliers. Considering that the PDF format was already a de facto electronic publishing standard, there is no technical excuse for not employing it as the eBook standard. For the reviewer, it can take as much time establishing what a particular book can be read on as it does looking at the efforts of author and publisher.

In the case of the four Jesamiah Acorne stories, only two could be taken into mobi for reading on a Windows PC. However, all four books could be read without any difficulty on the same Windows PC using Calibre software. Considering that Amazon bought the mobi software company to provide a reader environment, it is surprising the mobi can have difficulty reading books supplied by Amazon.

The files copied across into the Calibre management system and could be organized as a reader might wish to. The Calibre eBook reader then displayed the books and faultlessly allowed the text to be zoomed and bookmarks to be set up. Sea Witch could also be read without any difficulty on a Linux workstation, using the excellent FBReader software, running on the Ubuntu distribution (v12.04) of Debian Linux. Only a Kindle reader was at hand and the book loaded and displayed on that device. The eBook could be read on a Samsung Tab2 10.1 tablet and should read on an iPad by using the free app produced by Amazon.

Probably, the eBook would read on most eBook readers, tablets and smart phones but without trying each device it is impossible to be sure and, where a device from one supplier works, another version of the same device may not be compatible. It is a very confusing situation that cries out for renewed efforts to establish a single standard for eBooks that can be used by all suppliers and customers. One reason that PrintOnDemand is becoming increasingly popular is that printed paper continues to be the one format for books that is guaranteed to be readable in most visible light levels or under artificial lighting. Unfortunately, it then suffers from the attendant disadvantages of production and postage costs, and the delays of postage.

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