Elin is a wonderful writer. If you don't believe me, read the freebie Frost on Thorn". Touches of Mary Renault. I'm delighted that she's my guest today, especially as On a Lee Shore is out today.
Barti <3 George?
It was a lovely surprise, and honour, to be invited to gabble on a bit about pirates on Charlie's blog in honour for the release of my piratey novel, On A Lee Shore. I asked what she'd like me to write about and she had a bit of a think then made a suitably piratical and romantical suggestion. So here is a rather sad true story from the Golden Age of pirates about my own particular hero Batholomew Roberts, one of the most successful pirates to take a threatening stance on the quarterdeck. He was Welsh too, which makes him even more special.
Depending on whose scholarly works you read, pirates were either ALL gay and continually at it like knives [which I think is a bit unrealistic] or a very few of them may have been but there's little to no contemporary evidence and the whole idea gives the historian a funny feeling that he doesn't want to examine too closely so let's talk about colonial economics instead. True enough, contemporary accounts are very sketchy but they were written with one aim in mind - to amuse, entertain and titillate the reader, who was most likely to be a well-off, straight male. Therefore the accounts are filled with heroic good guys, sneering bad guys, accounts of sea battles, horrible tortures and hints that pirates 'gave themselves over to all types of debauchery'. Well educated and worldly men of the period would, not doubt, be able to fill in the gaps from imagination. It's very rare to be able to find anything that suggests a proper relationship, although it is known that they did exist, so I was very pleased to find the account of Batholomew Roberts' friendship, or infatuation, with one George Wilson, a junior ship's doctor.
Roberts was an accidental pirate. He had probably served in the Navy and been set ashore, no longer needed at the end of hostilities, so took what work he could get. He was probably in his early 40s when his ship, a Liverpool slaver, was taken by Howell Davis, another Welshman. Davis forced Roberts to join his crew because he was a good navigator. Six weeks later Davis was dead and Roberts was promoted to captain by popular vote.
Roberts was described as a tall, dark and handsome man. He wore a red coat and had plumes in his hat. A real Hollywood pirate! Over his pirating caeer, which lasted just over 2 years, he took approximately 470 ships and stole cargo, according to Forbes' "Top 20 Pirates List" worth 32 million in todays money. But he simply didn't stack up against the other pirates when it came to roistering. In fact it is said he preferred a nice cup of tea and stayed ashore on their rare visits to ports where prates could get a bit of R&R. The only occasion that he seems to have shown much of a spark was in August 1721 when his ship stopped the Stanwich, another Liverpool slaver. The captain, John Tarlton, would not accept Roberts' invitation to board the Royal Fortune to negotiate over the transfer of cargo; he pleaded illness and sent Wilson, the junior medical man, instead.
Wilson was young, probably mid twenties. It is not known whether he was a qualified physician or a surgeon [in those days a lesser profession] and we have no idea what he looked like. But his profession made him a very desirable recruit - pirating was not a healthy lifestyle - but that does not explain why Roberts almost immediately demanded that Wilson moved in with him as his 'mess-mate', to share quarters, food and fortune. Wilson's acceptance is implicit in that he stayed in Roberts' cabin for two days, only emerging to get into a boat to return to the Stanwich to collect his belongings and his medicine chest. Unfortunately a wind got up and Wilson's boat was swept away on the flood tide into the river Senegal. Neither the Stanwich nor Roberts seem to have tried to save him. Possibly those on the Stanwich did not know and Roberts, who was preparing to leave, may have thought Wilson had changed his mind. The Royal Fortune departed on a new cruise in search of prizes and poor George was wrecked on the coast of Africa where he spent five months in daily danger until he was rescued by a French ship. It's rather telling that Thomas Tarlton the brother of his old captain had anchored off the coast and had ignored George's pleas for help.
The French ship gave George a lift to a port called Sestos where he was picked up by a ship called Elizabeth which a few weeks later, was stopped and boarded by a rambunctious crew of pirates. One can only imagine how George must have felt on recognising the tall red clad figure on the quarterdeck of the pirate ship. Especially when Roberts let out a roar of delight on seeing him.
"God damn you! What are you here again?" Roberts yelled and demanded that George be brought across in the very first boat. That George was pleased might be inferred from his haste to comply. He paused only to borrow and change into a clean shirt and underwear before transferring to the Royal Fortune where, witnesses claimed, he and Roberts soon became 'intimate'.
We'll never know the truth of their relationship. Six weeks later Roberts was dead and George was on trial for his life and desperately claiming to have been a forced man in hope of avoiding the noose. Stories about real pirates very rarely have a happy ending so we have to write our own fictional HEAs.
Which brings me back to On A Lee Shore - :) sorry guys!
“Give me a reason to let you live…”
Beached after losing his ship and crew, and with England finally at peace, Lt Christopher Penrose will take whatever work he can get. A valet? Why not? Escorting an elderly diplomat to the Leeward Islands seems like an easy job, but when their ship is boarded by pirates, Kit’s world is turned upside down. Forced aboard the pirate ship, Kit finds himself juggling his honor with his desire to staying alive among the crew, not to mention the alarming—yet enticing—captain, known as Le Griffe.
Kit has always obeyed the rules, but as the pirates plunder their way across the Caribbean, he finds much to admire in their freedom. He deplores their lawlessness but is drawn to their way of life, and begins to think he might just have found a purpose. Dare he dream of finding love too? Or would loving a pirate take him too far down the road to ruin?
Obtainable here or here if you're in the States. Sorry there are no links for people like me who don't own Kindles. Elin hopes to get those over the weekend.