Captain Blood by Rafael Sabatini
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Peter Blood was an Irishman with a medical degree; however, he sailed as a mercenary for the French against the Spanish in the later seventeenth century. Later, he tended to the wounds of a man involved in the rebellion against King James II of England. For this, he was charged and convicted of treason and sentenced to hang. At the last minute, he was reprieved when James commuted the sentence to indentured servitude in the Caribbean. Blood was bought by a wealthy and well-connected planter on Barbados. The planter, Colonel Bishop, realized that Blood was worth more to him as a doctor than as a sugar cane cutter, so Blood was free to move about the island practicing his craft while Bishop collected the fees. An attack on Bridgetown by Spanish pirates gave Blood and a few other slaves the chance to make their escape by overpowering the scant guard left on the Spanish ship. Just before he made good his escape, he saved Bishop’s beautiful niece, Arabella, from the marauding Spaniards. Blood and his crew proved to be highly effective pirates, and he amassed a small fleet with which he plundered Spanish ships and colonies. His fame spread to England where James II decided to try to recruit him as a privateer, but Colonel Bishop couldn’t let go of his hatred for Blood, and Blood couldn’t let go of his infatuation with Arabella.
I was astounded to learn that Captain Blood was first published in 1921. The style and language are convincingly contemporaneous with the time setting. The story is told as the recounting of journals kept by one of Captain Blood’s lieutenants. I suspect that a modern editor would dismiss it out of hand, but it works quite well. Few books have sent me scurrying for the dictionary like this one. It also has some of the greatest epithets I’ve ever heard. Captain Blood is simply a great old-fashioned pirate tale. I loved it, and yes, in the end, he gets the girl.