Thursday, April 15, 2010

Pirates don't pay taxes: Historical fiction from a local novelist



Anne Bonny was born into the new 18th century in Cork, Ireland. Her father, William, was a lawyer; her mother, Peg, was the kitchen maid who had come to offer herself if William would but defend her brother, Sean, a Catholic "cheated of his land and title by a Protestant Parliament and condemned for his poverty by a Protestant judge."

"Will" is the operative word in Anne's life as she grows up in Charles Town, South Carolina with a headstrong father and a mother who is "no one's servant."

Anne would become one of the most famous pirates of the so-called "Golden Age of Piracy (1716-1726)." Based on research conduced in the US and Jamaica, Pamela Johnson has written a compelling historical novel full of lust, love and pirate life, and lots of "begetting." "Heart of a Pirate: A Novel of Anne Bonny" ($15 in paperback from Stone Harbour Press) is a page-turning chronicle of a woman who has "earned my place as an equal."

Johnson is scheduled to be interviewed by Nancy's Bookshelf host Nancy Wiegman this Saturday at 4:30 p.m. on Northstate Public Radio, KCHO (91.7 FM) and will be speaking at Lyon Books in Chico on Wednesday, April 21 at 7:00 p.m.

The author, who lives in Oregon House, between Rackerby and Browns Valley, puts Anne's story in the political context of the times in which "poverty and injustice" were partners.

As the tide turns, eventually Anne finds herself as crew aboard the vessel that pirate captain Jack Rackham has rechristened "Lady Anne." She serves under Rackham (in a number of senses) and carries his child, and can best any man in valor. The ship is a democracy, with an elected captain, and contrasts with "enlightened" European capitalism that was growing rich off the enslavement of others. "Must you demean the poor and low born," Anne later tells Philip O'Conner (who has offered to redeem her from prison), "make slaves of the Africans . . . so that you have coin in your purse?"

Anne and her crew companion, another female pirate named Mary Read, became heroes in Jamaica. Though Anne's fate is unknown, Johnson imagines a fitting conclusion to a complex life, raising anew questions of justice and equality.

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