19 July 2015

Pirate Hunters, by Robert Kurson


Before I started this blog many moons ago, I fell in love with Shadow Divers, the bestselling book by Robert Kurson. Never once would I have thought that a non-fiction tale of deep sea divers would hold me spellbound, but before I knew it, the story of these divers who discovered a German U-boat submarine sunk off the coast of New Jersey had me along for the ride and imagining the adventure. I've never scuba dived once in my life as I've always been fearful of dark water and sharks, but something about this book knocked me off course completely and reminded me that I come from a family who thrives and lives off the water in a variety of ways. Not only was my husband in the Coast Guard and is a certified diver, but my father was also in the Coast Guard and my sister graduated from the Naval Academy. Even my husband's family runs a boat chartering business in Boston. My husband and I live in Florida, and the world of diving is right around my corner. I've still not tried it, though. I've been on a boat several times, but never once wanted to dive deep under the surface; fear has kept me away, but with a family so used to the water, perhaps I need to rethink this. No excuses.

On one of the hottest days of the year in Neptune Beach, Florida, I passed by one of my favorite indie bookstores, The Bookmark. I already have more than enough books to be read, but what book lover can resist "just one more?" Not this one. In I went and the display for Pirate Hunters drew me in with the title alone. When I realized who the author was, there certainly wasn't any question on what I was going to do: I had to buy it and begin it immediately. After all, the author himself was going to be at that same store in just a week.

Pirate Hunters tells the story of two men who, on the eve of their start to find a sunken Spanish galleon off the coast of the Dominican Republic, divert their mission to help another treasure hunter locate the pirate ship known as the Golden Fleece, which was operated by a captain whose story alone was enough to convince them to look. The fact that only one other pirate ship from the Golden Age of Piracy (1650s to 1720s) has ever been officially identified and confirmed just made it even more desirable, and the quest these two men take on is, I assure you, every bit as captivating and thrilling as Shadow Divers. The adventures of John Chatterton (one of the main divers and featured in Shadow Divers) and John Mattera, a once mob man turned police officer turned exclusive celebrity bodyguard, absolutely delivered and it brought to mind the reality that fiction can never be as thrilling as real life. Robert Kurson's skillful and perfectly paced retelling of each moment in the adventure to secure a treasure more important than gold or silver was as clear and distinct as any major motion picture. Better, even.

Both Chatterton and Mattera each have their own stories to contribute, becoming characters of hotheadedness and commitment (Chatterton) and dogged determination and research (Mattera) to continue pursuing the location of the Golden Fleece, even in the face of skeptical partners and lazy treasure hunters/claim robbers. Leading the way and working hard by researching in archives and libraries around the world was the only way they could uncover the secrets behind a pirate captain and his crew relentlessly battling the Royal Navy, and the reason why this one man, Captain Joseph Bannister, a seemingly honest man, would leave a life of security as a legitimate merchant ship captain, and decide to become an elusive pirate. It was incredible. I could just picture what life in the Golden Age of Piracy was like in the Caribbean. Standing strong and determined, one man making the decision from the bow of his ship, to steal it and to then pursue a life that could only get him hanged, if ever he was caught. (Pulled into this adventure tale, I wasted no time to head to the Jacksonville Public Library to pick up a copy of The Buccaneers of America, by Alexandre Exquemelin, a Frenchman who rode with the pirates for a period of time, even sailing with the infamous Henry Morgan. This book was mentioned often in Pirate Hunters, and I had to have my reading material lined up after finishing Pirate Hunters.)

Whether it's Captain Bannister's story, or the fierce and determined diving and researching from Chatterton and Mattera, there is no doubt that the book will keep you intensely dedicated to finding out what happens next. Through the investigation of sailor's logs and accounts of battles, Kurson parses through it all to leave you with the amazing and sheer bravado of a man fighting the Royal Navy to keep his stolen ship and save his head. Captain Joseph Bannister was a renegade, a man who threw a lifetime of rules and obedience to the wind and rushed onward into a world of piracy. Whatever made him choose this new life might be forever covered by the clear waters off of the Dominican Republic, but the ship itself is there, and these are really the only two guys who deserve to find it. And only a writer like Robert Kurson can tell it.

I loved this book. Can you tell? And now I need to put scuba diving back on the list of things I can't be afraid to do anymore.

Side note: Robert Kurson is an engaging and vivid speaker and is quite the storyteller. My husband and I went to dinner afterwards and couldn't stop talking about him. And also making plans to go on our own adventure.


The author, Robert Kurson, speaking at The Bookmark
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Release Date: 06/16/15
Pages: 262

About the Author (from his website)
Robert Kurson is an American author, best known for his 2004 bestselling book, Shadow Divers, the true story of two Americans who discover a World War II German U-boat sunk 60 miles off the coast of New Jersey. Kurson began his career as an attorney, graduating from Harvard Law School, and practicing real estate law. Kurson’s professional writing career began at the Chicago Sun-Times, where he started as a sports agate clerk and soon gained a full-time features writing job. In 2000, Esquire published “My Favorite Teacher,” his first magazine story, which became a finalist for a National Magazine Award. He moved from the Sun-Times to Chicago magazine, then to Esquire, where he won a National Magazine Award and was a contributing editor for years. His stories have appeared in Rolling Stone, The New York Times Magazine, and other publications. He lives in Chicago.

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1 comment:

  1. This sounds terrific. I loved Shadow Divers as well. Have a great week Natalie.

    ReplyDelete

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