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BLACK FLAGS, BLUE WATERS

THE EPIC HISTORY OF AMERICA'S MOST NOTORIOUS PIRATES

A general lack of records compromises Dolin’s efforts, leaving one wanting to know more about notorious pirates such as...

A brief but intriguing history of piracy’s heyday.

The word “pirate” evokes numerous symbols and legends, but what were the pirates of yore actually like? Focusing on American waters during piracy’s “Golden Age” of the late 17th and early 18th centuries, Dolin (Brilliant Beacons: A History of the American Lighthouse, 2016, etc.) explains that pirates thrived in times of war, when privateering commissions provided a cover for more illicit activities. For a time, North American colonists welcomed these brigands, who simultaneously spent their ill-gotten gains in Colonial ports and provided an effective counter to unpopular English trade laws. Inevitably, however, they wore out their welcome, and a multipronged response by Colonial and English authorities in the aftermath of Queen Anne’s War (1702-1713) virtually eliminated them. The author helpfully dismisses some of the more potent pirate myths. For example, there is little evidence that Cpt. William Kidd buried treasure on Gardiner’s Island, New York; pirates tended to spend their treasure right away, not inter it. Moreover, no documentation exists of any “Golden Age” pirate forcing someone to walk the plank. But Dolin is at his best when he offers generalizations of pirates and their trade. The majority of pirates were white men in their 20s, but a significant number were black slaves taken from captured ships who “became valued crewmembers who fought alongside their white pirate brethren and shared in the spoils.” Despite their reputation for violence, most pirates “never wanted to fight if they could avoid it,” as confrontation only put their lives, ships, and potential cargo in jeopardy. Finally, a pirate ship was a highly democratic and regulated place, as buccaneers selected their captains by majority vote and abided by a written code that “governed their behavior, the distribution of treasure, and the compensation provided in case of injury.”

A general lack of records compromises Dolin’s efforts, leaving one wanting to know more about notorious pirates such as Blackbeard and Edward Low. Nonetheless, the author offers an informative and often entertaining blend of narrative history and analysis that should appeal to a general audience.

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-63149-210-5

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2018

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KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

THE OSAGE MURDERS AND THE BIRTH OF THE FBI

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

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Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.

During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-53424-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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