WAKE OF THE PERDIDO STAR by Gene Hackman

WAKE OF THE PERDIDO STAR

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Actor Hackman collaborates with Lenihan, a scuba-diving and sunken-ship aficionado, on an American swashbuckler aspiring to be the next Aubrey-Maturin. It takes about a hundred pages for 17-year-old Jack O’Reilly to witness his trusting Irish father and worldly-wise Cuban mother cheated out of their land and then murdered by a dastardly Spaniard, Count de Silva. Left for dead by the Count’s minions, Jack himself staggers back to the Perdido Star, the US merchant ship that brought his family to Cuba, and is welcomed aboard by the ship’s first mate, a kindly seasoned salt named Quince. From there, the voyage becomes a series of action pieces interwoven with narratives of seafaring lore as Jack goes halfway around the world, enduring darkly violent storms and vivid battles on land and sea as he grows to manhood, earns the respect of the crew, and returns to Havana as the notorious Pacific pirate “Black Jack” O’Reilly set upon avenging his parents. Set in 1805, when America was doing a bad job of staying neutral during the Napoleonic Wars, what saves this seafarer from being yet another serving of half-baked Sabatini is the peculiar expertise the authors add about Kentucky rifles and makeshift diving when Jack, naive genius that he is, invents a diving bell to rescue his father’s gun-making equipment while the crew is marooned on an atoll somewhere west of Tahiti. For full effect, add a few postmodern Hollywood casting decisions that include an Queeg-like captain, a pompous Dutch slaver, a Chinese martial arts expert masquerading as a cook, a sentimental balladeer, and an annoying French American schoolboy, Paul Le Maire, who peckishly corrects villains when they misquote Shakespeare and Voltaire. Standard swashbuckler that’s slow at the start but then delivers satisfying action and rousing derring-do, even if the characterizations are as thin as Errol Flynn’s tights. (Literary Guild featured alternate; $100,000 ad/promo)

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 1-55704-398-1
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: Newmarket Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1999