LAST OF THE PIRATES by Samantha Weinberg


The Search for Bob Denard
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 A British journalist sets off to find a modern-day pirate and soldier of fortune involved in numerous coups, revolutions, and assassinations in post-colonial Africa. Weinberg centers her story on Bob Denard's role in the series of coups and killings in the Comoros Islands in the 1970s and '80s. She pays less attention to his involvement in a 1954 plot to assassinate the French prime minister, for which he served time in prison; his participation in fighting in Katanga, Biafra, and the Congo in the 1960s; and his failed attempt to overthrow the Benin government in 1977. Denard claims to have been employed by the French government at times; at others, by both left- and right-wing revolutionary forces. He first went to the Comoros, four small islands at the head of the Mozambique Channel in the Indian Ocean, in 1975 at the behest of Ali Soilih, an ardent socialist who had just ousted President Ahmed Abdallah Abdermane. (Three of the islands had recently gained independence from France; a fourth stubbornly remains a colony.) They negotiated Abdallah's exile to France, but Soilih's attempted radical reforms garnered little support from the Islamic populace. A series of disasters, including a volcanic eruption and the slaughter of 1,400 Comorians working on Madagascar, weakened Soilih's hold on the country. Denard--this time working for Abdallah--led a successful commando raid on the Soilih government in 1978. The newly reinstated leader named the Frenchman and his band of mercenaries to command the presidential guard. He and his men enjoyed power and profit until 1989, when yet another coup toppled Abdallah, who was mysteriously killed. Denard denied involvement but was hounded out of the country and took up residency in South Africa. Denard's adventures make quite a story. Weinberg, who struggles to withhold judgment and to weigh Denard's version of events against legend and verifiable fact, tells it well. (8 pages b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Feb. 20th, 1995
ISBN: 0-679-42202-1
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Pantheon
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 1994