Yo ho ho!
Is there anything Americans love more than pirates? Zombies, maybe? Why isn't there a movie about zombie pirates? It would make a killing. Oh, look!
Now, I know piracy is having a resurgence and is becoming a bit of a problem to freight ships, especially off the coast of Somalia, but these pirates are difficult to acknowledge, and frankly, I don't care for them.
Everyone knows we want our pirates ever thus:
If you are the kind of salty dog who likes her pirates running away from an alligator with a clock in its belly, have I got a book for you!
It is Edward Chupack's first novel Silver: My Own Tale as Written by Me with a Goodly Amount of Murder.
For the past two Saturday nights at work, when it's just three of us on the closing shift and no supervisor, I have been entertaining my coworkers by reading them excerpts of this book in full Piratese.
I'm telling you, it's impossible not to enjoy this book, largely due to the fact that it's written in pirate dialect. I don't have to reach for the accent. I'm just picking up what Chupack's putting down. Awesome.
Of course, there's more to it than just the hilarious pirate accent. If that weren't the case, you could enjoy any book ever written just by throwing in some sea shanties and a parrot.
In Silver, Chupack expands on the life of the iconic Long John Silver, bad boy of the classic adventure story Treasure Island.
The plot and characters of Treasure Island, Bones, Pew, Jim Hawkins, the search for the treasure, etc., are touched on briefly, because they kind of have to be to stay true to the character as originally developed by Robert Louis Stevenson, but Chupack draws the reader in to the making of Long John Silver, from a literally nameless orphan boy to the murderous swashbuckler he grew up to be.
Chupack puts young Silver in Bristol, England, working as a dogsbody for a pub owner. The pub owner sells him to the pirate Black John to work as his cabin boy. Black John gives him his name - John, after himself, Silver, after the boy's keen interest in riches, and threw in the Long part due to his being tall for a boy his age, and teaches him the ways of piracy.
Silver obviously takes to life on the high seas, and becomes skilled at the arts of sailing, thievery, and murder. Chupack is careful not to make Silver a hero. Emotionally stunted and mistrustful of everyone due to his loveless upbringing, Silver cannot fathom of a relationship without betrayal, and as a result cannot fully develop into a real human being. Living on the seas is ideal for him, where he can always view humanity from a distance, never getting close enough to understand the misery he inflicts on others.
The novel begins at Silver's end. Gripped by fever and captured in his own ship's quarters to be taken back to Londontown for his execution, Silver pens his last testament and gives it in excerpts to Mullet, the cabin boy charged with bringing him the meals he refuses to eat, assuming they are poisoned. Mullet, a growing boy whose stomach is never full, sits outside the locked cabin, eating Silver's lunch and avidly listening to his tales of derring-do, and his lifelong quest to solve the ciphers found in a black Bible that promise, if solved, to lead him to a conquest of riches beyond measure.
Silver mulls over the clues with Mullet, drawing them out for the boy over and again, and slowly feeding him tidbits toward the riddle's solution. His speech is simultaneously flowery and coarse, and peppered with humor and wit, but for all his self-satisfied braggadocio, underneath it all is a lifetime of loneliness and no idea of what to do with the things he loves.
He falls in love with Mary, a highwayman's widow who lives with her sister Evangeline in South Carolina's low country, but treats her the exact same way he does his treasure: after gathering her, he abandons her and sails away, never to return, and merely guards her in his heart always as his.
Silver is not a prequel to Treasure Island, nor does it really attempt to elaborate on or explain anything additional. The two stories intersect at one small part, then sail away from each other, alone on the high seas again.
by Edward Chupack
February 2008 by St Martin's Press