Next in my international writings’ blog is the lovely Emma Rose Millar, who writes about pirates and slavery in the historic West Indies. Can you give us a taster of your book Five Guns Blazing, Emma?
We were set down at New Providence Island, Bouspeut and I. He had washed himself in salt water and changed into his land attire; stockings and a shirt with puffed sleeves, decorated with a single gold pin. It was a strange sensation being on dry land again; my legs buckled and I could not stand upright for long without swaying. ‘Ah,
Beedham!’ laughed Bouspeut taking my elbow with his strong hands. ‘You were not cut out for a life at sea.’
He led me into the shady forest with the bracken cracking beneath our feet, into a shanty town where pirates lazed drunkenly smoking their pipes. I heard whispers and gasps.
‘It’s Bouspeut; he is here!’ I had no idea he was so infamous.
We carried between us a chest full of our ill-gotten gains; earthenware and cutlery, which was heavy and with which I struggled. In the end, Bouspeut, being of far superior strength, took my burden from me and carried it alone for the last quarter of a mile or so. At the market we opened our coffer and peddled our wares among the stallholders who purchased them cheaply. Such items yielded little profit if bought and sold through legal means; the colonists were forbidden to manufacture anything and any such goods had to be imported usually from England and Spain. Treasures were always turning up on the islands, nobody asked where from, they were weighed and paid for silently by men whose mouths had surely
been sewn up by the devil himself.
‘Did you know this was the place I first met Anne Bonny?’ he asked as he shopped for fabric in the makeshift market. Bouspeut kept his eye out for anything he could use; sheepskin, damask, taffeta. Purples and reds were a favourite for him but in particular he was after some calico for Rackham’s coat; he did so like that particular fabric, rougher than cotton, thicker than linen yet not as tough as canvas. He wove a path from stall to stall, past the food traders peddling their salt-fish and plantain and yam.
‘Is it for Rackham?’ asked one of the black-toothed traders. ‘You’d do better to go to the Jewish haberdasher; you know how superstitious he can be.’ Jack believed that the fruits of piracy were surely cursed; a strange type of logic when you considered that all that he purchased was bought with lifted gold!
‘You met Anne Bonny here?’ I asked incredulously. New Providence was a safe haven for pirates; indeed the governor even invited them so that a good stock of fighting men would be ready should Spanish ships attack. The sail-tent city of pirates, buccaneers and privateers sprang up around the banks of Bonefish Pond, sheltered by the forest which allowed for foraging and illegal wood cutting. The existence there would have been rustic to say the least for a woman of Anne Bonny’s birth and reputation; they slept only on raised decking covered with canvas to keep the out the mosquitos which hung silently over the wetlands, hunted water fowl and cast nets in wait for conch and crawfish. Life in the hideaways was notoriously dull; huge quantities of rum and tobacco and frequent visits to the Bahamian brothels were necessities to stave off the boredom which blighted the settlements.
(Five Guns Blazing – Emma Rose Millar and Kevin Allen)
Sounds so exciting, Emma. Can you give us something of the background to your story?
During the Golden Age of Piracy, New Providence was the capital of the British Bahamas The island was a natural harbour, close to the all major American and Caribbean 17th and 18th century trade routes. The shallow waters made it difficult for large warships to enter. Although the threat of army presence was always looming, local governors were accepting bribes not to prosecute pirates for their crimes. The island became a kind of pirate utopia, home to the likes of Edward Teach, (Blackbeard), Charles Vane and of course my own leading man, John ‘Calico Jack’ Rackham. By 1716, over five hundred pirates were operating from the island. But all that was about to change.
In July 1718, Woodes Rogers was appointed governor. His plan was to offer a Royal Pardon to all pirates who would take up the offer immediately. Many did, and were recruited by Rogers as privateers with comissions to plunder and take the Spanish ships, or as pirate-hunters tasked with ridding the island of the pirates who terrorised its seas. Benjamin Hornigold who retired after a yearlong spree of villainy became one of his most faithful servants. In just a few days, the island was entirely pledged from the pirates.
Some pirates however chose to continue with their life of treachery, including John Rackham, Anne Bonny, who Rogers had flogged for adultery, and the notorious Charles Vane who burned a captured ship right in front of Rogers.
Over a three year period, the seas became red as pirates were killed in battle, caught, sentenced and hanged.
Today, New Providence is the most populous island in the Bahamas. It remains a popular holiday destination offering some of the world’s best scuba diving and snorkelling sites.
Thank you so much Emma! I know that you’re published by Crooked Cat Publishers, but what does the cover of your new book like, and how can we buy it?
Five Guns Blazing is available now on Amazon