December 28th, 2006


Yo ho ho!

There's been some book-reading of late.

First up, The Pirates, a history by Charles Johnson from 1726, and covering the lives of many of the infamous pirates: Blackbeard, Kidd, Bonney, Read, Rackam, Roberts, and so on. It's quite a tedious read, really. Lots of "then they took a sloop, Chambers, master, that they burned, and then stayed in Madagascar for two weeks, to clean. Then they took..." And so on. Plus, some accounts are filled out by details of executions and trials. But some bits are interesting. Roberts is about a quarter to a third of the whole book. Mary Read is the most interesting tale, I feel, having some actual pathos behind it.

Then, straight after that, I swung into Tim Powers' On Stranger Tides, recently republished (hurrah!). It's one of Powers' earlier books, back when he was doing historical fantasies, and it oozes research. It's a pirate story, and throws in Blackbeard, Bonnet and Bonney, and probably others, as Jack Shandy races around the Carribean trying to rescue Beth Hurwood. I'd be astounded if all the movements of the various vessels, individuals and the respective authorities weren't bang-on - even the dialogue from Blackbeard's death is word-for-word as reported by Johnson.

Just finished reading it, having left it for a few days over Christmas, as there was only a small amount to go: no point taking it to k's parents if I'd have finished it before the train left the station.

In the back of the book, it notes that Babbage Press are also going to republish The Stress of Her Regard, another hard-to-find Powers (as that link shows...). So hurrah!

I'll probably have to re-read this again soon, before Johnson's histories fade from my memory.
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Other books

In addition to those just mentioned, I've also just re-read El Tel's Hogfather since, well, you 'ave to, really, don'cher? And As Used on the Famous Nelson Mandela: Underground Adventures in the Arms and Torture Trade, by Mark Thomas.

In case you don't know, Thomas is a British stand-up comic, best known in the UK for his Channel 4 series The Mark Thomas Comedy Product, wherein he embarrassed various corporate, political and establishment figures and organisations on camera, and interspersed it with stand-up routines written about the event. He's a very political, left-wing comic. He's also bloody funny. Back during the Fringe this year, I noted that he was the only act I saw that really lived up to my (damn high) expectations. And hearing him talk about the arms trade, I thought: I should read this book.

So should you.

Okay, so I wouldn't be too surprised if there's at least some elements of Michael Moore in here: Thomas has an agenda, and I'm pretty sure that he's being selective in order to serve it. But hell, it's still something you should read. It's enlightening. It's scary. And it's bloody funny.

Interestingly, reading it, I thought: this guy is Spider Jerusalem. Tattoos aside. I mean, he even does monstering.
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