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The Pirate Hunter: The True Story of Captain Kidd    by Richard Zacks order for
Pirate Hunter
by Richard Zacks
Order:  USA  Can
Hyperion, 2003 (2002)
Hardcover, Softcover, CD, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

Captain William Kidd - history has always portrayed him as adventurer, ladies' man, master of the high seas, but first and foremost, bloodthirsty cut throat and pirate king. Only the legendary Black Beard gained more notoriety than Kidd. But according to Richard Zacks, author of The Pirate Hunter, Kidd wasn't even close to living up to his press. In reality he was a Scotsman born to the sea, a business man, a good neighbour, a loving husband and father. He was commissioned by the British to hunt down the pirates who were wreaking havoc on both their rich merchant ships and the coastal towns and cities they held claim to in ports halfway round the world, from the very young colony of New York to the rich sugar plantations of the Caribbean.

Zacks' book also tells the story of Kidd's long-standing rivalry with Robert Culliford, apparently one of the most successful pirates of that era, but one whose life has received little or no notoriety; Kidd's exploits always seemed to take center stage. Early on in Culliford's colourful career, he and Kidd were fast friends and sailed together. But nowhere was the game of double-cross played more often than in a pirate's world and Culliford, apparently, was a master at it. In the end these two men became the fiercest of rivals, making The Pirate Hunter as much Robert Culliford's story as it is William Kidd's.

The book is loaded with history and insights and anecdotes, old letters and maps, the odd seaman's ditty and even a recipe for rum punch, 17th century style. Richard Zacks injects fresh life into a subject that many of us thought had nothing left to offer. He also shines new light on the business of piracy and privateering and discusses the world power brokers of that
ime: the English, Dutch, French, Spanish, the Portugese, and to some degree, the American Colonies, and each country's political agenda. It's no surprise that many 'upstanding citizens' weren't at all averse to a little wheeling, stealing, and yes, dealing with pirates, if such shady activities succeeded in fattening their purses.

Mr. Zacks spent many hours hunting up little-known information and brings readers a fascinating biography of the real man that was Captain William Kidd. But again, this isn't his story alone - besides presenting a mini-bio of Culliford, Zacks also introduces us to many other minor characters of that colourful and vanished era. There's even a unique epilogue that the author titles 'Whatever Happened to ...'. This wonderfully informative and artfully written narrative captivates from page one and is an absolute must read for those of you who enjoy any of pirate tales, history or biographies.

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