Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The Book Pirates

The Last Bookaneer – Matthew Pearl (Penguin Press)

I’ve got to be honest, I am not a real fan of so-called historical fiction, but there have been a handful of recent examples of in the genre that I have found to be highly entertaining. Being a bit of an amateur book collector, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that these books are centered on the book business and feature some great and nefarious characters.

Author Matthew Pearl has made a career out of churning out an interesting array of colorful characters in books like The Dante Club and The Poe Shadow, and he continues that tradition in his latest outing, The Last Bookaneer.

Pen Davenport is an infamous bookaneer; a character who makes his living slithering about in the underbelly of the publishing business. Davenport isn’t a writer, editor of publisher; he is by trade a thief and a master at working the system by which loose copyright laws of the era make it easy for bookaneers to swipe manuscripts and less than scrupulous publishers to print and sell books cheaply to hungry readers leaving famous and not so famous writers in the poor house.

The hunt is on for what amounts to the last manuscript of Robert Louis Stevenson as pearl weaves and intricate tail of intrigue with these great fictional characters and conjures these book pirates against a back drop based loosely in the reality of Stevenson’s time on Samoa. He balances a fine mix of the era and the adventure to come up with another entertaining tale.

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