And Then I Read: THE BLACK BUCCANEER by Stephen W. Meader

I’ve read many of Meader’s adventure novels for young readers, but not this one, his first, from 1920.

Jeremy Swan is staying overnight on a small island in Penobscot Bay, Maine in July of 1718 to take care of a herd of sheep for his father, who plans to return the next day. That evening, Jeremy discovers he’s not alone. On the other side of the island a pirate ship has landed. The pirates discover Jeremy spying on them, and carry him off with them to work aboard their ship. Thus begins a harrowing tale of pirate life along the eastern coast of America at a time when there were no protections for cargo ships other than their speed and guns, if any. The Revenge, captained by Major Bonnet, was speedy and well-armed, and her cruel crew were not adverse to boarding a vessel they had disabled with their guns and killing anyone aboard. Jeremy has a rough time of it, especially when crewman Pharaoh Daggs takes a notion he’s bad luck. When the crew kidnaps the son of a wealthy merchant to hold for ransom, at least Jeremy has someone his own age to talk to, and when the two of them find out about Daggs’ secret treasure map, they become even more desperate to escape his evil influence.

A great read that owes much to Stevenson’s “Treasure Island” and “Kidnapped,” but has plenty to thrills to offer. Meader at this early point in his career is more willing to tell the truth about pirate life as he’s researched it, and this book is the bloodiest of any he wrote, I bet. The plot is unpredictable, the characters are appealing, and everything feels authentic.

The illustrations are by Meader himself, and poorly reproduced in this public domain reprint, but even so, it’s clear that his writing was better than his drawing.

Recommended.

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