Wednesday, August 11, 2010


By Charles Boardman Hawes

Charles Boardman Hawes’ tale of piracy upon the high seas in the days of King Charles is just as fresh today as when it won the Newberry Award in 1923. The Dark Frigate is an excellent work, though classed among young adult novels, it should have a lot of appeal to readers who love a good adventure and can still recall their reading tastes from when they were 13.

The hero is Philip Marsham, a lad who goes to sea in the Rose of Devon. But certain “gentlemen of fortune” under Martin Berwick make themselves masters of the Rose and the honest sailors have no choice but to turn pirate.

This is a dark version of Treasure Island, and Martin Berwick is a grim and tragic Long John Silver. The tale concerns itself with the thin line that divides the lawful from the lawless, and when men are adrift in an uncaring world, how easy it is to cross that thin line. Don’t be looking for easy or happy endings here. Crime is punished, but it’s a near run thing that nearly takes down the innocent too.

The Little, Brown and Co. edition has a good, moody cover illustration and nice black and white line drawings as chapter headings.
-Dave Hardy

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