When I read in various historical references about the turbulent period between the 1720s and the American Revolution, I was fascinated to find out that the colonists were relying on smugglers to avoid taxation. It turns out that many of these smugglers were ‘former’ pirates, some still were and others were hired as privateers, who also had a beef with English authority following the death of Queen Anne and the ascension of the German King George 1st. As things heated up rum became the currency of America and blockade runners to get both the rum and molasses from islands whom England was at war with…they were trading with the enemy…was a very dangerous thing to be caught doing. It became clear that these ‘pirates’ had been instrumental to America gaining its independence.
I decided to write a series of historical novels about this. It made sense that at least some of these pirates would be based in the Bahamas; we know for a fact that government authorized wreckers were there, helping themselves to the cargo of ships who foundered coming through the Bahamas channel for a large take of the prize.
Looking at pirate history, two very colorful characters active in the Bahamas at the end of what is called the golden age of piracy were Anne Bonny and Mary Read. While most pirates died violent deaths, history tells us that these women both had children, presumably by Jack Rackham. The numerous stories about Anne Bonny and Mary Read told over the past 300 years for the most part agree with each other, and so for the purpose of my story having the next generation of pirates be from be fierce, swashbuckling pirate mothers, they fit very nicely.
The first of my book series, then, Pirates of the Bahamas, was published just over a year ago. It begins the history of the pirate influences leading up to the America revolution as experienced by these two children. In the first book of the series we are introduced to them when they are in their 20’s, and this book is also considered a historical romance as well as historical adventure.
After Pirates of the Bahamas was published I tossed around the idea of a prequel, to tell the story of how these two women became pirates in the first place. From the earliest part of my research I learned that just about everything we hear about them was based on A General History of the Pyrates, a book printed in 1724, and the re-telling and elaborations of those stories has given us what is generally accepted as fact today.
I, however, decided to read the original document. It’s an excellent source material for all of the other pirates, but the parts about Anne Bonny and Mary Read seem to have been just stuck in at the end of the chapter about Jack Rackham. Unlike the rest of the book, the Bonny and Read parts don’t seem to follow any chronology and are really just a series of anecdotal tales that the author picked up from the witnesses at their trial, some of which even he considered suspect. The more I read and compared to what is generally accepted, the more I realized that much (in the case of Mary) or most (in the case of Anne) of what we ‘know’ about these women is incorrect. This new information definitely made the reason for a prequel even more important to me. I collected stories and as many original documents as I could find and cross referenced them. Even the most outlandish tale generally has a basis in fact somewhere, so I also dug into those.
What I can tell you right away is that of the two of them, Mary Read was the actual pirate and much of what has been since attributed to Anne Bonny were things Mary actually did. Anne Bonny was an 18 year of girl who had been drawn to a romanticized ideal, spent no more than 3 months as a pirate, and probably only experienced the horrific aspects of pirate life on the day she was captured. It does seem to be quite factual, however, that they both enjoyed the company of pirate captain Calico Jack Rackham.
I’ve collected much material on this subject and have been sorting it out against known chronology over the past year. A wonderful story has emerged, which I am now in the process of writing as a historical adventure novel. Since this will be giving a historically accurate account of these women pirates, it may also end up being an important work.