Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Pirate Latitudes: First Impressions

I just finished Pirate Latitudes, within 36 hours of starting it. I’m not going to give away any details, as I don’t want to spoil it for anyone.

Pirate Latitudes is an exciting and enjoyable tale. Michael Crichton clearly did his homework (not that I would have expected anything less). The novel is wonderfully descriptive, both in terms of setting and in relating different processes. The history fits very well with what I know myself of the Caribbean in the 1600s.

A small caveat for readers: Pirate Latitudes is brutally violent, topped with a hearty portion of sex. If Spielberg films the book as it’s written, the movie will be rated R. But I doubt he will, as the studio will want the teen and pre-teen audience for a pirate flick.

(I was disappointed that there was not a bibliography. Crichton’s last four novels—Timeline, Prey, State of Fear, and Next—all had bibliographies. State of Fear and Next even had annotated bibliographies. When I finish a Michael Crichton novel, it is my custom to then read nonfiction books about the subject matter. But under the circumstances, I can understand why there isn’t a bibliography. Perhaps I’ll create a recommended reading list for Pirate Latitudes.)

Links and more info on Michael Crichton at:
Kahlessa's Corner


The Boy said...

I think the lack of bibliography is due to it being more of a historical thriller than a techno-science thriller. The Great Train Robbery and Eaters Of The Dead had no bibliography either, as far as I can remember.

Personally, having finished reading it myself as well (ebook :( Waiting until I get home to pick up the physical copy) I think Crichton started this novel a while back because the style of writing resembles his older works (The Great Train Robbery in particular). If indeed he did start it that long ago, it leads me to think that he was probably not fully finished with it and was thinking about possibly adding something else to it. Oh well: It starts, it ends and its exciting all throughout so you can't really ask for more from a posthumous publication. Now, as long as they get a good ghost-writer to finish the last manuscript, I'll be happy!

Marla Warren said...


You’re quite correct that The Great Train Robbery did not have a bibliography. Eaters of the Dead had a bibliography but it was a fake one. (More on that later) Timeline, which combined science fiction and history, did have a bibliography. I think if Michael Crichton was still alive, there probably would have been one for Pirate Latitudes. I remember reading that for The Great Train Robbery, Michael Crichton didn’t do much specific research. I think he was already very familiar with Victorian history and didn’t need to research it much, so he didn’t have specific references for the novel. I’ll write a post sometime on Michael Crichton’s bibliographies.

You wrote:
Personally, having finished reading it myself as well…I think Crichton started this novel a while back because the style of writing resembles his older works (The Great Train Robbery in particular).

A very astute observation, Samir. In my post The Origin of Pirate Latitudes? I wrote this:

But there is evidence that Pirate Latitudes was in the works at least 30 years ago. Crichton’s autobiography Travels contains a chapter titled “Jamaica” in which he tells of a Christmas vacation in 1982 with a woman named Terry. Most of the chapter is about their relationship breaking up, but on pp.268-269 Crichton writes:

Before we left Jamaica, I wanted to go to Spanish Town in the south, where I had learned there was a new museum of early Jamaican artifacts. For many years I had been working on a book about seventeenth-century Jamaica, and now I wanted to visit this museum.

Now I think we can safely assume that the book was probably a novel, as nearly all Crichton’s books have been novels. And from what I know of the history of Jamaica and the Caribbean, it is unlikely that the book would not involve pirates given their significance and centrality to Jamaica in the 1600s.

Now if we do the math, we note that The Great Train Robbery was published in 1975, and from the passage in Travels it appears Crichton had been working on a book about 17th century Jamaica “for many years”. Without knowing how many years Michael Crichton considered many, it’s safe to speculate that he had the idea and started working on the book of Pirate Latitudes in the mid to late 1970s.