Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Hoorah for the filibusters


"Show, don't tell," is the advice heard by many would-be fiction writers. That advice often works for contemporary fiction. As times have changed, so have writing conventions. In "Captain Blood", Rafael Sabatini tells first, then shows. While Sabatini occasionally shows by describing a character's eyes dilating or her face flushing, it's not his primary technique. Rather, he describes the character's motivating emotions, then shows how those emotions affect subsequent actions. The technique works well in this action novel. Although this novel was written about 100 years ago, its language is fresh rather than archaic. Contemporary writers can benefit from reading old writers instead of just following contemporary advice. Stories can be told through a variety of techniques.

This book grabbed me in its first paragraph and held me until its end. The plot is intricate and anchored by two actual historical events. I won't spill any spoilers. If you want to know how respectable Dr. Peter Blood becomes a notorious pirate, or how love restrains bloodstained hands, you'll have to read the book. 

I learned new things about words while reading this book. For example:

Filibuster — During the mid 1800s this word took on a new meaning to describe a political tactic. Prior to then it referred to those engaged in unauthorized warfare — in other words, pirates. 

Boucan-hunters  These were French hunters who settled in the Caribbean and smoked meat using a technique learned from the native Tupi. A boucan is a wooden rack used to smoke meat or fish, or the smoked meat itself. The boucan-hunters became known as boucaniers which morphed into the English word buccaneers. The Spanish learned the same process from the Taino and called the process barbacoa. That word became the English word, barbecue.

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