08 June 2011

Heigh-ho and a bottle of rum!

This is a Weekly Geeks post. I didn’t write it specifically as such, but I had it on hand and it fit one of the two themes for this week.

Dear Reader: Are there any subjects or themes or sub-genres you avoid reading about in a literary genre you otherwise like?

I have a few of these red flag subjects, and one of them is pirates, specifically pirate protagonists. Since there is actually a pirate sub-genre in the historical romance genre, which I periodically turn to when I get tired of reading mysteries and non-fiction, I come across them often. I enjoy reading about the lives of real pirates, and will pick up a book where pirates are the bad guys without a second thought, but to me pirates and privateers always invoke the image of violent murderers and robbers and therefore I have never been able to suspend my disbelief sufficiently in order to enjoy a tale in which a pirate is the hero.

I have yet to come across a pirate protagonist in a story where the piracy is neither prettified nor justified, which tells me that at least some authors feel uneasy about the subject. I somehow simply cannot bring myself to believe that a pirate can be the good guy, because the job description is, in itself, one that involves violently robbing people of their property and either taking them hostage (or even enslaving them, depending on the time period) or taking their lives in the process, which is something I can not, however much I might want to in order to enjoy a good story, reconcile with heroism.

Take a book I tried to read recently. It is the third in a historical romance trilogy taking place at the beginning of the English civil war and features three young women who find love during those tumultuous times. I had been looking forward to reading about the youngest of them, a bookish creature who is so wrapped up in a book she is reading that one day she tumbles off a cliff and into the sea. She is knocked unconscious and wakes up aboard a ship that turns out to be a pirate vessel. Cue immediate justification: they take a Spanish ship full of galley slaves and free them and give them the ship, which in reality spells out certain death of the slaves, who are all emaciated and weak and can hardly be expected to be able to or even know how to use sails or steer the ship to a safe harbour, because had the officers and seamen been allowed to live, they would immediately have taken back control of the ship. Their deaths are not explicitly stated, but a realist knows that this would be the necessary thing. Up went my red flag, the book went “bang” on the wall and I got rid of it in my next cull.

This was one of my red flags. What are some of yours?
Also, do you have a pirate book you think could change my mind about loathing pirate heroes?

2 comments:

George said...

I love crime fiction, but I find reading about child abuse disturbs me. That's one reason I had to give up reading Andrew Vachss.

djskrimiblog said...

Red flags?

Well, spies and political crime. There are other subgenres of crime fiction I usually avoid, such as combinations with fantasy and romance, but I admit some of these are good.

I haven´t thought about pirates much, but together with my daughters I have laughed at Pirates of the Caribbean.