Magazine Review: Pirate Stories November 1934
Some of the pulp magazines went for very specialized subjects, so it’s not a surprise to find one dedicated entirely to stories about pirates. As this was the first issue, there’s an publisher’s note indicating that there will be stories about pirate of the past, present and future (it is after all a Gernsback publication.) The cover is by Sidney Riesenberg, and is not related to any of the features inside.
“Pirate Guns” by F.V.W. Mason is the lead feature. Nathan Andrews, born in the colony of South Carolina, was a faithful member of the British Navy until he was falsely accused and convicted of aiding deserters. Clapped in irons and being shipped off to Australia, Nathan reinvents himself as “Captain Terror,” and convinces his fellow convicts to join him in piracy if he can get them free. Their escape attempt is treacherously exposed, but this proves a stroke of luck when they’re isolated in maximum security while everyone else on the ship dies of smallpox. (This saves Nathan having to kill Naval officers.)
The plague ship wrecked, the remaining escapees are able to take over a slave ship (coincidentally freeing the slaves) which they refit for privateering as the Santee. Captain Terror disdains the democracy usually practiced by pirates of the period, emulating the rank structure and discipline of the British Navy he was trained by. This makes the Santee an unusually well-run ship, that only attacks other pirates, but they become blamed for other pirates’ bloody massacres.
Eventually, circumstances change–the American Revolution has started, and Captain Terror is hired as part of the new American Navy as Captain Andrews of the Charleston. He’s able to get revenge on the faithless “friend” who perjured himself to get Andrews out of the way, and learns his beloved never gave in to the traitor’s advances. Happy ending for everyone but the Irish doctor, who dies in the final battle.
It’s a rip-roaring story, but goes out of its way to make Captain Terror a “good” pirate. It skirts around the issue of slavery, not mentioning where the slaves were headed, and the freed people have no lines or personality. Much is made of corruption in the British Navy poisoning their fine traditions.
“Scourge of the Main” by James Perley Hughes involves another American colonial serving on a British ship, but in an earlier period when England is at war with Spain. Daniel Tucker is from New England, and serves on a privateer that is hunting Spanish treasure ships. However, Jolly Roger Hawkins is also after those ships, And he’s a full-on pirate who doesn’t want to share, especially when “his” woman decides she’d rather sail with Tucker.
The author really stacks the deck, making Tucker tall, blond, blue-eyed and blessed with “Atlantean shoulders” while Hawkins is “ponderous” and has “distorted features.” I suspect a certain amount of prejudice at play.
“High-Admirals of Piracy” is an illustrated spread about famous historical pirates from Pierre le Grand to Blackbeard. Sadly uncredited.
“Marauders of the South Seas” by William B. DeNoyer moves into the then-present day, with a diver realizing that his employers were the ones who sunk a ship he’s been hired to salvage–and they have no intention of paying him in money. “Lucky” Lewis is aided by the fact that one of the criminals has a wife on board who deeply regrets the marriage. Less suspenseful than it might have been with a couple more twists.
“Jolly Roger’s Log” by Ned Carline, which would become the letter column, has a couple of suspiciously apropos letters with questions Mr. Carline answers. Again, this is the first issue, so where the letters came from is unclear.
This Adventure House reprint includes the original ads, including advertisements for “the forbidden secrets of sex”, a collected volume of H.G. Wells’ science fiction and the German Iron Horseshoe muscle builder.
Recommended for pirate story fans who don’t mind clear-cut tales of good vs. evil.