Happy Captain Blood Day!September 19, 2009
So, September 19th is the day Peter Blood is sentenced to slavery in Barbados — if he’d been tried any sooner, he would have just been sentenced to death, instead of having the opportunity to become the coolest pirate ever. So you should celebrate, preferably by reading — or rereading — some Sabatini. Here are a few suggestions.
There’s Captain Blood, obviously, featuring the aforementioned coolest pirate ever, Peter Blood. He’s also a doctor, an Irishman, a slave, and a gentleman. He curls his hair sedulously. Read it, seriously. Read up to the trial scene, at least. Or read just the trial scene. Then you’ll want to read the rest, too.
Then there’s Scaramouche, the other of Sabatini’s most famous novels. Andre-Louis Moreau is its hero, and he has even more careers than Peter Blood: He is a lawyer, an orator, an actor, a playwright, a politician, and a fencing teacher. Possibly I’ve left something out. He also has a lantern jaw. And a gift for laughter, and a sense that the world is mad.
The Snare is a personal favorite of mine, maybe just because Lord Wellington forbids dueling, and it’s such a hardship for everyone. There’s a fun trial scene in this one, too.
There’s something kind of quiet and low-key about The Romantic Prince (which I can’t find online) — perhaps because I’m mentally comparing it to The Laughing Cavalier rather than to other Sabatini books? This is one I should go back and reread. I should also reread Bardelys the Magnificent — I remember it being hugely enjoyable, but that’s all I remember.
Bellarion the Fortunate (also, very sadly, not available online) is pretty wonderful in every way. Sabatini and the Renaissance were such a good fit. RS wrote a book about Cesare Borgia at some point, and I think he was drawing on a lot of the same material when he wrote Bellarion.
There’s also The Sea-Hawk, which is where I got my preoccupation with inexplicably evil younger brothers. I find it completely infuriating, for that reason and others, but other people rank it with Captain Blood and Scaramouche.
And if you find the terrible characterization in The Sea Hawk worth your while, give St. Martin’s Summer a try. It encapsulates everything that’s ever wrong with Sabatini, but manages to be occasionally charming at the same time.