Pirate Latitudes

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 25 April, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 25 April, 2010, 12:00am

Pirate Latitudes
by Michael Crichton
Harper, HK$104

Apparently, the modern blockbusting novelist doesn't die. Instead, they keep publishing long after they ascend to that great bookshop in the sky. At least Pirate Latitudes was actually written by Michael Crichton shortly before his premature death in 2008: the recent Bourne novels have as much to do with Robert Ludlum as with William Shakespeare. Exactly when Crichton wrote this tale of derring-do on the high seas is another matter. Although the publisher claims it was composed concurrently with his 'last' book, Next, others argue it has all the hallmarks of an early work.

It is 1665, and Charles Hunter is a privateer leading an expedition to Matanceros, where a galleon full of treasure is reputed to be resting before transport to Spain. Hunter is almost comically heroic - the sort of sword-flashing type that leaves no swash unbuckled. There is a duel with a dashing rival, giant sea monsters and daring escapes to make you wonder why someone doesn't chop Hunter's head off and put it in a bag. Pirate Latitudes is a simple, exciting tale from a writer who was to hi-concept ideas what Lionel Messi is to goal-scoring. If you like your tales with added Errol Flynn, this is the book for you.