The completely silly but highly enjoyable book The Pirates! Band of Misfits: An Adventure with Scientists & An Adventure with Ahab by author Gideon Defoe is the perfect tie-in to the recent animated adventure The Pirates! Band of Misfits from Aardman Animation (Wallace and Gromit, Arthur Christmas, Flushed Away, Chicken Run). The book includes the first two novels in The Pirates! series by Defoe, An Adventure with Scientists and An Adventure with Ahab, which also formed the basis for the movie. Defoe has also written The Pirates! In an Adventure with Communists, and The Pirates! In an Adventure with Napoleon. His fifth book The Pirates! In an Adventure with the Romantics is due to be released soon.
Readers who like their humor along the lines of Monty Python will love these two short novels, which feature the intrepid Pirate Captain and his crew running up against historical figures in anachronistic adventures. In the first novel, after a false lead on some booty from rival pirate Black Bellamy, the luxuriantly bearded Pirate Captain attacks Charles Darwin on the Beagle and the pirates find themselves on a quest for loot and fame in Victorian London. They school the young Darwin in a little show biz razz-ma-tazz and help him introduce his “Man-panzee” Mister Bobo to scientists and the public. The Elephant Man also makes an appearance. Throughout the book Defoe pokes fun at traditional views of pirates and just about anything else he can think of:
“[The Pirate Captain said] … ‘I was looking at the nautical charts, and there’s a dirty great sea serpent right in the middle of the ocean! It has a horrible gaping maw and one of those scaly tails that looks like it could snap a boat clean in two. So I thought it best to sail around that.’
FitzRoy [captain of The Beagle] frowned. ‘I think they just draw those on maps to add a bit of decoration. It doesn’t actually mean there’s a sea serpent there.’
The galley went rather quiet. A few of the pirate crew stared intently out of the portholes, embarrassed at their Captain’s mistake. But to everyone’s relief, instead of running somebody through, the Pirate Captain just narrowed his eyes thoughtfully.
‘That explains a lot,’ he said. ‘I suppose it’s also why we’ve never glimpsed that giant compass in the corner of the Atlantic. I have to say, I’m a little disappointed.’”
The Pirate Captain can’t remember the names of his crew members (except for Jennifer), which leads to some amusing names, like the pirate with a scarf, the pirate in red, the albino pirate, the pirate with a nut allergy, and the pirate with gout. The crew unconditionally loves their captain however, going so far as all getting tattoos of his face on their arms.
In the second novel, the Pirate Captain’s boat is falling apart, so he strikes a bargain with the fearsome Cutlass Liz for a new ship, the amazingly appointed Lovely Emma (complete with swimming pool, ornamental garden, and cannon covers made from ermine and pressed swans). The only trouble is that the pirates have no doubloons to pay for the vessel, and the violent Cutlass Liz is anxious to collect. The Pirate Captain hatches a variety of schemes to come up with the loot, including sailing to Las Vegas (to perform, not gamble), and trapping the great White Whale (for a price) for the obsessed Captain Ahab, who they have met along the way.
Both books feature illustrated maps of the pirates’ adventures and humorous footnotes, which explain everything from piratical terms and history to completely off-the-wall ephemera. As stated in the brief author bio at he beginning of the book, readers “could be forgiven for thinking [Gideon Defoe] is a bit of a one-trick pony.” He very well may be, but The Pirates! books are entertaining and amusing, and this reader is looking forward to whatever the Pirate Captain and his faithful crew will get up to next.