Author Beats Disney to the Punch
Dayton, OH -- Before Elizabeth Swann became a pirate captain in Walt Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, Isabella was already captain of a pirate vessel in Sam Staley's historical romance, The Pirate of Panther Bay (iZs Press, 2006).
"All I could do was smile when I watched At World's End," Staley said. "Some people told me a female pirate captain was unbelievable and not rooted in history, but they're wrong. Like my novel, At World's End was very well researched. Female pirate captains weren't just something made up to sell books and movie tickets."
While rare, there were several well-known pirates who were women. They were rare because pirates were a superstitious lot, and women almost always considered bad luck. Most pirate codes explicitly banned woman from their vessels. Captured woman were often raped, murdered and thrown overboard. But Elizabeth's leadership role—and Isabella’s in The Pirate of Panther Bay— is not without historical precedent.
Mary Read and Ann Bonny, the most infamous female pirates of the 18th century "Golden Age" of Caribbean piracy, were known for their cutthroat fierceness. They were tried and convicted of piracy in 1721, but saved from the hangman's noose by "pleading their bellies." It was against English law to hang someone who was pregnant.
The 16th century Irish pirate queen and captain, Grace O'Malley, pillaged English shipping and coast villages in rebellion against England's encroachment on Ireland, and as a way to fund her growing estates. Jailed and about to be hanged, she managed to be released and even befriended Queen Elizabeth I at one point.
Staley says perhaps the most strong-willed female pirate captain was Cheng I Sao (aka Mrs. Cheng). At the height of her power in the early 19th century, Mrs. Cheng led a pirate confederation that included fleet of more than 300 vessels and almost 17,000 pirates, plundering villages, ships, and shipping routes throughout Southeast Asia. Her influence was so broad, and her grip on the "brethren" of the Chinese coast so firm, the Chinese government gave up trying to subdue her by force. Unlike most pirates, she died peacefully at the age of 69 after a negotiated "retirement" in Canton (now Guangzhou).
"At World's End paid tribute to Mrs. Cheng's legacy by placing her at the table with the other eight pirate lords of the 'Brethren Court' that elected Elizabeth to lead them against Davy Jones and his British masters," Staley said.
The Pirate of Panther Bay is set in 1780 on the Caribbean Sea. Isabella becomes captain of the Red Tide after her lover, the previous captain, dies. But her first command is put in jeopardy when her crew demands results and she doesn't deliver. It doesn't help that she's only 18 years old, an escaped slave and falling in love with one of her enemies—Juan Carlos, a young Spaniard captured during her first battle. She should have killed him, and her mercy sends her life into a maelstrom of mutiny, imprisonment and revenge.
Staley wrote The Pirate of Panther Bay for young adults but quickly found that adults enjoyed reading it, too. "A good story is a good story, regardless of who it's written for," Staley said. "The book generates a lot of discussion about life in the late 1700s, slavery, religion and pirates."
In addition to writing novels, Staley teaches urban planning at the University of Dayton (Ohio) and is director of urban- and land-use policy at Reason Foundation, a nonprofit think tank.
"I knew Elizabeth was destined for greatness from the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie," Staley said. "And I'm glad Isabella has some modern day company at the helm."
Contact Sam Staley at (937) 848 8896 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here's what readers are saying about The Pirate of Panther Bay:
"A great adventure romance!"
-- Robert, Chapel Hill, NC
"The sword fights leave you breathless. Add that to the intense love story, and you just might feel the rocking of a ship while you read!"
-- Morgan, 14, Sarasota, Florida
"I didn’t want to put it down. Isabella’s character is different from anything else I’ve read -- a girl pirate who can take care of herself!"
-- Carly, 16, Kettering, Ohio
"Staley has done a wonderful job of weaving historical elements into the story line while keeping them relevant and interesting."
-- Colleen, New York, NY
"An engaging swashbuckler that leaves the reader wanting more."
-- Heidy, Bellbrook, Ohio
"A fun and exciting adventure book that the whole family can enjoy reading."
-- Alex, 15, Bellbrook, Ohio
"With each turn of the page, you are drawn in by the adventure and romance."
-- Gary, West Milton, Ohio