The year is 1680, and it is the heart of the Golden Age of Piracy. It is a time of sun, sand, sea, and adventure. Keith Thomson’s book, Born to be Hanged, focuses on a group of what became known as gentlemen pirates in the South Sea, now known as the Gulf of Mexico. These gentlemen pirates were known for rescuing a native princess from the Spanish, hijacking and sinking Spanish ships, and attacking and plundering Spanish towns and forts all along the coast from Panama to the Isla Duque de York. Throughout the book, Thomson explains the history of pirating in the 1600s, and helps the reader to understand what a swashbuckling pirate really was.

Through the author’s in depth research and personal journal entries from members of the group, readers get a broad look of what life was like for pirates at this time. You will learn about the hardships and dangers they faced. Yet, you will also read about the excitement and adventures they found living this life and be shown that most of these men could not ignore the call of the sea. All through the book, readers will learn many interesting facts about pirates of the time, such as bananas were not allowed on pirate ships as they could jinx navigators or that most pirates within this specific group could not swim.

The leaders of this band of pirates were educated men of good standing within English society. The pirates made it their business to thoroughly question all their prisoners about their hometowns, cities, and countries so pirate ships were basically floating census bureaus. Inspired by the adventures of the pirate turned Jamaican Governor Captain Henry Morgan, they set out to sack Panama City for its gold and silver.

Thomson’s writing style and poise makes the reader feel as if they are part of the story.  His writing is engaging and reveals what life was like in the 17th century for a real pirate of the Caribbean. It showcases the adventure, danger, fear, democracy, and politics of pirate life. Readers will be enthralled from the moment they open the book until the last page. Readers will learn that there is one certain truth that pirates live by— those who are born to be hanged shall never be drowned.

This book can be found in the General Collection at the Bellevue University Library and can be checked out for 21 days.

Originally posted in the Freeman/Lozier Library’s quarterly newsletter, More Than BooksV. 26 No. 2, Spring 2023.

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