The Magic Inside a Brilliant Narrative | Review of “Pirate’s Passage” by William Gilkerson (2006) Trumpeter Books


To have a good story one needs to  build a good plot line for a reader to follow. But to turn a good story into a great story a writer should add facts to the narrative which a reader  learns something new through the narrative. William Gilkerson has done that with his book Pirate’s Passage. And that is what makes not only the book a great read but the animated film worthy to watch as well.

Page 2-3

… (A)nd I sat down and tried to think about what to write about pirates, which had been my choice of subject for an important history essay. No doubt I had been inspired by Treasure Island, and imagined myself as Stevenson’s fictional Jim Hawkins, which is a name I like well enough to use here. Anyway, whatever vision of buried treasure on a lush, tropical beach that had once inspired me, it was now long gone, leaving me stuck with the assignment and my burdensome life in general.

A hard gust rattled the old glass of my windows. I peered out into the gathering twilight, trying to conjure the Caribbean. Between snow flurries, I could see waves breaking even into the inner harbour; beyond, out in the bay, every shoal was clearly marked by white breakers. Then, unbelievably, I saw a small yacht, a simple working sailboat with tan sails and an old gaff rig, plunging in the seas, running for its life before the storm.

The story starts with Jim and his family as they try to keep the family inn on the coast of Nova Scotia operational. A mysterious captain comes into their lives and helps the family through all their misfortunes, but most of all he helps Jim with his essay by almost enrapturing him with his interpretation of stories from the high seas.

Page 152- 153

“Have you ever killed a man?” I asked him. He loaded his pipe, not answering, until I became self-conscious for having put the question. “I mean,” I explained, “you must have been through both the world wars, weren’t you?”

“It feels to me,” he sighed, “I’ve been through every bloody war in the whole verdomde universe.”


“It’s Dutch. That’s the language in which Esquemeling first published his book in Amsterdam in 1678. The copy I’ve loaned you is a later edition, from 1699. Are you enjoying it?” I had to confess I was finding it difficult to read, first because of the antique printing with S’s that looked like F’s; second because of the content was just a little more horrible than I was ready for.

“As for your first point, sorry I don’t have a newer edition. It’s never been out of print, actually;  very popular indeed. As to your second point, I presume you must have the Dutchman Rock Brasiliano, and read about his roasting Spaniards on spits, and the Frenchman Nau, called L’Ollonais, who tore open some unfortunate chap and cut out his heart and took bites from it in order to elicit information form his other captives. Is that what’s got you feeling squeamish?” It was indeed, particularly right at this moment, fresh after my close, personal disposal of Grendel. He seemed to read my thoughts.

Gilkerson has written a book here with a simple and easy style.  It flows well with it’s great combination of drama and information.  A pleasure to read and absorb the story.

Page 223-224

The yawl Merry Adventure put her nose across the eye of a fair, warm breeze. Her sails filled on the opposite tack and drew; she picked up her skirts and bubbled along in a splendour of new paintwork, under a full flutter of flags. Passing our point, we lost sight of the wharf, and the family, along with Noel Nauss and the other well-wishers who had come to see us off on our adventure. Meg was there, and Jenny, jealous that she wasn’t going, too. My last  view of them was Mother, waving her blue scarf. Merry’s bowsprit aimed to the open sea like a thrown spear, startling a flock of gulls; they rose from the water with a great flapping of wings, then soared into the summer sun, like my heart at that moment.

“Ease the stays’l sheet,” the captain growled, “and then coil down halyards and hang ’em off as I showed you. Jump to it.”

“Yes, sir.” I jumped to it with great eagerness.

“There’s no yesses and no sirs here. It’s ‘Aye, Cap’n'”

“Aye, Cap’n.”

Pirate’s Passage by William Gilkerson is a wonderful journey filled with amazing facts mixed with an exciting narrative. A great read no matter what age the person may be.


Link to William Gilkerson’s webpage

Link to Shambhala Publications page for Pirate’s Passage

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