Pirate Attitudes

By Morgan Karpiel

Now, I love reading Michael Crichton’s books, make no mistake about that. Loved the dinosaurs, the hideous diseases, the mystery machines and the homicidal gorillas. Couldn’t put any of those books down. I think I speak for almost everyone in saying that Master Crichton will be sorely missed. As a reader looking forward to the release of his last complete manuscript, however, I was still shocked to read the following quote published in the Wall Street Journal:

The widespread cultural fascination with pirates, which helped turn the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies into a multibillion-dollar franchise, may drive readers to the book [Pirate Latitudes]. Pirate historian and author Richard Zacks said pirate enthusiasts are "hungry for anything that's a cut above," adding: "There are so many bad romances, with Fabio on the quarterdeck."

Bad romances with Fabio on the quarterdeck? What is he talking about? Please tell me he didn’t just slam the best ex-model turned coauthor to hit the shelves. Surely, he could not have been referring to the immortal, Pirate, written by Fabio (also known as Eugenia Riley with Fabio over her shoulder). C’mon! This throw down deserves some lip.

First off, Michael Crichton may have had a facile and sophisticated intellect, but he certainly wasn’t comfortable posing for his own book covers. Let’s be honest. Could Michael Crichton do this?

No. There just aren’t that many men who can pull off the artful placement of a red sash. You need that to be taken seriously in the pirate world, and surely also in the heady world of pirate authors.

Now for the book blurbs. Fabio’s Pirate blurb reads as follows:

They call me privateer - cold, ruthless, brazen and bold. Yet, from the first moment I saw you, I was overcome. You were but a helpless child, orphaned and innocent, when I rescued you from almost certain defilement and death - and whisked you off to my Caribbean island hideaway to be shockingly pampered by my loyal crew. And now you are a woman - as beautiful as the dawn...and as wildly unpredictable as the winds and the sea. You are in my blood, cara mia; your breathtaking loveliness haunts my dreams. But to have you, first I must tame you - to awaken you to the dangerous ecstasy of a pirate's passion...and a lover's touch.

Okay. Now the blurb for Crichton’s Pirate Latitudes:

The Caribbean, 1665. A remote colony of the English crown, the island of Jamaica holds out against the vast supremacy of the Spanish empire. Devoid of London's luxuries, Port Royal, its capital, is a cutthroat town of taverns, grog shops, and bawdy houses. In this steamy climate, life can end swiftly by dysentery — or dagger. But for a daring soul like Captain Edward Hunter, this wild outpost in the New World can also lead to great fortune, if he abides by the island's code.

Word in port is that the Spanish galleon El Trinidad, fresh from New Spain, is awaiting repairs in nearby Matanceros. Heavily fortified, the impregnable Spanish harbor is guarded by the bloodthirsty Cazalla, a favorite commander of King Philip IV. With the Jamaican governor's backing, Hunter assembles a crew of ruffians to infiltrate the enemy island and commandeer the galleon and its fortune in Spanish gold. The raid is as perilous as the bloodiest tales of Matanceros legend, and Hunter will lose more than one man before he makes it onto the island's shores, where dense jungle and the firepower of Spanish infantry stand between him and the treasure.

Clearly, the two are not comparable. Why? Because Crichton’s character clearly lacks Fabio’s passion. What’s Hunter after anyway? Treasure? Battle? Sea Monsters? Well, that’s great. It’s everything that we read Michael Crichton for, another cerebral exploration of action and adventure.

But when is anyone going to get laid? When are truly great literary masterpiece phrases, such as “her sail unfurled around his mast” ever going to pop up (so to speak)?

Never. Hunter’s going to find at least some treasure, but not his cara mia, no one to whisk away and “shockingly pamper”. No true love to “tame” with “dangerous ecstasy”. In fact, the book will be 312 pages about him fighting with other men and one sea monster, with plenty of underage deckhands getting their throats cut along the way. Um—happy? Not so much.

So, my question to Mr. Richard Zacks is this: what makes a bad romance? To say that Fabio wrote a “bad romance” by comparing him to Crichton, who clearly did not intend to write a romance at all (Pirate Latitudes was written as the basis of a video game in the early 90’s and dropped as a project by Crichton some years ago), is rather unfair. Fabio and Eugenia wrote a Fabio romance, a fantasy for people who want to spend the night with Fabio in a pirate outfit. That market, I imagine, is not so inconsequential. The language is exactly what you’d expect and his readers enjoyed it. He never claimed to be Robert Louis Stevenson, nor would his books have been half as entertaining if he was.

My point here is that there are readers for everyone. Readers who love Fabio pirate books and readers who love Crichton pirate books and everything in between. We would do well, in my opinion, to stop looking at books as if they were Olympic performances and focus on appreciating them for the expressions of human imagination that they are. After all, if we start taking pleasure in criticizing all of our dreams, what will we have left?


  1. Morgan you are hilarious and you've made some terrific points about the point of romance fiction - very true! should not be compared - it is in its own world and its fans like it that way. Cheers!

  2. 'But when is anyone going to get laid?' - LOL!

    And 'There just aren’t that many men who can pull of the artful placement of a red sash. You need that to be taken seriously in the pirate world.'

    Absolutely. Loved this post and agree wholeheartedly that Michael Crichton and Eugenia/Fabio are apples and oranges. Can't we just enjoy fruit salad?

  3. Morgan, you had me laughing! Well, there's just no pleasing some people. And others will criticize romance no matter who wrote it, so there you go. A romance is no stretch for Fabio - his career centers around it anyway.
    I'm irritated by critics slamming Avatar for the same reason. It was an amazing achievement, yet people are always so hasty to want to topple it. Jealous fools, I say!
    Thanks for the chuckle!

  4. Thanks! I even noticed a few typos, so I'm glad there aren't that many mean critics here. I'll have to bust out my sash when no one's looking :-)

  5. Lol Morgan. Loved the post, and you made really good points - the people who want these types of stories will read it, and we don't need some literary-genius-critic's sneering and low comments to patronize romance even more.

    But man, that blurb from Fabio's sounds totally sinful!


  6. awesome awesome post, i am a devout pirate/high seas romance lover. i think it all started when i read True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle in 6th grade. (my fave rom novel is Lindsay's Gentle Rogue)

    seriously people, get off using Fabio as your only point of reference in bashing romance, and you're right, it really makesno sense for Crichton to compare himself.

    Now...where can i get a copy of this PIRATE book, anything with the line "her sail unfurled around his mast" is a must read.

  7. Man, that has to be the best rebuttal I've read in a looong time. Morgan, you rock!

    Besides keeping me chuckling, your points are solid and well-made. I mean, really. Caling it 'bad' merely exposes his prejudices (which could be easily covered with an appropriate red sash). Let's face it, there's many a fellow who would consider any romance 'bad' or as my hubby would say, "Will this movie have rampant violence? Or *shudder* is it one of your romances?"

    Nice to see the 'literary snob' syndrome has gone way over the top! *laughs*

    We should force that guy to watch Cutthroat Island until his eyes glaze over!

    Great read, Morgan!!



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