Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Hot Pirates

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: We are so pleased to welcome Laurie R. King! In fact, over at Jungle Red HQ, it was all we could do to keep fans from breaking down the sliding glass doors and knocking over the punch. And among her legions of fans, there was such a buzz--what was she doing with a sword and a parrot?

Turns out, me hearties, she's got a brand new book, PIRATE KING. (Which you can win! See below.) It's about...well, somehow, it inspired (?) me to burst into song. (With apologies to everyone involved.)

::Hank clears throat and, um sings::

She is the very model of a modern mys’try novelist
She’s written countless stories and her name’s on the best-seller list
She knows what Conan Doyle would do and even what he would have writ
(And now he’d be upset to learn he hadn’t ever thought of it.)

She’s very well-acquainted too, with stuff about the world of bees
Her character (Miss Russell) is now heading far across the seas
With pirates, toffs and criminals
It sounds just like a movie plot
But readers soon find out that what it seems--is just what it is not.

She’s very good at humor and she always has lot of fun
She knows the songs and lyrics of Sir Gilbert and Sir Sullivan
In short, in matters Sherlock Holmes, dear Laurie King’s our specialist
She is the very model of a modern mys’try novelist.

Maybe..we'll just let Laurie talk.

LAURIE KING: One of the phrases we’ve been tossing around here on the Laurie ARrrgh! King site this summer is, “Pirate is the new Vampire.”

(ed note: yes, that's a parrot on Laurie's head. She knows it's there. The pirate eye-patch, too. Arrrgh.)

This is partly because the spate of pirate movies, books and, for all I know, Lady Gaga songs seems to be overtaking the number of movies, books, and ditties about vampires. It’s also because vampires as the object of forbidden love is becoming a bit old hat, whereas Johnny Depp seems to be forever appealing.

Each generation discovers anew the eroticism of the forbidden. When I was in the first blush of my reading life, The Thorn Birds thrilled the world with a hot and un-celibate priest, played by sexy Richard Chamberlain. (And yes, it is odd to reflect both that un-celibate priests could be shocking, or that the much-facelifted Richard Chamberlain was sexy.) Our grandmothers’ generation went weak-kneed at The Sheik—first the book, later the movie—in which a feisty but wholesome young English girl is introduced to Sensation by an ardent foreigner (played—with fainting around the world—by sexy Rudolph Valentino.)

As Mary Russell, the protagonist of Pirate King, says upon encountering the novel by E M Hull (Hull being, at the time she wrote The Sheik, “a woman whose husband was at the Front. Whose husband had clearly been at the Front for a long, long time.”):
It was appalling. Not so much the writing itself (which was merely the lower end of mediocrity) nor the raw pornography (which it was,) but its blatant message that an independent and high-spirited young woman would be far happier if she were just slapped around a bit by a caring sadist. I read every word about fiery young Diana Mayo and her encounter with, abduction by, and ultimate submission to, Sheik Ahmed ben Hassen. Then I went to wash my hands, and took the novel back to Mrs Hatley, with a fervent plea that she not let any of the girls read it. She turned pink and said of course not—but had I enjoyed it?

Oh, Russell, we know you did, secretly.

We will skip for the present mention of the eternal appeal of the forbidden, and oddly priestly, Sherlock Holmes (played by any number of hot actors before Robert Downey and Benedict Cumberbatch) since in the present novel he plays a supporting role. Here, center stage is occupied by the Pirate King and his merry men.

The appeal of pirates is underscored by the Portuguese poet, Fernando Pessoa—who also plays a role in this book. Pessoa’s 72 separate “heteronyms” or distinct personalities (only one of them female) all of whom are poets as well (including the woman.) One of these personas works himself into a fever at the very notion of pirates (Portugal being a nation built on sea-faring and conquest.) First, he wishes to be a pirate:

To the sea!
Salt with windblown foam
My taste for great voyages!
Thrash with whipping water the flesh of my adventure,
Douse with the cold depths the bones of my existence,
Then he wants to be…well, a willing victim, ravaged by pirates, using language that can only be regarded as symbolic if one works really hard at it:
From my heart, make an admiral’s flag
Flown in a battle between old sailing ships!
…lash me against the mast, lash me!
…kiss with cutlasses, whips, and frenzy!

(I’m leaving a lot of it out—if you want the full effect, the poem is called “Maritime Ode.”)

However, I was afraid that all this eroticism—The Sheik, Sherlock Holmes, frustrated poets, young women on a boat with young men, and an entire crew of manly pirates—might place the book in a part of the store generally screened off to the impressionable [sic] young. However, Pirate King was meant to be a farce, a sharp change from the solemnity of the two previous books in the series. So, I decided to render all this hot-and-bother into something more airy-fairy by plunging it all into the chilly Victorian sensibilities of Gilbert & Sullivan.

After all, startling contrast is the very essence of the comic spirit.

HANK: And indeed, it is a glorious thing to host dear Laurie King... (Singalong, please....)

She'll be here to answer questions on pirates, mizzens, Sherlock, plank-walking, poetry and erotica. I mean--what else could anyone ask for? So give three cheers and one cheer more--for! The writer who we all adore.

(okay, stopping now...) (But! Jungle Red is giving away a copy of PIRATE KING to one lucky commenter!)

(Laurie R. King is the bestselling author of 21 crime novels, including the series with young Mary Russell and her slightly more famous husband, Sherlock Holmes. King’s upcoming novel Pirate King is set in 1924 London, Lisbon, and Morocco—and yes, there are pirates.)

Laurie King’s web site, with excerpts from Pirate King and loads of other entertainment, is at To order a signed copy of Pirate King, go to the Poisoned Pen shop, here. [LINK to: ]

LINK to Maritime Ode:


  1. Loved your song Hank! Dee

  2. Laurie, I didn't know how you could improve on the wonderful world of Russell and Holmes, but it seems you've done it by adding Gilbert and Sullivan. I can't *wait* to see how that all comes together!

    Hank, genius song.

  3. My favorite pirate has always been The Dread Pirate Roberts.

  4. Hank, who knew you were so talented at song lyrics? :-)

    I really want to read this book, and the rest of the Mary Russell series, as well. Best of luck with it, Laurie!

  5. RHYS:Welcome dear Laurie.
    Pirate King is sitting on my Kindle. Can't wait to read it.

    And Hank brilliant G and S song!

  6. Laurie King is my daughter's favorite author! May get to her signing Saturday...

  7. Hank, your G & S is sublime!!! Laurie, I can't wait. Russell is always at the top of my list, and this one sounds fabulous!

  8. PS: As for the Hot Pirate list, we mustn't forget Captain Blood by Rafael Sabatini. It was made into a movie starring Erroll Flynn and Olivia de Haviland, but the book is much better.

  9. Great picture, love the Parrot and patch - very good article also - a new author for my TBR list !


  10. The only thing that could possibly make Russell and Holmes better is the addition of Gilbert and Sullivan!

    Hank, when can we expect the first of your historical mysteries with the operetta-writing team as sleuths?

  11. What a fun post! I can't wait to get my hands on this book. Since I am actually decended from Henry Morgan (the pirate, not the rum), this is the book for me, laddies. Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum!

  12. Got my hard copy to get autographed and reading on my Kindle. Can't wait to see where this leads Russell and Holmes!

  13. Laurie, so glad to have you back here on JRW! This book sounds fascinating...and could you possibly do better than Hank's intro? You two make quite a team!

  14. Hot Pirate List? I nominate
    The Young Burt Lancaster in possibly the most entertaining pirate movie of all time, THE CRIMSON PIRATE! Lancaster not only defined shirtless beefcake, but was a professional acrobat who performed his own stunts. And fine stunts they were, all the while chewing vast swaths of scenery as only Lancaster could. Well worth a look if you can find it (and it's in technicolor!)Su amigo, R.

  15. Pirates! Love them. Can't wait.

    What a fun blog today.

  16. Oh, how fun! Hank, I loved your G and S pastiche! Speaking as a poet, quite fine. I second the suggestion that you do a series of historical mysteries with Messrs. G and S. What a hoot that would be!

    And Laurie, that photo is one in a million! Your book sounds marvelous. I can't wait to get it. Holmes,G and S, silent film, and pirates. What a winner!

  17. Yes, all those great pirates, from Sabatini to the Dread Pirate Robers to Cap'n Jack Sparrow.
    Thanks for your poetical hosting, Hank, if only someone would make a YouTube I'd post it along with all the other versions of the Major General's song I inflicted on my blog readers the past couple of weeks.
    Hope you all enjoy Pirate King, and again, thanks for having me drop in!