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Pirate Hunters
Cover of Pirate Hunters
Pirate Hunters
Treasure, Obsession, and the Search for a Legendary Pirate Ship
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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY CHICAGO TRIBUNE • A thrilling adventure of danger and deep-sea diving, historic mystery and...
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY CHICAGO TRIBUNE • A thrilling adventure of danger and deep-sea diving, historic mystery and...
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  • NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY CHICAGO TRIBUNE • A thrilling adventure of danger and deep-sea diving, historic mystery and suspense, by the author of Shadow Divers
    Finding and identifying a pirate ship is the hardest thing to do under the sea. But two men—John Chatterton and John Mattera—are willing to risk everything to find the Golden Fleece, the ship of the infamous pirate Joseph Bannister. At large during the Golden Age of Piracy in the seventeenth century, Bannister should have been immortalized in the lore of the sea—his exploits more notorious than Blackbeard’s, more daring than Kidd’s. But his story, and his ship, have been lost to time. If Chatterton and Mattera succeed, they will make history—it will be just the second time ever that a pirate ship has been discovered and positively identified. Soon, however, they realize that cutting-edge technology and a willingness to lose everything aren’t enough to track down Bannister’s ship. They must travel the globe in search of historic documents and accounts of the great pirate’s exploits, face down dangerous rivals, battle the tides of nations and governments and experts. But it’s only when they learn to think and act like pirates—like Bannister—that they become able to go where no pirate hunters have gone before.
    Fast-paced and filled with suspense, fascinating characters, history, and adventure, Pirate Hunters is an unputdownable story that goes deep to discover truths and souls long believed lost.
    Praise for Pirate Hunters

    “You won’t want to put [it] down.”Los Angeles Times
    “An exceptional adventure . . . Highly recommended to readers who delight in adventure, suspense, and the thrill of discovering history at their fingertips.”Library Journal (starred review)
    “A terrific read . . . The book gallops along at a blistering pace, shifting us deftly between the seventeenth century and the present day.”Diver
    “Nonfiction with the trademarks of a novel: the plots and subplots, the tension and suspense . . . [Kurson has] found gold.”The Dallas Morning News
    “Rollicking . . . a fascinating [story] about the world of pirates, piracy, and priceless treasures.”The Boston Globe
    “[Kurson’s] narration is just as engrossing as the subject.”The Christian Science Monitor
    “A wild ride [and an] extraordinary adventure . . . Kurson’s own enthusiasm, combined with his copious research and an eye for detail, makes for one of the most mind-blowing pirate stories of recent memory, one that even the staunchest landlubber will have a hard time putting down.”Publishers Weekly (starred review)
    “The two contemporary pirate-ship seekers of Mr. Kurson’s narrative are as daring, intrepid, tough and talented as Blood and Sparrow—and Bannister. . . . As depicted by the author, they are real-life Hemingway heroes.”The Wall Street Journal
    “[Kurson] takes his knowledge of the underwater world and applies it to the ‘Golden Age of Piracy’ . . . thrillingly detailing the highs and lows of chasing not just gold and silver but also history.”Booklist
    “A great thriller full of tough guys and long odds . . . and: It’s all true.”—Lee Child
 

Awards-

Excerpts-

  • Chapter One

    Bannister, in fact, had no commission, but he most certainly had stolen the Golden Fleece, and he'd done so with a single purpose--to turn pirate. His actions hardly could have been bolder. It was near unheard of for a transatlantic captain, especially one as well regarded and trusted as Bannister, to "go on the account," as it was said of pirating. Even in Port Royal, where everything happened, few had seen anything like this.

    Lynch didn't sit around and wait for Bannister to return to his senses. Instead, he ordered the Ruby, the biggest and deadliest war- ship in the Jamaica fleet, to go after the Golden Fleece. A monster rated at 540 tons, with forty-eight cannons and a crew of 150, the Ruby was a pirate killer down to her timbers.

    Bannister did not intend to make it easy for Lynch's enforcers. Since stealing the Golden Fleece, he had picked up additional crew, robbed a Spanish vessel, and made his way to the Cayman Islands to take turtles and gather wood. But the Ruby surprised him there, and her captain, David Mitchell, and his crew captured Bannister and put an end to his six-week pirate career.
    Lynch was delighted.

    "Last night," he wrote, "the Ruby brought in Bannister. He took him at Caymanos; he has about 115 men on board, most of the veriest rogues in these Indies. I have ordered the ship and the men to be de- livered into the Admiralty and commanded the judge immediately to proceed against them, because we do not know how to secure or keep such a number. We conclude they'll be found guilty of piracy."

    The case against Bannister was airtight. Not only had he stolen the Golden Fleece, he had taken two Spaniards captive after attacking their boat. The testimony of those two men alone would secure a conviction. By now, Bannister could only hope for leniency, but if he expected it, he'd chosen the wrong governor under which to become pirate.

    "I intend if it proves so to make a terrible example of the captain, his lieutenant, officers, and all the men that have committed other crimes as many of them have," Lynch wrote, "and hope the severity may have some influence on the other rogues that swarm in these In- dies."
    By that, Lynch meant Bannister would hang. His crew, if lucky, might be whipped, jailed, or put into irons or stockades. If unlucky, they might follow Bannister to the gallows.

    The pirates were returned to Port Royal and held aboard the Ruby pending trial. One might have expected Bannister to use the time to pen letters of good-bye or to contemplate eternity; instead, he waited for a break in his captors' attention, then managed to get word to on- shore associates to bribe the two Spanish witnesses against him. It was an audacious plan and one that, even if the connections were made, seemed doomed given that the Spaniards had been rescued by the Royal Navy.

    At trial, a strong case was made against the pirates. But when it came time for the Spaniards to testify, they swore "backward and for- ward" that they had sold their boat and cargo to Bannister, and that he had paid them to serve as crew aboard the Golden Fleece.

    If that testimony shocked the prosecution, at least the governor could still rely on the jury, who were certain to see through the ruse. But this was Port Royal, where ordinary folk, remembering who'd made their town rich and had infused it with spirit, still counted pi- rates as neighbors and friends. They returned with a verdict: not guilty. Bannister had cheated the hangman.

    Already a sick man, Lynch suffered "such disturbance of mind" from the verdict that, according to accounts, he died of it a...

About the Author-

  • Robert Kurson is the author of the runaway bestseller Shadow Divers, and Crashing Through.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from February 9, 2015
    The odds of finding a bona fide pirate ship are quite rare, a fact Robert Kurson (Shadow Divers) points out in the first few pages of this extraordinary adventure. Only one—the Whydah—has ever been positively identified as belonging to pirates. The subjects of Kurson’s latest, John Chatterton and John Mattera, are undeterred by such unlikelihood in their conquest to locate the elusive Golden Fleece, the 17th-century ship captained by Joseph Bannister, lost somewhere in the waters near the Dominican Republic. Kurson takes readers on a wild ride alongside these bigger-than-life pirate hunters as they navigate the red tape of maritime code, dead ends, and dwindling resources, as well as rival hunters keen on beating Chatterton and Mattera to the prize. Though this drama would be more than enough, Kurson also examines the many myths surrounding pirates in their golden age, some of which were true (they did keep parrots and used colorful language, but they were also remarkably egalitarian in terms of race and rank—all races were welcomed and every man from the captain to the cook was treated equally, though women were not present unless they were in disguise). Kurson’s own enthusiasm, combined with his copious research and an eye for detail, makes for one of the most mind-blowing pirate stories of recent memory, one that even the staunchest landlubber will have a hard time putting down. Agent: Flip Brophy, Sterling Lord Literistic.

  • Kirkus

    April 1, 2015
    A look inside the world of professional treasure hunters, focused on the search for a sunken pirate ship. Journalist Kurson (Crashing Through: A True Story of Risk, Adventure, and the Man Who Dared to See, 2007, etc.) tells the story of John Chatterton and John Mattera and their quest for the Golden Fleece, a pirate ship sunk off what is now the Dominican Republic in the 1680s. Joseph Bannister, the ship's captain, was an English merchant captain who turned pirate. Chatterton and Mattera learned about the ship from Tracy Bowden, himself a legend among treasure hunters, who hired them to find the ship. Kurson focuses on the long, often frustrating search, interspersed by library research in New York and Spain. He gives brief biographies of the two men, tough, driven characters thriving in a world in which death is usually one mistake away. There's a fair share of drama as they run into debt, argue with each other and with Bowden, and deal with threats to their mission, ranging from claim jumpers to international bans on treasure hunting. Their breakthrough came when they realized the key to the search was the character of the pirate himself. Along the way, readers get a capsule history of the "Golden Age of Piracy," from about 1650 to 1720, when the likes of Blackbeard, Captain Kidd, and Henry Morgan were active. Kurson has done an impressive amount of research, and he has a good sense of painting scenes, though readers might sometimes wonder where the line is between straight reporting and entertainment. The book tends to jump around too much, though given the long stretches in which the protagonists' search for Bannister's ship was stalled, it's easy to understand why. In the end, Chatterton and Mattera come across as modern heroes, the kind of men the modern world often finds it hard to make a place for. An enjoyable read, especially if you've got a thing for pirates.

  • Library Journal

    Starred review from April 1, 2015

    Kurson (Shadow Divers) provides the reader with an exceptional adventure of pirates, treasure, and searching for lost history. But it is not merely the thought of pirates and sunken treasure that keeps the reader's attention. Kurson's own style of writing and the story he tells is reason enough to read this narrative from cover to cover. The author reveals the psyche and determination of archaeologists John Chatterton (former host of History Channel's Deep Sea Detectives) and John Mattera in their search for the Golden Fleece wreck near Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, and what results is a fascinating historical account of the pirate Joseph Bannister. The reader gets two exciting tales in one book: the adventure, intrigue, and risk that Chatterton and Mattera face as they search for the Golden Fleece and Bannister as well as the story of Bannister's emergence as a pirate on the high seas in the 17th century. While the book is accessible, some of the terminology and history is appropriate to older audiences. VERDICT Anyone with a sense of adventure and a love of history will enjoy this book. Highly recommended to readers who delight in adventure, suspense, and the thrill of discovering history at their fingertips.--John Dockall, Austin, TX.

    Copyright 2015 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Booklist

    February 15, 2015
    Kurson, the New York Times best-selling author of Shadow Divers (2004), takes his knowledge of the underwater world and applies it to the Golden Age of Piracy, 16501720, and, specifically, to the search for the sunken pirate ship Golden Fleece and its booty. Per the request and with the backing of treasure hunter Tracy Bowden, John Chatterton and John Mattera, treasure hunters themselves, take on the task of trolling the wild waters and small islands of the Dominican Republic's north coast. The Golden Fleece's captain, Joseph Bannister, was a respected seaman turned rogue pirate, and Chatterton and Mattera search for him, as well, in documents and maps in libraries around the world. Kurson pulls in information on the equipment used, the changing rules of ownership of found items, and the excitement of the search itself, thrillingly detailing the highs and lows of chasing not just gold and silver but also history.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2015, American Library Association.)

  • Library Journal (starred review) "You won't want to put [it] down."--Los Angeles Times "An exceptional adventure . . . Highly recommended to readers who delight in adventure, suspense, and the thrill of discovering history at their fingertips."
  • Publishers Weekly (starred review) "A terrific read . . . The book gallops along at a blistering pace, shifting us deftly between the seventeenth century and the present day."--Diver "Nonfiction with the trademarks of a novel: the plots and subplots, the tension and suspense . . . [Robert Kurson has] found gold."--The Dallas Morning News "Rollicking . . . a fascinating [story] about the world of pirates, piracy, and priceless treasures."--The Boston Globe "[Kurson's] narration is just as engrossing as the subject."--The Christian Science Monitor "A wild ride [and an] extraordinary adventure . . . Kurson's own enthusiasm, combined with his copious research and an eye for detail, makes for one of the most mind-blowing pirate stories of recent memory, one that even the staunchest landlubber will have a hard time putting down."
  • Fredericksburg Free Lance--Star "The two contemporary pirate-ship seekers of [Robert] Kurson's narrative are as daring, intrepid, tough and talented as Blood and Sparrow--and Bannister. . . . As depicted by the author, they are real-life Hemingway heroes."--The Wall Street Journal "Captivating and alluring . . . a riveting tale . . . perfect for summer beach reading."
  • Kirkus Reviews "[Kurson] takes his knowledge of the underwater world and applies it to the 'Golden Age of Piracy' . . . thrillingly detailing the highs and lows of chasing not just gold and silver but also history."--Booklist "John Chatterton and John Mattera . . . come across as modern heroes, the kind of men the modern world often finds it hard to make a place for. An enjoyable read, especially if you've got a thing for pirates."
  • Lee Child "A great thriller full of tough guys and long odds . . . and: It's all true."
  • Sen. John McCain "Action and adventure on land and sea--you can't ask for more. But Robert Kurson raises the ante in Pirate Hunters with an array of mystery and a fleet of colorful characters spanning four centuries. This is a great summer read!"--Michael Connelly "Pirate Hunters is a fantastic book, an utterly engrossing and satisfying read. It tells the story of the hunt for the rare wreck of a pirate ship, which had been captained by one of the most remarkable pirates in history. This is a real-life Treasure Island, complete with swashbuckling, half-crazy treasure hunters and vivid Caribbean settings--a story for the ages."--Douglas Preston "A terrific read. I was pulled in from page one. Kurson brings us face to face with some of the most swashbuckling pirates ever to sail the Caribbean, even as he takes us underwater on a high-tech quest to discover the relics they left behind."--Daniel James Brown "There's nothing in the world like buried treasure--and people hungry and obsessed enough to risk their lives for it. Pirate Hunters isn't just a good story--it's a true one. Searching for the souls of its explorers, it takes you to the far tip of the plank and plunges you deep to the bottom of the ocean."--Brad Meltzer "Pirate Hunters is a gripping account of two courageous divers' quest to uncover the shipwrecked vessel of Joseph Bannister, one of history's most infamous pirates. Robert Kurson will keep you on the edge of your seat in this high-stakes journey around the globe that ultimately teaches these explorers about much more than an old ship."

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Treasure, Obsession, and the Search for a Legendary Pirate Ship
Robert Kurson
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