The Reluctant Pirate
A Book Review.
In case you’ve been wondering, I’ve been off the grid for a couple of weeks – on vacation in Peru, actually. There, I took a three-day cruise on the mighty Amazon River (think: shortsea shipping – more on that in another posting), and hiked 41 miles in six days on the Salkantay Trail on the way to Machu Pichu. Much less traveled and WAY harder than its more famous cousin, the Inca Trail, the trek climaxes on day number three at more than 15,000 feet, where my 16 year old son jogged to the summit as I wheezed my way to the top in his dusty trail. But, enough about me.
The holiday also afforded me the opportunity to do something I don’t really have time for in my current position: some pleasure reading. So, armed with one of John Guy’s newest efforts, The Reluctant Pirate, I settled in each evening after the day’s activities for an entertaining tale of modern day pirates and a primer on what really happens when today’s merchant ships are boarded and held for ransom, and more importantly, why. And unlike the better known movie (Captain Phillips) that tackles a similar subject on the big screen, The Reluctant Pirate digs a bit deeper into the politics of today’s piracy business model, the players involved (and their motivations) and reaches into the psyche of the Somali pirate himself.
At about 160 pages, The Reluctant Pirate is an easy read, but not because of its relatively short length. Fast moving and chock full of action, John Guy skillfully moves us back and forth between London, Norway, Somalia, Greece and out to sea on the waters in between. That’s because while the (fictional) book ultimately takes the reader through the machinations of what happens on board during a real incident, it also shows what forces – not all of them benevolent – can be at work elsewhere, once the vessel has been taken. And Guy, a former ship’s officer and today a public relations and UK-based media consultant, shows us that when it comes to the physical hijacking of a merchant ship, the act itself is just one of many layers of a very fat onion.
As a mariner with more than a few years of sea service under my belt, I appreciated the accurate portrayal of what goes on at sea. I also learned – as will you – that the negotiations that follow any act of piracy involve far more than just dollars and cents. Finally, John Guy also understands the human aspect of piracy, and from every side of the story. Arguably, there is just as much sadness ashore in Somalia on a daily basis as there is on board a pirated merchant ship. One thing doesn’t make the other right, but within the book, the author provides as much insight into this terrible problem as I’ve seen anywhere else.
Guy doesn’t say so in so many words, but it is also clear to me that unless the issues impacting life ashore in places like Somalia are fixed, the scourge of piracy isn’t going away any time soon. I won’t pretend that I know how to get that done, but after reading The Reluctant Pirate, and I am certainly a little closer to the frame of reference necessary to understanding that the solution has to work for everyone – and not just the shipping community itself.
The book is for sale on Amazon.com as a paperback ($8) and as a kindle e book ($3).
* * *
Joseph Keefe is the lead commentator of MaritimeProfessional.com. Additionally, he is Editor of both Maritime Professional and MarineNews print magazines. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at Keefe@marinelink.com. MaritimeProfessional.com is the largest business networking site devoted to the marine industry. Each day thousands of industry professionals around the world log on to network, connect, and communicate.