Dead Reckoning: A Pirate Voyage with Captain Drake
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Dead Reckoning: A Pirate Voyage with Captain Drake

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by Laurie Lawlor

The discovery of an unknown cousin is significant for anyone, but for Emmet, it's life-changing. For within moments of meeting Captain Francis Drake, Emmet is invited to be his cousin's servant aboard the Pelican on a glorious trading expedition to exotic Alexandria, Tripoli, and Constantinople. It is a chance to go on a great voyage and to escape the angry


The discovery of an unknown cousin is significant for anyone, but for Emmet, it's life-changing. For within moments of meeting Captain Francis Drake, Emmet is invited to be his cousin's servant aboard the Pelican on a glorious trading expedition to exotic Alexandria, Tripoli, and Constantinople. It is a chance to go on a great voyage and to escape the angry mobs who now threaten him and his home. Emmet accepts.

At sea Captain Drake's sailors become restless and angry — animals who sniff out fear. Emmet witnesses death upon bloody death of those who are civil and kind, and sees innocent people of peace cut to shreds by men who seemed good. He realizes he must pick his friends carefully and rely on none. As the journey continues and Drake's crew pursues the fabled SilverShip, Emmet comes to see how a taste of wealth can turn men into monsters.

Award-winning author Laurie Lawlor sweeps us aboard ship with Captain Drake as we follow Emmet on an increasingly desperate journey of self-discovery while at sea with a motley crew of gold-thirsty men.

Editorial Reviews

As the assistant to a village priest, Emmet practices the gentle arts of reading, sketching, music, and herbology. But when Father Parfoothe dies, Emmet has no alternative but to join the seafaring expedition of his older cousin, Francis Drake. Emmet is unprepared for the harshness of life onboard ship, and he barely survives stormy seas and dangerous crewmates. Drake finds Emmet's artistic talents useful, giving the boy some protection. When the crew grows mutinous, however, Emmet's link with the captain becomes a liability. Like the rest of the crew, Emmet has no idea that the ambitious Drake plans to sail all the way around the globe, raiding Spanish colonies in the New World and then continuing eastward across the uncharted Pacific and Indian oceans. Horrified by the recklessness and violence of both captain and crew, Emmet plots to escape the Golden Hind when it anchors. This realistic, well-researched historical novel terminates rather abruptly in the middle of Drake's historic three-year circumnavigation. The book gives vivid insights into the character of Francis Drake and into the harsh conditions of sixteenth-century sailing. It is less successful as a novel and might not please readers seeking a strong protagonist with whom to identify or a satisfying conclusion to the arc of his story. It also lacks the lively humor of Karen Cushman's historical fiction. Lawlor is the author of many biographies and historical novels for young readers, including Magnificent Voyage: An American Adventurer on Captain James Cook's Final Expedition (Holiday House, 2002). VOYA CODES: 3Q 3P M J S (Readable without serious defects; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8;Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2005, Simon & Schuster, 272p., Ages 11 to 18.
—Walter Hogan
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up-As an orphan raised by a monk, 15-year-old Emmet can read Latin and Greek, and is a very bright, if sheltered, teen. When Father Parfoothe dies, he wonders what will become of him. His question is answered by a surprise visit from an unknown cousin, a man named Francis Drake, who offers Emmet a place as a page on his ship. Emmet's life aboard the Pelican is extremely hard. He is small and ignorant of the ways of seafaring life, and has a difficult time adjusting to this strange, rough world. Captain Drake is a harsh taskmaster, and it isn't long before Emmet realizes that he is sailing with pirates and begins to think of a way to escape. Lawlor's novel is very different from most pirate stories, as Emmet sees nothing adventurous or glorious about this life. The tone is dark and grim, and there are scenes that might horrify younger readers. Sailor lingo and Spanish terms are sprinkled throughout with no help from a glossary. But the story is authentic and harrowing, and the historical details are well done. This book would be perfect for older teens who love historical fiction, or want more on pirates.-Anna M. Nelson, Collier County Public Library, Naples, FL Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Most know him as Sir Francis Drake, learned no doubt from sanitized and less absorbing textbooks, but in the late 16th century, he was El Draque: The Dragon. In this historical adventure, Drake recruits his young cousin Emmet to be his servant on the upcoming voyage on the Pelican, about to be renamed the Golden Hind. Emmet soon realizes the expected trading voyage is really a pirate's quest, and Drake is leading a government-sponsored pirate fleet on a three-year, 40,000-mile madman's caper. Life on a ship is a whole new world to Emmet, and never would he have expected cruel initiations, shooting the Strait of Magellan, talk of monsters, giants and cannibals, executions of traitors and the loss of new friends. Soon, he is sick of it all: "Sick of the voyage, sick of what it is doing to us, sick of myself and what I am becoming." Based as closely as possible on the sometimes-scant historical record, Lawlor's work is full of adventure and lively detail; a solid afterword and author's note continue the story. (Fiction. 10-14)

Product Details

Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
7.70(w) x 5.10(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

Read an Excerpt

Dead Reckoning

A Pirate Voyage with Captain Drake
By Laurie Lawlor

Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing

Copyright © 2005 Laurie Lawlor
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0689865775

Chapter One

The cottage shuddered with a loud knock. "Open this door!"

Not another villager! Emmet dipped his quill into a bottle of ink. He studied the V shape on the sleek head of his pet adder. The snake lounged comfortably on the table among piles of books, scummy wooden spoons, apple cores, and greasy pewter plates. Such a beautiful face, Emmet thought.

"I know you're in there!" A heavy fist slammed against the wooden door again.

Emmet had never been bitten. Not once. It grieved him to see his neighbors kill every scaly creature they found basking harmlessly among the dry bracken slopes and heather banks on the moor.

Boom! Boom! Boom!

Emmet sighed. He hoped it wasn't Bellamy, the cobbler who'd come last week to have his sick sow cured. Another botched job. His teacher, God rest his soul, would have been so disappointed.

"Open up, I tell you!"

"Father Parfoothe is dead!" Emmet shouted. "Go away."

The latch rattled. "Some gentleman come a long way to see you. You want for me to kick down this door?"

Tenderly Emmet scooped up the adder and tucked it inside a crevice in the cottage's stone wall. If only Father Parfoothe were still here. He would know what to do, what to say. "Patience, sir!" Emmet called. He unlatched the door and opened it just a crack.

The ragged moorman, who had been pounding, darted away from the door, cap in hand. He bowed again and again in the direction of a ruddy-faced man with a red beard, seated on an elegant horse. The stranger wore a splendid blue velvet doublet. Tied beneath the creamy ruff around his neck was a black fur-trimmed cape. On his head he wore a green velvet cap with an embroidered band, and his hands were gloved in fine white leather. He sat very tall in the saddle, and there was something about his expression that was as bold and daring as Satan himself.

Emmet was so stunned by the unexpected arrival of such a fine gentleman, that he stumbled out of the cottage. He barely managed to tug off his cap and bow without tripping over his own feet. "My lordship, how may I be of service?" He felt a rising sense of terror. "I can assure you, sir, that my teacher intended to pay what he owed on his rent. You can tell Lord Russell, if it pleases you, sir, that my master passed away quite suddenly. It was the appearance of the comet that killed him, I think. He has been dead for three weeks, and I've tried to keep his possessions in perfect order, but -- " Emmet paused, desperate for words. Sweat started to run down the insides of his arms. He wished he were not such a bad liar and miserable coward. "How can I serve you, sir?"

The man on the horse stared down at him with cold, dark eyes. "You can serve me by ceasing your chatter. Enough of your jawing-tackle!"

"Yes, sir." Emmet had no idea what the stranger was talking about. Terrified, he bowed humbly three times. A nobleman like one of Lord Russell's men could say or do anything he pleased -- especially if he found out who Emmet really was, and what his teacher, dead these three weeks, had really been about. Maybe the moorman had told him. Emmet winced. He could already feel the hangman's rope tighten around his neck.

The stranger dismounted. "You do not recognize me?"

Father Parfoothe had instructed Emmet in the ways a person's character depended upon the balance of the humors. Emmet noticed right away the stranger's flushed face -- the sign of too much blood. A sanguine, cheerful personality, Emmet thought. There was something familiar about the gentleman's booming voice -- or was it the prominent nose, the high forehead? Emmet had spent so much time gazing into Father Parfoothe's crystal looking for signs of missing children and runaway lovers, guilty thieves and holy angels, he sometimes confused real people with visions. Had he heard this stranger speak in a dream, perhaps? Or had he drawn him?

"I am sorry, sir, I do not recall who you are," Emmet mumbled. Silently he prayed that the nobleman would not come inside his teacher's cottage. Then he'd know everything. Emmet tried to remember some chant, some charm to keep the stranger from crossing the cottage threshold. As usual in emergencies, Emmet drew a complete blank. He could think of nothing. Not a word.

Without pausing, the stranger pushed past him and marched with a proud limp straight into the cottage. "Are you coming?" he barked from inside the cottage. "I wish a word with you in private. Send that beggar fool away."

Emmet did not need to motion to the lurking moorman, who dashed obediently out of sight. Emmet shuffled inside. The stranger was already inspecting the books, the charts, the crystal. "Shut the door," he commanded.

Emmet twisted his worn, woolen cap. His eyes darted from the dusty shelf crammed with books with Latin and Greek titles to the unmade bed, the piles of clothing, the heaps of dried pennywort, bay, rue, rosemary, and sage, and the bunches of vervain. Why had he never noticed before how disordered his teacher's one-room cottage had become?

The stranger sniffed. "What is that horrible smell?"

"I...I don't know, your lordship," Emmet stammered. "Perhaps the collection of skulls."


"Mostly small rodents and birds, sir. Skeletons were a fascination for Father Parfoothe, sir. I can explain -- "

"I am not interested in lengthy explanations, Cousin. I am in a hurry. My ship sets sail in less than two weeks."

Emmet gulped. Cousin?

"Of course you don't remember me."

Stunned, Emmet glanced at the stranger in fine, rich apparel. He looked old enough to be his father. Is this some kind of trick? "Sir," Emmet said slowly, "my family is of humble origin. Except for my grandmother's people, no one's risen above tenant farming, sheep shearing -- "

"So you need convincing?" the stranger said, smiling. "I'm your cousin Francis. My father, Edmund, was your father's brother."

Edmund. Edmund. Something unsavory was connected to that name, but try as he might Emmet could not remember what. He cursed his poor memory. "In one ear and out the other," that was what his teacher always said.

"The last time I came to visit our grandmother at Crowndale," the stranger continued, "you were only knee-high. We sat beneath the arbor where she grew grapes. Beyond the apple orchard were beehives. You kept calling to the bees. She seemed to find this amusing."

Emmet was too shocked to speak. Grandmother's house at Crowndale, the grape arbor, the apple orchard. He knew them all so well that when he shut his eyes he could even recall their sweet fragrance. He could hear the sound of the bees and his grandmother's gentle voice. Calling down the bees, she had said, was a sign of his gift. If she only knew how wrong she'd been.

"Forgive me, sir," Emmet said quietly. "I have no close relations left alive. Grandmother has been dead for five years. My father died when I was but an infant. My sisters passed away -- "

"From the plague," his cousin interrupted. "I've already heard the story. You're all that Grandmother ever talked about. How she took you in as a small baby when your mother lost her mind and nearly dropped you in the fire."

Emmet gripped his cap tighter. With all his might he tried to betray no discomfort. He did not like to be reminded of the way he'd been abandoned by his wretched mother.

"You showed signs of such brilliance," his cousin continued. For a moment something cruel flickered at the corners of his smiling mouth. "Your talents were remarkable, even for such a young child. A promising boy made more promising with the tutoring of that old monk. Like all the other popish infidels, he had nowhere to go after the Crown shut down the abbey. What was that cunning man's name?"

Emmet blushed. So he knows. "Father Parfoothe."

"You worked as his scryer, staring into crystals and mirrors. He bade you tell him what you saw, didn't he?"

Emmet shifted uneasily from one foot to the other. No matter how patient his teacher had been, he could not seem to teach Emmet the innumerable rituals for finding lost objects, blessing bleeding wounds, or saying charms for mad dogs, sick horses, thorn pricks, snake bites, scaldings, toothaches, cramps, swellings, and ragings. "Sir," Emmet said at last, "my master harmed no one. He did good service revealing thefts. For his charms he never asked for pay. He sought only truth that is useful and necessary. He gave the people comfort for their pains and illnesses."

"That may be," his cousin said, and yawned. "But all of your master's powers and good works certainly did you no great service. You were supposed to go to the university, but then Grandmother died and all of your inheritance disappeared. A pity." His cousin fingered the heavy gold chain around his neck. "And now what are your prospects?"

"Prospects, sir?"

"Your future. Surely you have thought of it. You can not bury yourself in this horrible hovel forever."

Emmet cleared his throat. "I can teach Latin and Greek and mathematics. I can teach music."

"To whom? From what I've seen, the rats are more intelligent than the children in this starving village."

Emmet dug his toe into the dirty rushes scattered on the floor. It was disconcerting that his cousin knew so much about his life when Emmet knew nearly nothing about him.

"Stand up straight, boy. You remind me of Uncle Robert the way you slouch. Such a pitiful, bookish kind of man. Not the kind you could depend on to reef a bowsprit or haul a clew line with a will."

"Yes, sir," Emmet said, his face flushed with anger.

His cousin grinned as if glad that the insult of Emmet's father had hit its mark. Carelessly he thumbed through some of the sketches on the table. "You draw?"

Emmet nodded, teeth clenched.

"Excellent. And do you also know how to cast a horoscope?"

"No, sir," Emmet replied in a low, careful voice.

"Good. Prophecy is something that should be left strictly to the experts. I've already had my horoscope cast for me by a respected, learned man in London. He told me some important things. He said I must take you with me on my next voyage to North Africa. A trading voyage to Alexandria, Tripoli, and Constantinople."

"Me, sir?" Emmet said in disbelief.

"We'll be taking on a cargo of currants. You'll be my page. So get your things packed. You'll enjoy seeing the world. Why, any hawse-pipe sailor would jump at the chance to be my servant and learn the ways of proper behavior and social manners. At dinner before the officers you'll play the lute and sing. I know you're skilled in music. The cunning man taught you the lute, didn't he?"

Emmet nodded and glanced at the stringed instrument that hung from a peg on the wall. Everything was happening so quickly, he wondered if he were dreaming. Go to sea as my cousin's servant? Play the lute and sing? He felt as helpless as he did in nightmares when he was being pursued by wolves with gleaming yellow eyes and could not move a muscle to escape.

"I have special plans for you, kinsman." Using the tips of two gloved fingers his cousin plucked a dusty satchel from atop a heap of dirty clothes. He flung the satchel in Emmet's direction. "I imagine you'll have a few things you'll want to take along. Quill pens, brushes, paints, and parchment. You can record what you see on the voyage. Shrubs, insects, fish, birds. You would like that, wouldn't you?"

Emmet nodded and licked his lips. Father Parfoothe had taken him on numerous collecting expeditions out into the moor to find special herbs and roots, to watch birds, and to study the stars and planets. These adventures always delighted Emmet. Yet in all his life he had never traveled farther away from Tavistock than Blackmoorham. The exotic sound of faraway Alexandria, Tripoli, and Constantinople thrilled him. Perhaps his cousin's arrival was a sign of special providence. Could this mean that I am ready to try my fortune?

Without warning, a disturbing thought crossed his mind. "Why, sir?" Emmet asked with all his courage. "Why have you come such a long way to invite me to go with you on the voyage? I don't know how to sail. I can't even swim. Surely there are other servants, other artists better qualified than I am -- "

"Nonsense!" his cousin said, and chuckled. "You are kin. I depend on loyalty most of all among the men who serve under my command. What better loyalty can be found than among our own blood ties?" He paused and placed his hand reverently over his heart. "I am a childless man. Helping a lad make his way in the world gives me pleasure. I see this arrangement as a way to repay the deep gratitude I owe our grandmother. May she look down from heaven upon us at this very moment and give us her blessing." His eyes closed for a moment as if he were deep in prayer.

Emmet watched him and felt impressed. Father Parfoothe had taught Emmet to be wary of the company he kept. "Obey God, do right, and be honorable in all things," he always said. Surely someone like his cousin, someone so full of piety, generosity, and family loyalty, would meet even his teacher's high standards. Emmet felt ashamed that he had questioned his cousin's motives even for a moment.

"Since you are to be my servant," his cousin said, "I need to know something of your name."

"Certainly, sir," Emmet replied. He stuffed his one change of clothing and his art supplies inside the satchel.

"Your Christian name is John. So why are you called Emmet?"

"My teacher gave me the nickname when I was young. It means 'ant.'"

His cousin burst into harsh laughter. "A good name for someone small and insignificant."

Emmet bit his lip. "And what, sir, shall I call you?"

"Captain. Call me Captain Drake. Do not ever call me Cousin on board ship," he said, flicking dirt from his doublet with care. "And don't forget to take the book."

"What book, Captain?"

"You know the one I mean. The Key of Solomon."

Emmet paused. "You are referring perhaps to Clavicule? That's in Latin." He pulled the thick volume from the shelf and blew cobwebs from the cover. "This won't be very helpful for navigation, sir. My teacher never used it. As I explained before, he did not dabble in these dark arts. He was a natural philosopher. This, sir, is a book on how to gain wealth, love, and power; it lists principle demons and conjurations to find treasures, curse enemies, and procure love."

"I said take it." Captain Drake's eyes narrowed. He handed Emmet his own satchel. "And the crystal, too."

Emmet fumbled with the book and the crystal, a shining, clear stone no bigger than a large goose egg. He slipped both of these into the captain's satchel. "I'm really not skilled -- "

"And don't forget the Mosaical Wand."

Emmet took a deep breath. He was about to tell Captain Drake that this, too, was something he did not know how to work. Father Parfoothe had long, long ago abandoned treasure seeking with the Mosaical Wand. Too dangerous, he said. But there was something so unexpectedly threatening about the captain's glance that Emmet packed the dousing rod made of witch hazel into the satchel with the book and crystal.

Captain Drake took the satchel and cradled it carefully under his arm. With the toe of his elegant boot he swung open the door. "Hurry now. We're going to Plymouth. I have a horse waiting for you. You can ride, can't you?"

Emmet nodded. Something twisted in the pit of his stomach. Perhaps he was making a terrible mistake.

Captain Drake was already out the door and had mounted his horse. He motioned to the swaybacked pony tied to a nearby tree. "Are you coming?"

Emmet grabbed the precious lute that his teacher had given to him the day he died. He slipped the strap over his shoulder so that the stringed instrument hung against his back. On his other shoulder he carried his satchel of personal belongings. He fumbled with the door and latch. What would become of the cottage after he left? There'd be no one to look after his teacher's books of poetry, philosophy, and music, or his moth and butterfly collections. It was terrible to imagine so utterly deserted the place where Emmet had been so happy during much of his life. Carefully he pulled the door shut.

As Emmet turned away he felt surprised to hear loud shouts and angry voices in the distance. Across the field from Tavistock a rowdy crowd appeared to be marching in the direction of Father Parfoothe's cottage. What could they possibly want? Some carried torches and pitchforks. Others carried pikes.

"Bear a hand, boy! Some disappointed customers off port bow. Up keeleg!" Captain Drake announced in a calm, clear voice. "We must be on our way directly, unless you want to walk up Ladder Lane and down Hemp Street."

Emmet stood frozen with terror. They're coming for me!

"Up anchor!" Captain Drake barked, louder this time.

Terrified, Emmet rushed to the pony, untied the reins, and swung his leg over its broad back. With shaking hands he slung his satchel across the saddle.

Captain Drake, astride his snorting horse, trotted south along the muddy path toward Plymouth. Emmet bumped and rattled behind him. The lute made a sad thrumming sound with every jolt. His cape flapped wildly as he tried to keep up with the captain.

Only when they were nearly half a mile away did he dare glance back in the direction of his beloved teacher's cottage. Plumes of dark smoke floated skyward. "My adder!" he cried out, even though he knew it was too late.

A cold October wind that smelled of burning thatch blew across the moor. Emmet hunched forward and kicked the pony in the ribs. There was no going back.

Copyright © 2005; by Laurie Lawlor


Excerpted from Dead Reckoning by Laurie Lawlor Copyright © 2005 by Laurie Lawlor. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Dead Reckoning 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
i Think this book is good. I like it and recommend it. This book is about a boy named Emmet who needs to be a servant in a ship. His job in the ship is to do what the captain orders. In the ship, they tell Emmet where are they traveling some sort of other stuff. Emmet meets someone named Diego. Diego is good with Emmet. He shows him how to fight. Also, they show him how to get baptist from the sea. Emmet experience real wild things while being in the ocean.
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
DEAD RECKONING is a journey into the real pirate lifestyle. Based on the true story of Sir Francis Drake, an English pirate from the sixteenth century, this is the tale of life aboard a pirate ship from the eyes of Emmet, Drake's young cousin who serves as his page. Laurie Lawlor incorporates her research effortlessly into the novel, creating a thrilling yet realistic adventure story.

Emmet begins the story as an innocent young boy, the apprentice to Father Parfoothe, the village priest. When Father Parfoothe dies, suddenly Emmet's skills of reading Latin and playing the lute aren't quite as useful as before. Just in time to save Emmet from the villagers who have turned on him is his cousin, Captain Francis Drake. Drake invites Emmet to join him in a maritime voyage as his servant. Young Emmet has no choice but to accept.

Life at sea is beyond anything Emmet could have imagined. The crew doesn't seem to know where they are headed, and it isn't long before Emmet realizes that he is sailing on a pirate ship! Soon, Emmet is as caught up in the greedy pursuit of treasure and glory as the rest of the crew. Emmet is forced to grow up quickly as he sees firsthand the low regard for human life that pirates have. He learns the hard way that wealth is power, and power corrupts.

In the end, all he wants is to escape from the life he is now trapped in, and to be a free man once more. With this darker pirate tale, Laurie Lawlor proves that the life of a pirate really isn't as glamorous and lighthearted as Captain Jack Sparrow of Pirates of the Caribbean would lead you to believe.