The New York Times
Silver: My Own Tale As Written by Me with a Goodly Amount of Murderby Edward Chupack
I am Silver, and there is no other pirate like me on these waters. . . .
This being the last testament of the infamous pirate Long John Silver, you would do well not to trust a word in its pages. Held captive aboard his own ship, the Linda Maria, he is to be taken to England, where he will hang at the King's pleasure. But he has another plan&/i>/i>/b>
I am Silver, and there is no other pirate like me on these waters. . . .
This being the last testament of the infamous pirate Long John Silver, you would do well not to trust a word in its pages. Held captive aboard his own ship, the Linda Maria, he is to be taken to England, where he will hang at the King's pleasure. But he has another plan: to exact revenge upon his captors by disclosing their secrets in a journal. It tells a tale of treason, murder, his own ascent from pickpocket street urchin to pirate captain, a lost treasure that would rival King George's own riches, and what really happened on Treasure Island. This book is that journal . . . but is Silver to be believed?
The New York Times
At the start of Chupack's swashbuckling debut, Long John Silver, yes, that Long John Silver, faces hanging back in England after a life of piracy on the seven seas. But before he swings, the aging, fever-ridden pirate is determined to tell his fabulous story, so settle back, me hearties, it's one hell of a tale. Silver has a dual motive: not only does he wish to torment his captor, who has taken him prisoner aboard his own ship, but he also hopes to secure his release by promising to reveal the whereabouts of his fabled treasure. Some of the old Treasure Islandgang-Ben Gunn, Pew, Jim Hawkins-return, but this is no retelling of the original. Chupack is particularly good at pirate dialogue (Silver says of the killing of his mate, Smollet: "he made an excellent corpse on account that you puddened him to the plansheers, so when the wind blowed aft to lee, he bade a farewell to the world"). Murder, a map, ciphers and codes, and even a bit of romance figure in Silver's riveting narrative as well. (Feb.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Adult/High School- Long John Silver makes no apologies for his life as a thief and murderer. Writing his last testament as a prisoner on his own ship, he hopes to avoid hanging by revealing the secrets behind his coveted treasure. Using characters both new and familiar to readers of Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island , Chupack presents the bloody tale of Silver's rise to sea captain and journey to discover the stolen Crown Jewels. As a child, Silver lived on the streets of Bristol and was eventually sold to the pirate Black John and taken aboard the Linda Maria. As he rises through the ranks of the crew, he works to solve the mysterious ciphers that will lead him to Treasure Island. Love, betrayal, thievery, and, of course, murder mark the path. In the end, he uncovers a final secret that will change the course of his captor's quest for justice and fortune. This title will be of interest to fans of Stevenson's classic or other pirate stories. Readers unfamiliar with the original incarnation of Silver may find themselves lost at the outset of the story due to the pirating jargon and overwhelming plethora of characters. While the plot meanders to the climactic discovery of Treasure Island, the closing chapters capture the mystery and intrigue of the quest. Recommend this to teens who are ready to move beyond such young adult adventures as Tanith Lee's "Piratica" series (Dutton).-Lynn Rashid, Marriots Ridge High School, Marriotsville, MD
“[A] witty romp. . . . This isn't Treasure Island revisited, nor is it a sequel. Like the pirate he celebrates, Chupack has taken a bit here and a bit there . . . to create something glitteringly original. [Robert Louis Stevenson] would certainly have approved of Chupack's efforts.” The New York Times Book Review
“At the start of Chupack's swashbuckling debut, Long John Silver . . . faces the hangman back in England after a life of piracy on the seven seas. But before he swings, the aging, fever-ridden pirate is determined to tell his fabulous story, so settle back, me hearties, it's one hell of a tale.” Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“[A] richly imagined protagonist . . . the old salt's tale gleams like a sharpened cutlass.” Entertainment Weekly
- St. Martin's Press
- Publication date:
- Edition description:
- First Edition
- Product dimensions:
- 6.50(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.10(d)
Read an Excerpt
I am Silver, and there is no other pirate like me on these waters. No other. Not you and not Kwik, not Smith and not Gunn, not Bones nor Black John. Not damned Pew. Not Bloody Bill. Not Solomon. And not Jim Hawkins, that son of a slattern.
You mustered Smollet and my hearties to blazes. That was considerate of you, as they would have died from the fever by now if you had not murdered them first.
I know what you will tell your Georgey, that middling monarch that now pays your blood wages. You will tell him that you captured me in paradise. You will not tell him that Smollet fell into a faint and was well on his way to the pintles when he, snagged in the ratlines, spied your ship sailing toward us. Smollet was turvy and saw your First Rate skimming the sky, upturned, its hull breaching the heavens whilst its topsail fathomed below. We grounded on a reef. Georgey likes his romances. Tell him that Smollet glimpsed a phantom ship. That will please the wretch.
This ain’t paradise. This is the South Seas. Paradise is a gale that rocks the planks and tears the timbers and blows rime in your eyes. Paradise is a ruthless place. The rain hammers you into bits and casts you for your life. The lanyard runs through your hands and cleaves them. You laveer through the wind and gybe the sails until your arms cramp. You hang on to the gunwale so as not to end in the soundings. There ain’t a bit of paradise down there in them soundings, but only Old Nick and his halters with their whips and brands and sloth-eyed children.
Tell me of a better life than climbing the cordage or riding the forefoot. Any snotty or tar worth his earring would go weatherly to oblivion rather than remain on land.
I have consulted my charts and you may be interested to know that the Linda Maria was stranded on the Rose Atoll when you appeared to us from out of the vapour and the rain. You will want to cite the name of the reef in your logbook when you provide your account to King George. I give all the glory to the reef and not to you, my sir. The month, by the by, is January and the year is 1715. It has no meaning to me, but it surely does to you. You have been searching for me for so long now, but not as long as we searched for Treasure Island.
Aye, the Bible. I should write about the Bible first. What would this tale be without that Bible that young Edward brought aboard my ship? It marked our course, and we followed that book from our youth to our dog years, trying to solve the secrets inside it.
I knew that Edward’s Bible held a secret as soon as I opened it and seen the word “Blood” spilled on the first page, just ’neath the headpiece. It takes a singular creature to write the word “Blood” in a Bible, and mind you to write it in crimson. The rest of the ciphers were written in ink as black as the scribe’s soul, a fine fellow by my reckoning all in all.
I weighed that book in my hand, taking it from Edward before he claimed it back, and though it could fit in the palm of my hand, it was heavy with deception and double-dealing. It had a back and front of leather and a sturdy binding, the better to keep its secrets. It was an old book, some worn, some tired from all its trickery, mayhap hundreds of years old, that Bible.
I ain’t given to sentiment, but if I had never resolved them ciphers, I still would have held that book to my heart for the sake of the deceit in it. “Blood,” the master brigand wrote in it. “Blood” he inscribed as his legacy. “Blood” he planted like a weed in the Garden of Eden. “Blood” he scratched out as neatly as his own epitaph.
And just above that crimson word was the headpiece that I have traced from memory, as I could never forget it or any of the other markings in that masterpiece of malevolence.
And then, under the headpiece and “Blood,” the scribe scrawled the numerals “1303,” which first I took to be the year of the man’s birth or death, or mayhap even the year that he planned his evil.
Subsequently, the author wrote a sentence so simple, so evident that it could not have been more cunning. He wrote, “I have hidden 41 meters from the foundation 6 wooden boxes overlaid in ivory, and all empty, and one remarkable treasure covered in nothing but sackcloth not more than 2 meters deep nor more than 87 meters wide.” What a prize—eighty-seven meters wide! Of course, the trickster’s declaration sent us north and south and east and west, to leper lands and cannibal lands, through torrents of hail and volleys of storms, and everywhere we went death followed us. It follows us now, lurking just abaft the taffail. And waits.
I will set forth only one other cipher now, a fitting cipher as this is the beginning of my own tale, a cipher that was written in Latin and read, “Audacibus annue coeptis,” heartening the reader to look with favour upon a bold beginning. The deceiver wrote the cipher twice, once on the last page of his Bible and the second time on a tree blackened by lightning on Treasure Island. A craftsman, so he was.
I AM SICK with the fever and almost blind. My hide is blistered. My bones ache. I coughed so hard that I almost blustered my head off. Do not be vexed on account of my health though, my sweet. I will not faint nor fail. I will not keel over until I kill you. Stand me plumb so that I may take a drink of rum on account of my impending betterment.
I hate Englishmen.
I hate Englishmen, though I hate the Portuguese more. I despise the Spaniards most of all.
I claim no country but the North Sea, for I am Silver, Long John Silver. I set forth here my true adventures, the good, the evil, the blessed, and the cursed of my life at sea, I Silver.
The bottom of the sea is the right place for me, but you would bring your dear captain to Newgate Square to swing by the twine.
I would rather be hanged by the French. At least they would give me a last meal that would be better than biscuits. It is true that I was born an Englishman, but I would expire a Frenchman.
I am not your prisoner.
I have dashed captains from the Tortugas to Pimlico Sound. I have eaten the bread and fruit of every land and downed it all with Spanish wine. Good wine is the only attribute of Spain, by the by, as it has no other attribute except fast horses, and I assign all the credit for that to the horses.
You will not hold me here. I do not keep company with pink-livered Englishmen.
Old Nick flung hard seas and storms against me, but I never gave in to Nick or his crew. Who are you compared to Nick and his gibbets and demons? Nick tried to sentence me under his swells, but I always cut his lines. I aim to trip up Nick by his hooves. My plan is simple. The day that I go under I will challenge him to a duel. I will cheat. Nick will gallop at me, and I will, all atremble, lope at him. Just when Nick is about to grip me, I will tip my cane. Nick will tumble and his halters will all bow down before me. I will condemn Nick, I will, to a seven master. I will make him shine its deck from bulkhead to bow every day. Or, I might set him up in Londontown as a chimney sweep and fix him in the top of a flue out of pure mischief, so that Nick could glimpse but never get close to the flames. Or, I might put him in Parliament. Nick could do some damage there. But that would be a form of benevolence, and so it ain’t much likely.
The Linda Maria is my ship. The men that sail on her call her mother, for she is no less to them. Who are you to hold her wheel? Have you scrubbed her pine like I done, day after day, on Black John’s orders? You have not, sir. Have you mended her like I done, tied and twisted her bits of hemp twelve times by twelve times until her ropes were sturdy enough for a younker to swing by them? Have you scraped her free of all barnacles of honesty and integrity that she may have picked up in port? No, sir. I have seen to her best interests. Have you steered her clear of the rocks and floes that would do her harm? Have you brought her into harbour by night, by moonlight, so that she might show herself to her highest advantage? No, you have not. I have minded her from the day that I first come aboard her when I was a lad, to the day that I become her captain, and even now whilst you tramp her deck. Her timbers creak and moan. She knows that you are not worthy of her.
This is my history, and if I write it laggardly, it is only for the enjoyment that it brings me to recount it. My plume is from a ship, one of your King’s ships, that I caught off Arcadia. I skirted Newfoundland and found her beached in foul weather. I made her brief acquaintance and killed most of her crew. I detained some of the crew in the hold and sold them to the Caribs for nuts and sugar and such. The Caribs ate the Englishmen. The Caribs have peculiar tastes and apparently enjoy their stew stringy with Englishmen. This plume is made from a peacock feather. My parchment is from that same ship, and if it is worthy of Georgey and his decrees, it is good enough for me. I do not know the origin of the ink. I have no doubt that it is exceptional. The ink runs some, like English blood, but the blame must be placed on the scribe.
I have charts of all the seas that I sailed and of all the lands that I afflicted. I am pleased to tell you that I stole every one of these charts. I took this cross-staff that I am holding from one of your fellow compatriots this past season, and may he rot where I left him, which is just off Barbary in the event that you are looking for him. You will find him in the tuck of his ship, on account of his rank, and his mates well below there. I am unable to navigate with the cross-staff in my cabin, but that is all the same with me, as I shall use it soon enough when I escape. I shall not need it to navigate your horizons. They are marly and bleak, my hearty. Marly and bleak.
This is a tale of time and distance.
Some captains gauge time by observing the run of the tide, whilst others watch the wash in the waves. They tally the speed of the ship against the markings on their charts. I prefer to throw seaweed, or preferably a man, or preferably a Spaniard, in the water, as the science is the same. The hard cases, like Black John, threw a knotted line into the water and determined the ship’s speed and so the distance traveled in that manner. That is too much work for my hearties and me. We use a sundial or an hourglass to reckon time. If we forget to turn the hourglass or look at the sundial then, as far as we are concerned, time has stopped. No one is particularly concerned about it. We are never late to a murder.
Now, distance. Some captains measure distance by the Pole Star and the sun. Some send their tars into the nest to ken from point to point. Some captains sail along coasts and mark the landfalls. I mark distance with my right hand. My forefinger, held high to the heavens, marks two degrees. My wrist, so held, marks eight degrees. My murdering hand marks eighteen degrees. I hold it up to the blue and the black and sail. My hand has never failed me except in a fog, or now, in this fever. I say that distance is of no importance either. It runs through your fingers like the buntline but does not attach itself to anything. You cannot tie it to the square sail or pull it up the yard.
Aye, and this is a tale of that Bible and of gold too. And of treasure. Aye, and of treachery too.
I began writing my history this very day, my hearty, for this is the day that you locked me in my cabin. I hold my plume in my starboard hand and my dagger in my lee hand. I will damn you with these words, I will. I will damn you.
You did not speak a word to me after you killed my men. Not a word, and after all these years too.
You shut me in my cabin, but I have reckoned every day that I have been here. Aye, and I will pin my dagger to your heart for each day that I am here. I marked the exact time that your tar turned the key in this lock.
You should fear me.
I will come for you. I will.
And now there is a rap on my door.
What man is it? Is it you then? No, it ain’t. It ain’t any man at all. It is that lout of a cabin boy that you sent to torment me.
Are you very ill, sir?” the lout asked.
“It is an insult that your captain does not address me directly,” I answered. “Tell him that I said so, boy. Tell him that. And tell him, and mind you this, that he is a doomed man. Mind you to tell him that too.”
“I would not tell him that.”
“That is an order.”
“You are not the captain. Not anymore. The captain is standing on deck,” so the lout told me.
“Impertinence,” I replied. “Unlock my door. I will give you ale.”
“The captain said that I should never unlock this door.”
“I have a woman here,” I told him.
“You do not.”
“You do not.”
“You are a true torment to the world, boy.”
“The captain said not to speak with you. You are sinister, he said.”
“I am as harmless as a fawn, I am.”
I did not tell the lout that I would murder him if he turned the key in my lock, as that might have deterred him from opening the door. Then again, he was a lout of a lad.
Mind you, I have not had the displeasure of viewing the lout’s features, as he must have been hanging on to the mast-step when you attacked, but I know his face as well as the corn on my left foot. His eyes are clear and colorless, as there ain’t a spoon of intellect behind them. His brow is as straight as a deadrise. His nose is flat and his neck thick enough for a rope.
His hair is black and oily and sits snug on his head, and is his only aspect of consequence. That is nature for you, sir. What it does not bestow on the inside it grants on the outside. This lad must have hair by the tonnage as there ain’t a dollop of sense inside him.
His gait is wobbly, and I can hear him trudging to and fro well enough, and so the cleat must have stubs for toes. His fingers are fat, and they bespeak the boy’s girth. His body would be a barrel, and so he wears a belt that barely cinches his leggings and blouse. He is mostly middlemost. He is short. There ain’t much that a smithy could do with him except flatten him, and, if a smithy took a hammer to him, that smithy might do a lasting service to the populace. Not that I have any interest in service to the populace.
The captain said that I could speak to you on one matter only,” the cleat told me. “Your edibles. And that is so that you do not starve. And that is so that they can hang you.”
“He means to poison me,” I enlightened the lad.
“He would never poison you,” the lad replied. “He would not collect the reward on your head. The King himself promised him. Aye, sir, they will hang you. In Newgate. The captain said that there is a patch reserved for you in the courtyard. A fortnight, the captain said. Then they will hang you. In Newgate. In the courtyard. At sunset.”
“An insult. They hang such as me at noontime. You may ask any pieman.”
“I would see a hanging.”
“You are determined to see a hanging, and so I will furnish you with a hanging,” I told the lout. “I will hang your captain. The yardarm is choice. Then I will hang you. Aye, you will see a hanging then, boy. I will hoist you with the marline,” I told him.
“You are sinister,” he piped.
“You are a cleat, boy,” I told him. “You might as well be made of lumber.” I told the lad his composition for his own good, as I always done right by my lads. “Come in here, boy, and I will show you my musket,” I told him. “I warn’t much older than you when I executed its owner.” When I overtake the ship, now that I think on it, I may drop the lad into the sea so that he can be of benefit to the cuttlefish. He must have some purpose in this world. “I wish to parley with your captain,” I told him. I pounded the deck of my cabin with my boot to lay emphasis on my resolve. “Your captain is afraid to speak with me. This is my ship. Do as I tell you, cleat. I am the captain of this ship. Ain’t I John Silver? Ain’t I?”
“I will ask the captain,” he replied.
I would have this lad follow close behind me, like a tailor sewing up the hinter of my trousers, whilst I told him my history. Aye, but my butcheries would be lost on him.
“Dunce. This is my own ship,” I told him.
“We will be paid dear for you.”
“How much? It is a matter of pride with me, boy. There is dear and there is dear,” I told him. “I will double it. Open this door, boy, and I will double it.” The cleat told me that I could not be trusted. “There ain’t any man that can be trusted. Alive or deceased. Do you think that your captain can be trusted, boy?”
“My name is Jim, sir.”
“Just so your name ain’t Jim Hawkins,” I told him.
“No, sir. It ain’t,” the lad replied as flat as cobblestone.
“Are you of any kin to young Hawkins?”
“Jim Mullet I am. That is my name, sir. I am Mullet.”
“Then you started this life with more than me. I warn’t born with a name, at least not one that I can recollect. Not even a Mullet. Open this door, Mullet.”
“I have my orders, sir. I would see you hang at noontime if it pleases you to hang then.”
“Tell your captain that I ain’t dead yet. Tell him that this is my ship. Tell him that I am the captain. Tell him that he is as doomed as a mug of ale at White’s in Pall Mall. I will swallow him in one guzzle. Tell him that.”
I heard the lad’s dull footsteps as he left. He plodded away and that was the end of our exchange, except for a cough that he no doubt muffled by holding his kerchief to his mouth. Mullet warn’t only a cleat but a gentleman as well. A shame. I would have taught him better.
A lad should not plod through this world. He should tramp through it with heavy boots. Black boots. Shined boots. He should drink rum, and not wine that has been watered. He should drink until he coughs up his liver proper, mayhap somewhere in the Indies, whilst telling the simple folks there tales of Long John Silver. And most particularly, he should tell a tale of treasure, as there is such pleasure in the telling of it, like nipping from a glass of brandy in the eventide, a long eventide made of odds and chances with a red dawn in the reckoning. And, he should be sure not to leave out the blood.
Copyright © 2008 by Edward Chupack. All rights reserved.
Meet the Author
Edward Chupack is an attorney and lives near Chicago. Silver is his first novel.
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