The Good Pirates of the Forgotten Bayous: Fighting to Save a Way of Life in the Wake of Hurricane Katrina [NOOK Book]

Overview

"In this fast-moving saga, Louisiana native Ken Wells provides a close-up look at the harrowing experiences in the backwaters of New Orleans during and after Katrina. Focusing on the plight of the intrepid Robin family, whose members trace their local roots to before the American Revolution, Wells recounts the landfall of the storm and the tumultuous seventy-two hours afterward, when the Robins' beloved bayou country lay catastrophically flooded and all but forgotten by outside authorities as the world focused its attention on New Orleans. Wells
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The Good Pirates of the Forgotten Bayous: Fighting to Save a Way of Life in the Wake of Hurricane Katrina

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Overview

"In this fast-moving saga, Louisiana native Ken Wells provides a close-up look at the harrowing experiences in the backwaters of New Orleans during and after Katrina. Focusing on the plight of the intrepid Robin family, whose members trace their local roots to before the American Revolution, Wells recounts the landfall of the storm and the tumultuous seventy-two hours afterward, when the Robins' beloved bayou country lay catastrophically flooded and all but forgotten by outside authorities as the world focused its attention on New Orleans. Wells then follows his characters for more than two years as they strive, amid mind-boggling wreckage and governmental fecklessness, to rebuild their shattered lives." Ultimately, this is a story about the deep longing for home and a proud bayou people's love of the fertile but imperiled low country that has nourished them - about a place and culture whose survival is far from guaranteed.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review.

Author and journalist Wells, a native of Louisiana bayou country, was a Wall Street Journal reporter when Katrina struck in 2005. Arguably more horrific than the scene in New Orleans were the bayou parishes, particularly St. Bernard and Plaquemines, where the eye of Katrina came on land. After hitching a National Guard helicopter to St. Bernard Parish, Wells meets Ricky Robin, whose ancestors had been hunting, fishing, and pirating the bayous for over 250 years. Robin became Wells's guide, relating harrowing stories of the storm, as even the parish president and his staff were trapped, their emergency vehicles flooded or washed away entirely; the first outside help to reach them was not FEMA, but a squad of Canadian Mounted Police. Wells also examines the disaster's "unnatural causes," like the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet, a shipping canal dredged from Lake Pontchartrain to the Gulf of Mexico, which provided an inland channel for the Category 5 storm surge driven by Katrina. Afterwards, the failed levee system prevented filthy, polluted water from draining back to the ocean, turning much of the bayou into a cesspool. Vivid prose, first-hand testimony and solid, heartbreaking reportage make this disaster debrief hard to put down, and worth the attention of every U.S. citizen.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Kirkus Reviews
Vivid re-creation of Hurricane Katrina's devastating impact on an unusual fishing community outside New Orleans. A Louisiana native, Conde Nast Portfolio senior editor Wells (Crawfish Mountain, 2007, etc.) spent several months interviewing shrimp- and oyster-boat captains and other hurricane survivors in St. Bernard Parish (pop. 67,000), a former pirate haven whose gumbo of cultures has given rise to a distinctive way of life. Unlike their sophisticated big-city neighbors, these Louisiana bayou residents have for generations led lives centered on "sin, cooking, drinking, eating, fighting, fishing, sex, and love," he writes; they build boats in the backyards of their shotgun shacks and mobile homes, and hang out in saloons like the Bucket of Blood. For many, riding out hurricanes was a family tradition, but nothing prepared them for Katrina, which in 2005 leveled most of the parish and claimed 132 lives, 35 of them at a nursing home that failed to evacuate. Fifty-one-year-old shrimper Ricky Robin, grand-nephew of a swashbuckling New Orleans swordsman, and others in the Robin family stand center stage in this well-written survival saga. Wells begins with the struggle to secure fishing trawlers in the Violet Canal during the storm's early surges; recounts the perilous experiences of people stranded in trees, lofts and cars amid rising waters; and describes many heroic rescues made by boat captains in the four days before military help arrived. He nicely captures the flavor and color of the moment, from Ricky playing "When the Saints Go Marching In" on his trumpet on the deck of his vessel to calm 45 rescued people, to two weary, storm-tossed survivors, meeting for the first time afterseparate exhausting ordeals, laughingly swapping survival stories. The author unabashedly celebrates the courage and pride of people in this "forgotten backwater" when faced with the hurricane's onslaught. By 2007, the parish had regained about half of its pre-Katrina population, with most residents living in trailers and modular housing. A heartfelt tribute to badly battered folks whose "gritty blue-collar pluck," declares Wells, may yet save their bayou way of life.
Don Ranly

“Ken Wells is first and foremost a great reporter. Nothing escapes him, and yet every detail he includes counts. This book is literary journalism at its best.”—Don Ranly, University of Missouri School of Journalism

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300152951
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 1,263,129
  • File size: 377 KB

Meet the Author

Ken Wells is a senior editor and writer for Condé Nast Portfolio magazine, as well as the author of Crawfish Mountain and the Catahoula Bayou trilogy. During his career as a journalist he has been a Pulitzer Prize finalist and a writer and features editor for the front page of the Wall Street Journal. He lives in the suburbs of New York City.

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Table of Contents

Map of the St. Bernard Parish region

Prologue 1

The Storm

A Monster Cometh 11

1 Ricky at the Helm 13

2 Ronald on the Invincible Vance 19

3 Susan Robin Goes for a Drive 26

4 Stormy Traditions 33

5 Cajun-Spanish Roots and Pirate Connections 37

6 Charlo's Dawn 49

7 Matine's Dilemma 56

8 Ricky's Ark 69

9 Charlo Adrift 83

10 The Human Tide 87

11 Charlo in Limbo 97

12 Herbie and Mike's Strange Adventure 101

13 The Long March 108

14 Cruel Tuesday 113

15 A Day of Reckoning 126

Aftermath

16 Nine Days Beyond the Flood 135

17 The Imperfect Storm: Anatomy of a Not Altogether Natural Disaster 146

18 Pioneers in the Rubble 162

19 Dancing with Boats 179

20 A Short Journey of Hope 193

21 Hard Realities of the "Federal Storm" 199

22 The Toll upon the Land: The MR-GO Must Go 208

Epilogue: South Toward Home 217

Notes on Sources 235

Acknowledgments 243

About the Author 245

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 12, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Ordinary people behaving extra-ordinarily

    We live 6 miles Southwest of the bayou in Wells's Good Pirates book and watched from far-away safety as Katrina bore down our home. When we were allowed back to our home, the devastation was unbelievable: destruction everywhere but from 15 miles south of our home all the way south to the Gulf 60 miles of COMPLETE destruction. Not a single school, home, store or workshop was inhabitable. From our area, Katrina went Northeast to destroy the bayou of Wells's people
    The result was tragic, numbing. On one destroyed homesite we saw a Mom and Dad and two young children form a line holding hands as they walked slowly back and forth on their lot trying to recover anything at all of what was once theirs. Homes absolutely gone or smashed or moved hundreds of yards. Cars, trucks, boats, everything piled up and smashed or up in trees.
    Volumes have been written about the technical aspects of the storm and the tipping over at 11 feet of the Corps of Engineers 14 foot levees but this book by Ken Wells is by far best about the effect of Katrina on real people. Wells's people aren't the poor people of New Orleans, who just got blown around a bit and flooded, but poor peole of the eastern bayous who got smashed first, then flooded, then smashed again as the eye of the storm passed.
    The only other Hurricane book with a similar ring of reality is Logan's Storm, also by Ken Wells. The people in Logan's Storm are imperfect, heroic and fictitious; in Good Pirates, imperfect, heroic and real.

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  • Posted October 25, 2008

    An Adventure story that happens to be true.

    Brave people doing brave things. Ken Wells has written a page turner of actual accounts of those who survived Hurricane Katrina in St. Bernard Parrish, LA. I could not put it down.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 8, 2008

    A true account of the Horrors

    This book was purchased for an english research paper, but I enjoyed if more than expected. It gives you a look at the bigger impact of Katrina and Rita. I really appreciated the followup on the persons mentioned in the book. The Author gives you another side to the damage brought on by the deadly hurricanes!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 15, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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