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

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

by Ken Wells
     
 

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The true story of a resilient circle of shrimp boat captains who faced and withstood the wreckage of Katrina but now find their courage tested by a greater threat: the disappearance of their livelihood and their centuries-old bayou culture.

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Overview

The true story of a resilient circle of shrimp boat captains who faced and withstood the wreckage of Katrina but now find their courage tested by a greater threat: the disappearance of their livelihood and their centuries-old bayou culture.

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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

The Advocate (Baton Rouge) - Greg Langley

"Gripping. . . . This is not another sad Katrina book. It's a book that dispassionately looks at what happened and why and relies on facts for impact. Everyone should read it."—Greg Langley, The Advocate (Baton Rouge)
Atlanta Journal-Constitution - Steve Weinberg

"[This] off-the-beaten path Katrina story is one of the best. . . . In the glut of works about the devastation Katrina caused . . . Wells has found a fresh, compelling story. As a bonus, he is a superb reporter and accomplished stylist. Of the dozen Katrina books I have read so far, I am guessing The Good Pirates will stay with me the most vividly. . . . The individual survival stories make for adventure storytelling of the first order."—Steve Weinberg, Atlanta Journal-Constitution
WHY - Harry Chapin Media Award

Winner of the 2008 Harry Chapin Media Award in the Books category, presented by WHY (World Hunger Year).

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780300152951
Publisher:
Yale University Press
Publication date:
02/29/2000
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Sales rank:
1,076,110
File size:
386 KB

Meet the Author


Called “the Cajun Carl Hiaasen” by Tom Wolfe, Ken Wells is an editor-at-large for Bloomberg News in New York and a contributor to Bloomberg Businessweek.
 

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