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Wake of the Perdido Star: A Novel

Wake of the Perdido Star: A Novel

4.1 7
by Gene Hackman, Daniel Lenihan

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Academy Award–winning actor Gene Hackman spins a cinematic tale of pirates, shipwrecks, and sea adventure. Co-written with Daniel Lenihan, one of America's leading authorities on shipwrecks and diving, Wake of the Perdido Star is a moving story of a young boy's coming of age on the high seas, full of authentic nautical and historical detail. A


Academy Award–winning actor Gene Hackman spins a cinematic tale of pirates, shipwrecks, and sea adventure. Co-written with Daniel Lenihan, one of America's leading authorities on shipwrecks and diving, Wake of the Perdido Star is a moving story of a young boy's coming of age on the high seas, full of authentic nautical and historical detail. A 19th-century sea adventure in the spirit of Patrick O'Brian, Wake of the Perdido Star is a captivating tale about friendship, justice, and survival.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A fascinating read you can’t help but enjoy…a swashbuckling sea story written like a sea story should be written." —Clive Cussler

"Intriguing coming-of-age adventure full of information about early 19th century diving, salvage, and piracy." —Publishers Weekly

"A robust seafaring yarn that is equal parts Jack London and Robert Louis Stevenson—with a touch of Steven Spielberg thrown in…complete with a slam-bang finale." —Winston-Salem Journal

"An American swashbuckler with rousing derring-do" —Kirkus Reviews

"If you’re a devoted reader of the seafaring tales of Patrick O’Brian, or count Treasure Island as one of your favorites, Wake of the Perdido Star is well worth the effort. Chock full of pirates, sea battles, shipwrecks and adventure…Brutally realistic." —Providence Sunday Journal

Clive Cussler
A swashbuckling sea story written like a sea story should be written, with all the legendary action. A fascinating read.”
Stephen Coonts
“A swashbuckling sea story of nautical derring-do. ... Salted with plenty of action.”
Associated Press Staff
“A page-turner, a corker, a cracking good yarn.”
“The strong plot carries such momentum that it is sure to satisfy readers looking for a good yarn.
San Francisco Chronicle
“A swashbuckling sea yarn.”
Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Fast-paced and exciting.”
San Diego Union-Tribune
“An adventure story that earns its place in the esteemed company of such seafaring sagas as Moby Dick and Mutiny on the Bounty.”
Chattanooga Times
“Thrilling. ... A swashbuckling tale, full of action.”
Providence Journal
“A fun, rousing tale. ... Chock full of pirates, sea battles, shipwrecks, and adventure.”
Winston-Salem Journal
“A robust sea-faring yarn. ... A fun-filled adventure...complete with a slam-bang finale.”
Nevada Barr
Lenihan's extensive knowledge and deep love of the sea coupled with Hackman's uncanny ability to breathe life into characters make Wake of the Perdido Star a knockout of a first novel.

— author of Blind Descent

Tom Grace
In Wake of the Perdido Star, Jack O'Reilly leads a memorable crew of characters on an astonishing globe0-ccrucling adventure. Hackman and Lenihan have crafted an epic tale of honor and betrayal, of revenge and hope, and ultimately justice and redemption.

— author of Spyder Web

James Delgado
A rousing good tale...the action explodes off the pages...It's rare to find good action backed by solid research and knowledge of the sea.
President, Council of American Maritime Museums
Arthur J. Bachrach
A stirring yarn, filled with heroes and villains who are larger than life, with a knowledge of seamanship and the diving technology and physiology of the day that equals the great sea writers who have set the standard.
Historical diving expert; contributor to The British Museum Encyclopaedia of Underwater and Maritime Archaeology
Entertainment Weekly
This is scathing, fascinating stuff, and with Minear's commentary, it provides a provocative history of wartime politics.
Associated Press
It's what booksellers like to call a page-turner, a corker, a cracking good yawn.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Actor Hackman and undersea archeologist Lenihan team up for this joint debut, a conventional but intriguing coming-of-age adventure full of information about early-19th-century diving, salvage and piracy. Young Jack O'Reilly begins the novel as a passenger on the Perdido Star, leaving bigoted New England with his Catholic parents to seek a new life in Cuba, his mother's homeland. Soon after their arrival, the senior O'Reillys are killed at the behest of a wealthy Cuban landowner. Escaping his own death by returning to the Star, O'Reilly takes to the sea as a lowly deckhand, becoming a valued member of the colorful crew. "An angry young man who despises injustice," he is bitter, short-tempered and determined to avenge his parents. On its way from the Caribbean to the South Pacific, the Star encounters a predictable host of nautical obstacles: violent storms, pirates and shipwreck--and also friendly natives who help patch the ship together. Jack matures over the course of the journey, mainly through the tough love of the ship's captain, Quince, and the bravery of another young deckhand, aristocratic Paul Le Maire. Though he becomes known as "Black Jack" O'Reilly, the reputed "scourge of the western Pacific," by the end he's been transformed from a hot-headed teen to a respected sailor, willing to use his brain before resorting to his fists. Despite a formulaic plot and predictable characters, the authors do a fine job of blending historical and technical details into their narrative. Of particular interest are sections--including a well-constructed, exciting ending--in which the crew of the Star must learn how to accomplish tasks modern sailors take for granted: how to stay under water for more than a few minutes without drowning and how to refloat a sunken ship. Major ad/promo; Literary Guild featured alternate. (Nov.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
In 1805, Jack O'Reilly and his parents leave New England, heading for Cuba and his mother's "estate." On arrival they quickly discover she has been cheated. Then, as Jack watches, his parents are brutally murdered. Beaten and thoroughly disheartened, he returns to the ship (Perdido Star) that he arrived on. Now his adventures begin. The Perdido Star manages to get around Cape Horn only to be broken apart in a storm. Jack faces many trials. For a young man of 17, he ages fast, learns much, and realizes that he has leadership abilities as well. Despite a driving need to avenge his parents' death, Jack finds eventual fulfillment. This is a fun story with some good characters. KLIATT Codes: SA—Recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 1999, Penguin Putnam/Signet, 412p, 18cm, $6.99. Ages 16 to adult. Reviewer: Robin S. Holab-Abelman; Libn., US Court, Mobile, AL, November 2000 (Vol. 34 No. 6)
Library Journal
Actor Hackman will be doing a lot of promotion this month for the release of this pirate tale set in the 1800s. The narrator is actor James Daniels. Nova is also releasing an abridged version. Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
YA-Forced from their home in New England in the early 1800s, Jack O'Reilly, 17, and his parents board the Perdido Star to Cuba, where Jack's mother plans to claim the land left to her by her family. De Silva, the guardian left in trust of the land, makes sure that she and her husband are murdered. Jack barely escapes and seeks refuge aboard ship with his new friends, Paul Le Maire and the first mate, Quince. Although Jack mourns his parents, adventures on the ship quickly turn his focus to sea storms, shipwrecks, diving for salvage, and the dark intrigues of opium smuggling. Jack and his friends survive through their physical strength, courage, and wits, ultimately deciding to unite as a brotherhood of pirates pledged to help Jack avenge his parents' deaths. With almost nonstop action, the characters struggle to survive or deal with dastardly villains. Secondary characters take on distinct personalities and quirky behaviors befitting the crew of a sailing ship of 1805. Any empathy or emotional bonding that might have occurred between the major characters and readers just doesn't happen. This doesn't affect the appeal of the story, for the action sweeps readers up like a strong tide. The hot sun of the South Pacific comes across as vividly as the moist, humid, bug-infested jungle areas. This sense of place and time helps set the stage for the impending action, making it seem all the more real. For teens who enjoy the sea, adventure, or survival stories, this novel will provide all of these and more.-Pam Johnson, Fairfax County Public Library, VA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Kirkus Reviews
Actor Hackman collaborates with Lenihan, a scuba-diving and sunken-ship aficionado, on an American swashbuckler aspiring to be the next Aubrey-Maturin. It takes about a hundred pages for 17-year-old Jack O'Reilly to witness his trusting Irish father and worldly-wise Cuban mother cheated out of their land and then murdered by a dastardly Spaniard, Count de Silva. Left for dead by the Count's minions, Jack himself staggers back to the Perdido Star, the US merchant ship that brought his family to Cuba, and is welcomed aboard by the ship's first mate, a kindly seasoned salt named Quince. From there, the voyage becomes a series of action pieces interwoven with narratives of seafaring lore as Jack goes halfway around the world, enduring darkly violent storms and vivid battles on land and sea as he grows to manhood, earns the respect of the crew, and returns to Havana as the notorious Pacific pirate "Black Jack" O'Reilly set upon avenging his parents. Set in 1805, when America was doing a bad job of staying neutral during the Napoleonic Wars, what saves this seafarer from being yet another serving of half-baked Sabatini is the peculiar expertise the authors add about Kentucky rifles and makeshift diving when Jack, naive genius that he is, invents a diving bell to rescue his father's gun-making equipment while the crew is marooned on an atoll somewhere west of Tahiti. For full effect, add a few postmodern Hollywood casting decisions that include an Queeg-like captain, a pompous Dutch slaver, a Chinese martial arts expert masquerading as a cook, a sentimental balladeer, and an annoying French American schoolboy, Paul Le Maire, who peckishly corrects villains when they misquote Shakespeare andVoltaire. Standard swashbuckler that's slow at the start but then delivers satisfying action and rousing derring-do, even if the characterizations are as thin as Errol Flynn's tights. (Literary Guild featured alternate; $100,000 ad/promo)

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
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Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.30(d)

Read an Excerpt

From Chapter 9

[At this point in the book, Jack and his fellow shipmates of the Perdido Star find themselves between the islands of O'taheiti and Belaur.]

Jack tested his strength by holding fast with his left hand and feeding out the line with his right. It was going to work, if he could just keep Paul away from the mast. He waited till the ship shuddered and righted itself in a trough and then quickly played out the line, hoping to drop Paul to the waiting hands below. He inched his way up closer to the spar and let the line out. Still fifteen feet short, Paul's body swung dangerously close to the mast. Jack grasped the spar with the rope around it and let go more slack. Paul dropped again, but was still several feet from the sailor's grasp on deck. The ship heeled suddenly and the limp body swung aft.

"Catch him!" Jack screamed. Quince, on the bridge deck above the sailors, grabbed Paul with one arm and lowered him to the deck. Relief washed over Jack as he could see Paul was safely down. As the pain from the ripped skin on his hands began heating its way into his consciousness, he took a moment to rekindle his strength.

"Take a wrap under your arms and get down here!" bellowed Quince. But Jack had already begun his rappel down. Again his line was too short, but Jack dropped into the arms of a half dozen waiting sailors. A few men whispered "well done" before hurrying off to deal with the carnage about them.

Jack looked to the bridge deck where Quince and Hansumbob had propped Paul up against the compass binnacle. Paul met Jack with a blank-eyed look.

An eerie quiet settled over the ship. Jack noticed the water had become calm; several sailors stopped their work and gazed seaward. Black clouds billowed about them, but just scant miles away the sea still boiled. Jack could see the stars straight above him, as if he were peering up from the bottom of a deep bowl. They were caught in what appeared to be a lake, surrounded by towering mountains of water. Jack fell to his knees, more tired than he had ever been in his life.

There was a stirring on the bridge deck. Jack saw a figure all in white -- it appeared to be a ghost climbing up the aft companionway. After a moment, Jack realized he was looking at the captain, naked, his pale skin silhouetted against the dark skies behind him. His long hair was disheveled and he had a large, blood-caked welt on his left temple, like a piece of old jewelry. Dried vomit adorned his chest and in his left hand he held a jug of grog. His right hand held a saber, still sheathed. He seemed unaware of the bodies and debris about him.

"Mr. Quince, why are we running with short sails? Damn it, man, we're almost becalmed. Lay on the canvas, mister."

Several of the crew dropped their heads. Jack realized for the first time how much his fellow sailors had come to believe in the hierarchy of the ship at sea. The raging of the storm and the death of their mates had shaken them, but the recognition that they were truly without a captain was crushing.

"Smithers, see that the captain is safely back in his cabin. Lash him securely in his bunk," Quince said. He stepped toward the old man and took the saber from his hand. The captain sputtered a protest.

A rogue wave from the stern lifted the entire ship and spun her. The water carried Jack halfway across the quarterdeck. Coughing seawater over the aft rail, his hands gripped the rough carving he had seen the captain working on while docked in Massachusetts and Cuba. Salem seemed to him a lifetime ago -- when he was just a boy. He ran his fingers over the intricate letters: "Captain Hans Peter Deploy. 1730 - 1806." The captain knew this was his last trip.

No one manned the wheel. It spun lazily, as if detached. Then Jack realized that, in fact, it was. The pintles were sprung from the gudgeons and the rudder had come unshipped. My God, thought Jack. We're sitting in this pond like a toy boat.

Quince bellied up to the starboard rail and stared into the blackness. In a voice full of dread, knowing he was the only one capable of command, he addressed the crew. "Quickly do what you can for the ship, lads. Then lash yourself to the pulpit around the main and foremast and pray...for we are surely in the eye of the typhoon."

What People are Saying About This

Stephen Coonts
“A swashbuckling sea story of nautical derring-do. ... Salted with plenty of action.”
Clive Cussler
A swashbuckling sea story written like a sea story should be written, with all the legendary action. A fascinating read.”

Meet the Author

Gene Hackman has always had a yearning to write. Growing up in Danville, Illinois, he spent time at his grandfather’s small newspaper office and accompanied his uncle, a reporter, on assignments. After service in the Marines, Gene began his acting career in the theater, then went on to star in such movies as Bonnie and Clyde, The French Connection, The Conversation, and Unforgiven. He is the winner of two Academy Awards®.

DANIEL LENIHAN, winner of the George Melendez Wright Award for Excellence in Submerged Resources Research, has been diving as a park ranger and archeologist for the National Park Service since 1972, and founded the Submerged Cultural Resources Unit (SCRU) in 1976 before being appointed the first chief in 1980.

Over the last 25 years, Lenihan and the SCRU team have been the subject of national media stories and many TV documentaries on CBS, ABC, BBC, CNN, PBS, The Discovery and History Channels, and National Geographic. He has written frequently for Natural History and American History, and co-authored, with Gene Hackman, the well-received sea adventure novel Wake of the Perdido Star. A native New Yorker and former schoolteacher, he lives with his family in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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Wake of the Perdido Star 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Gene your writing style has me in the company of the ships crew.I guess it must be the salt pumping inside your veins.A great actor ,a great Marine.I met you while you were filming The Royal Tannenbaums,almost fell in your trailer!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Gene, Dan...perhaps you could develop the love relationship in the next novel? I'm no romance lover but am left wondering where Jack would have ended up if he'd missed the boat! Good story...tell us more! Jc
Guest More than 1 year ago
I think this would be a good book to read. It shows in any conditions, the human will will prevail.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've read literally hundreds of books and I truly enjoyed this story. I've enjoyed Gene's acting for years and was quite impressed with his talent as an author too. I hope the saga continues. Well done Gene and Dan. Please, give us more tales of young Jack and his shipmates. I for one will be waiting.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Good storyline, but not a well-written novel. Skin-deep characterization. Example: 'It was his father. Dead.' Also the following paragraphs dealing with the death. Another example: the death of his mother. 'He saw in her eyes what could only be triumph. Triumph and love.' Come on, Gene. You're speaking of loved parents dying in agony, not what you had for breakfast. Gene, all of your acting roles were geat. Be satisfied with that. I note that the novel was not published by a big name firm. That should give a buyer pause.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thoroughly enjoyed this rolling sea tale, good characters, excellent story. Hard to put this down. The shipboard scenes and early diving scenes were particularly good and rich in details. Loved the battles. Hope these two do it again.