Friday, April 07, 2017

A Captain's Duty

Pirates are a fascinating subject and the subject of many a young boy's imagination.  I was fortunate enough to grow up when reading was still somewhat popular and encouraged by parents, so I read classics like Treasure Island more than once as a kid.  There was, of course, a certain romanticism about such stories that may not have been real, but it made for great reading and even better pretend play later with plastic swords, skull-and-cross-bones flags and costumes.

Book cover.In the early 2000s, as people in poor countries got desparate and the security situation deteriorated in many parts of the world, piracy made a comeback.  There was nothing romantic about it, and it didn't involve the big ships with masts and sails, but usually small boats and a couple Russian-made machine guns instead of swords.  A Captain's Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs, and Dangerous Days at Sea (ISBN: 978-1-4013-1044-8) by Richard Phillips with Stephan Talty tells one such story with a happy ending for the good guys.  Phillips and his crew made international news when Somali pirates boarded the ship he was captain of and took him hostage.  He preserved the lives of his crew and saved his ship, but felt it was likely that he would end up sacrificing his life for that.  After a few harrowing days at sea with the pirates in one of the ship's lifeboats, U.S. Navy SEALs rescued Phillips and killed the pirates in a stroke of incredible marksmanship.  The book also includes a little bit of the story of what Phillips's wife and family were going through during the ordeal.

The book was an easy read, in part because it was interesting.  I read through it quickly, but with great interest even though I knew what was going to happen, both because I read the headlines just like everyone else when this happened, but because I'd seen the movie about the events, too.  Still, it was good to get the story from the captain himself, as it's always a little different than second-hand through the media or a filmmaker.  I wasn't as interested in the homefront aspect of the story, but it is a real dimension of the story that cannot be dismissed.  There were a couple holes in the story, such as whatever happened to the lead pirate and how he came to have Navy gear, which is something that is alluded to over and over, but never fully explained.  I could've handled less R-rated language, too, but it seems that these days, people don't know how to express emotion any other way, which is sad.  These shortcomings notwithstanding, I enjoyed the story.

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This work, including all text, photographs, and other original work, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives 3.0 License and is copyrighted © MMXIV John Pruess.

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