Monday, December 11, 2023

Pirate's Lair

I'm always searching for the next great sea-adventure. In my quest for a good nautical romp, I started thumbing through digital copies of Blue Book from the early 20th century. I found a copy of the October, 1933 issue, featuring an incredible cover painting by Joseph Chenoweth, and decided to try a story called “Pirate's Lair”. It was written by Arthur D. Howden Smith, a prolific pulp writer for the magazine Adventure, who created a number of popular serials featuring characters like Captain McConaughy, Swain the Viking, and Grey Maiden

“Pirates Lair” introduces Captain Cahoon, a courageous New England ship-captain of the Cotuit Lass schooner. The ship is off the coast of Cuba when it is assaulted and boarded by a cutthroat crew of pirates captained by Gomez, a vicious scoundrel that the crew members call “One-Eyed”. After lining up Cahoon's crew, Gomez's men tie all 18 sailors and two boys with their hands behind their back. Cahoon knows what is to come, the dreaded “over the side” dumping as each man is thrown from the ship to drown in the ocean depths or to be mauled by hungry sharks. This part of Smith's story has such a profound impact on Cahoon and the readers – he's the last man that Gomez pushes off. As each man hits the water, splashing and gasping for air, Cahoon can hear the men's voices in his head and the mothers of the boys that asked that Cahoon look after their babies on the voyage.

The narrative moves into a more gritty, action-oriented second act as Cahoon, the last man over the side, dives deep into the water and brutalizes his lungs in a desperate swim to the pirates ship. By using a piece of their ship underwater, Cahoon is able to free his bonds. Through the evening, he swims to the shoreline to discover the pirates lair, a small village that the bastards use to drink, fight, and rape various women they have enslaved. Like a mean and gritty Mack Bolan revenge yarn, Smith's narrative explodes into a frenzy as Cahoon goes after the men who killed his crew and burned his ship. Only Cahoon isn't empty-handed. Instead, his weapon of choice is an axe.

Man, “Pirates Lair” was absolutely awesome. Smith can write his ass off and was able to inject so much emotion and doom into the opening pages that it sparked off a white-hot firestorm as the book kicked into the revenge tale. I truly felt for Cahoon's character and how much the loss of his men and ship decimated his soul. I also loved how Smith finished the story with an introspective thought as Cahoon questions the night's events. 

You can read this awesome story for free on HERE or stream it below:

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