Friday, May 4, 2012

Forgotten Books: The Sea-Hawk by Rafael Sabatini

While writing "The Judgment of Jean Lafitte" (to be published any moment now in Action: Pulse Pounding Tales Vol. 1!), I read all three Captain Blood books, and found myself still on a Sabatini high. So I hopped right into The Sea-Hawk, expecting a very Blood-like experience. And got a surprise.

In Captain Blood, the rocky romance of Peter Blood and Arabella Bishop is a major part of the plot. Naturally, the two have disagreements and misunderstandings and a long period of separation before they're finally ready to get hitched. But both behave like more or less intelligent adults, at least by 1921 standards, and the romance does not detract from the adventure story. Then, in the two Blood short collections that followed, there was no romance at all - at least for Blood.

In The Sea-Hawk, though, romance takes center stage, and is so melodramatic it almost sinks the novel. Though our hero, the Sea-Hawk himself, keeps a relatively level head, the other major players are so childish and shallow I wanted to yank them out of the book and slap them. I say the romance almost sinks the novel, because I did find enough adventure to stay entertained between the god-I-want-to-slap-somebody scenes.

The basic plot is this: Boy loves Girl, promises not to kill Girl's brother. But Boy's brother kills Girl's brother, Boy covers it up and Girl thinks Boy did it. Girl dumps Boy, leaving Boy in the dumps. Boy's brother sells Boy into slavery. Boy is rescued by Barbary Pirates, becomes Barbary Pirate himself. Meanwhile Boy's brother steals Boy's estate and Boy's ex-Girl. Boy wants revenge, kidnaps brother and Girl. Much sappiness ensues. Boy and Girl reunited.

BUT, sappiness aside. Sabatini is a great storyteller. You should read it anyway. And why not? It's a free download from this, that and the other place.

Here's a mystery: The novel was published in 1915, but not serialized in Adventure until 1922. What's up with that?

Coming soon: A look at the movie version.

Forgotten Books is a swashbuckling presentation of pattinase.


Walker Martin said...

In answer to the question why was a hardcover book published in 1915 not published in ADVENTURE MAGAZINE until 1922, the editor, Arthur Sullivant Hoffman, explained it as follows.

In the Campfire letter section he told the readers that the novel had a small print run in England and was so impressive that he felt it deserved to see publication in the USA as a serial in the magazine. So he broke one of his rules about no reprints.

I remember reading the serial in ADVENTURE many years ago and thinking that it was a rousing adventure story. I then went out and bought the Sabatini limited edition complete works. One of these days I hope to reread THE SEA HAWK. I know I don't remember having any problems with the plot, characters, etc.

George said...

Love Rafael Sabatini! The guy knew how to write Adventure!

Anonymous said...

I read this when I was in high school, or maybe 7th or 8th grade, and only remember that it was "a pirate book". I guess the romance angle went right on by me. It was also a novel of betrayal, like Count of Monte Cristo.

Evan Lewis said...

Thanks for solving that mystery, Walker!

Sergio (Tipping My Fedora) said...

Intriguing post Evan. I've only ever seen the Michael Curtiz movie starring Errol Flynn, which I dare say took great liberties with the Sabatini original. Really looking forward to reading what you have to say about the film version in comparison.