#WaitingOnWednesday No.6 | Book Review | “The Bloody Black Flag” (Book One: of the Spider John Mysteries) by Steve Goble

Posted Wednesday, 29 August, 2018 by jorielov , , , , 0 Comments

a word about ‘waiting on Wednesday’:

#WaitingOnWednesday badge created in Canva by Jorie using Unsplash.com photography (Creative Commons Zero).

I have decided to start participating in this book blogsphere meme with a few small changes of how it’s regularly blogged about by my fellow book bloggers. I will either be introducing my current reads of upcoming releases as I am in the process of reading them and/or I might be releasing a book review about a forthcoming title by which I had been blessed to read ahead of publication. The main purpose behind the meme is to encourage readers and your fellow book bloggers to become aware of new books being released which caught your eye and which held your interest to read. Sometimes if your still in the process of reading the books, its the titles which encouraged your bookish heart. I look forward to spending the next seasons of the year, talking about the books I have on hand to read, the books I’ve been reading and the books I might not even have a copy to read but which are of wicked sweet interest to become a #nextread of mine.

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Book Review badge created by Jorie in Canva using Unsplash.com photography (Creative Commons Zero).

Borrowed Book By: I am a reviewer for Prometheus Books and their imprints starting in [2016] as I contacted them through their Edelweiss catalogues and Twitter. I appreciated the diversity of titles across genre and literary explorations – especially focusing on Historical Fiction, Mystery, Science Fiction and Scientific Topics in Non-Fiction.

Whilst I was browsing through upcoming titles this Autumn [2018] I spied a #piratefiction title I had overlooked last year [2017]!! The sequel is forthcoming this September which is why I quickly checked to see if I could ILL (inter-library loan) this through my local library and happily found I could! I had to remain patient whilst this title was fetched from an out-of-state library and then, had the wicked anticipation of hoping it would be a) as quirky as watching Captain Jack Sparrow in the film series ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ whilst b) owning to the genre it befits and would give me a sweet swashbuckling adventure!

The copy of “The Bloody Black Flag” I borrowed via interlibrary loan through my local library was not a title I was obligated to post a review as I am doing so for my own edification as a reader who loves to share her readerly life. I was not compensated for my thoughts shared herein.

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Why a #PirateFiction title sounded wicked good!

Ever since I was quite young, I’ve been fascinated with stories of Pirates! It started when I saw my *first!* Gabriel Bryne film where he was of course, a ‘pirate’ and his character felt real enough to scare me during the scenes he was featured! Fast forward to when Johnny Depp portrayed ‘Captain Jack Sparrow’ and you could say, it was all down-hill from there! There quirkiness of Cap’t Jack, the heart of the film series for me was inter-connected to Sparrow’s character – I went to the theater *four!* times to see the first one, twice for the second & at least three times for the third whilst only one viewing of the fourth – yet, by the time the fifth came out I was worried the integrity had left – thus, it remains the ONLY one I’ve not seen!!

I am unsure how this particular series slipped past me – as I have found *Seventh Street Books* to be publishing the kind of Historical Mysteries I can find myself curled inside more oft than other publishers – they are publishing my current favourites you see! You’ve most likely have seen my gushing praise over the Hiro Hattori, Anna Blanc, Samuel Craddock and my beloved Marjorie Trumaine series – two of these are dramatic crime series & the other two are what I refer to as ‘Cosy Historical Mysteries’ – where the focus isn’t on the grittiness of where a crime story could alight you but rather, the historical backdrop in which we alight to walk beside the lead characters!

This ‘Waiting on Wednesday’ is about discovering a #newtomeauthor and getting caught up inside the first novel of a new series which whet a thirst of curiosity to be reading ahead of the second installment’s release!

Part of me was slightly concerned this title might become a bit ‘too much’ for me – as when it comes to ‘pirates’ & #piratefiction, I will definitely be the girl whose more into the glossing over the rougher bits than to have any of the stories (by book or film) to be more graphically explicit. Still. There was something uniquely alluring about ‘attempting to read outside my comfort zone’ which is where the #SpiderJohn Mysteries fall under for a girl who loves high seas adventures but sometimes falls a bit short of fully embracing the cutthroat lifestyles therein!

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#WaitingOnWednesday No.6 | Book Review | “The Bloody Black Flag” (Book One: of the Spider John Mysteries) by Steve GobleThe Bloody Black Flag
Subtitle: A Spider John Mystery
by Steve Goble
Source: Borrowed from local library (ILL)

Agatha Christie meets Patrick O’Brian in the first book in a new series of swashbuckling historical mysteries featuring Spider John Rush, a most reluctant pirate.

1722—aboard a pirate ship off the American Colonial Coast.

Spider John Rush never wanted to be a pirate, but it had happened and he’d learned to survive in the world of cut and thrust, fight or die. He and his friend Ezra knew that death could come at any moment, from grapeshot or storm winds or the end of a noose. But when Ezra is murdered in cold blood by a shipmate, Spider vows revenge.

On a ship where every man is a killer many times over, how can Spider find the man who killed his friend? There is no law here, so if justice is to be done, he must do it. He will have to solve the crime and exact revenge himself.

One wrong step will lead to certain death, but Spider is determined to look into the dying eyes of the man who killed his friend, even if it means his own death.

Genres: Action & Adventure Fiction, Amateur Detective, Crime Fiction, Historical Thriller Suspense, Pirate Fiction

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 9781633883598

Published by Seventh Street Books

on 12th September, 2017

Format: Trade Paperback

Pages: 237

Published By: Seventh Street Books (@SeventhStBooks)

Available Formats: Trade Paperback and Ebook

About Steve Goble

Steve Goble is the author of The Bloody Black Flag and The Devil’s Wind in the Spider John mystery series. A former journalist, Goble now works in communications for a cybersecurity firm. Previously, he wrote a weekly craft-beer column called Brewologist, which appeared on USA Today Network–Ohio websites.

The Spider John Mysteries:

Series Overview: Historical mystery series featuring a reluctant pirate who doubles as an amateur sleuth whilst setting sail on the high seas.

The Bloody Jack Flag by Steve GobleThe Devil's Wind by Steve Goble

The Bloody Black Flag | Book One

The Devil’s Wind | Book Two | Synopsis ← forthcoming release 11th September, 2018!

Converse via: #SpiderJohnMysteries OR #SpiderJohn + #HistoricalMystery and #piratefiction

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the things you discover ‘as your reading’:

I was thrilled to bits to find a pirate story from Seventh Street Books, as this is a publisher of Historical Mysteries I’ve come to appreciate for the direction their authors take me in their literary time travelling exploits throughout ‘History’! I never know where I am going to tuck in next nor where my compass shall point me towards a specific period of the historical past – the one truth I have found is the authors of this publisher are seriously keeping me wicked enchanted by the depth, heart and girth of their #HistoricalMysteries! Whether their writing my favourite Cosy Historical Mysteries or their writing something with a bit more teeth which parlay into Thriller or Suspense – these are the stories where I love wicking off the hours during the middle of the night – as the rest of the world sleeps, I’m off on a fantastic adventure, walking toe to foot with the sleuths I have come to love reading about with each new installment of their respective series!

Therefore, as I was on literal pins awaiting this novel to arrive via inter-library loan, I hadn’t even had the chance to research it – all I knew it involved a) cheeky pirate and b) said pirate took it upon himself to ‘sleuth’ out crimes – honestly, what more does a girl who loves #piratefiction need to know? Thereby, imagine my happy surprise finding what Ms Spann (of the Hiro Hattori series) said on behalf of this novel?

In two sentences she surmised everything I had hoped would be inclusive to this novel – as there was a measured moment where I thought – just because you can handle a Gabriel Bryne pirate film and the Johnny Depp versions of ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ what makes you think you can handle Spider John? Sometimes I :push: myself to a daring degree of seeking out the stories which may or may not be on the upper tier of what I can personally handle reading — of course, that keeps my bookish life a bit more interesting round the edges, mind!

Secondly, this novel is ONLY a year old and the copy I received through ILL’ing it out-of-state came to be ‘well loved’ and ‘well read’!! You would have thought it was at least ten years old by how well turned the pages were and that made me ever more eager to dive into it!!!

Third – I have a personal trademark of how I approach reading a new book – part of which includes seeking out all the little ‘extra bits’ – such as notes, acknowledgements, appendixes, maps, you know the bits and bobbles some readers overlook or put-off for later? I seek those out as soon as I open the book at hand! Imagine my surprise finding Mr Goble left me in a smirk on reading his ‘acknowledgements’ page! It was how he spun declaring writing a novel is not the sole work of the writer nor the end result of the said writer’s efforts. You’ll have to await reading it yourself to find out what gave me a bubble of a laugh! #sotrue It’s just … his choice in how he articulated this sentiment hit me with the full-on humour which was intended in such a way all writers will ‘get it’ on sight. Although, I doubt it was meant to be interpreted as ‘humourous’ — maybe it was just the mood I was in when I read it – striking my funny-bone and the honesty it evoked.

I love finding out a writer’s thoughts ahead of reading their stories and for a debut novel and series, it is especially grateful as you get to learn a bit more about how the series was developed.

my review of the bloody black flag:

In typical pirate fashion, we’re with Spider John in a rowboat, heading to the ship he has joined crew and has placed his faith in the life he’s chosen. We’re off the coast from Boston, under moonlight and nay a word nor sound to alert the slumbering residents of the pirates heading away from their shore. As he moves closer to the ship he’s cast his hopes against, he starts to contemplate his life thus far afield, giving us a small glimpse into his life but also, the conditions of how we find him. Without a protective shield against the wind, the water or the elements of weather, we find Spider John ill-prepared for this adventure. His body is scarred in ways you’d presume a pirate would gather about himself given the nature of his lifestyle whilst the other crew mates are as piratical as they could come!

It is Autumn, 1722 – a pirate was best on the sea than he was on land. Spider John is not immune to the crimes he’s committed in the past nor of the current dangers which might place him in jeopardy now in the present. The imbalance of his life is dearly felt by how anxious he is to be at sea and to be back inside a life he understands – where normalcy and order can be gleamed in the rhythm of a pirate’s life (such as it were). The itch he feels to leave land is reminiscent of why Captain Jack Sparrow felt the innate need to reclaim his place on the Black Pearl!

Not without his regrets, Spider John had a son of eight years and the mother of his child (Em) hadn’t been seen in as long as he had laid eyes on the boy himself. Casualties of his lifestyle as he implied the distance between them but with the relief of a pirate who did not dare wish the same path for his son. He, himself was spared once when he first encountered a pirate ship – saved by his skills of trade and only ‘just’. You gather he is a man filled to the gills with regrets but of whom has made peace (as best he can) with the choices he’s had to make and the experiences he’s endured. He still has his heart attached to his family but he hasn’t yet worked out a way to reunite with them whilst he still operates as a pirate – not just for his well-being but for theirs – he isn’t a selfish bloke by any capacity and thinks about how his actions will affect others. This gives you the best impression of where his loyalties lie and the kind of man he has become.

I was taken with the cautiousness of the captain – of how he rooted out a method of certainty to know when his crew was nigh and when they were elsewhere! Makes you wonder why other pirates hadn’t taken such lengths to ensure the safety of their crews and of how they could have avoided the kind of ill-fate so many of their kind regularly befell. Even amongst pirates there is an unspoken code of ethics – of the limitations you have to voice your opinion and of how each pirate has his own tools of the sea, which also separates the successful pirates from those like Spider John who are still struggling to get by on the little of what they have to carry them forward.

As I felt he might, Spider John was keenly observant – he did not merely board a pirate ship like the Plymouth Dream with the naive confidence he would not have to remain vigilant to understand his foes in equality to his friends (though outside of Ezra, I am unsure he makes them easily). The details he drinks in about the weapons his new captain conceals and the method of sight he undertakes to best understand the ship herself points to his unspoken status as a veteran pirate. He knows what he needs to do to stay alive and he doesn’t forget for a moment how fragile his status of being ‘alive’ really is when it comes to his fellow pirates.

As Barlow declared the intentions of his crew to serve under him and to respect his orders as much as the choices he would make on their behalf – there were other things stirring on deck. Such as how Ezra had rooted out a foe and how Spider John was noting how the new doctor on board was a bit more than he was leading on. He talked a good yarn but what was motivating him to nearly go against the captain? Such choices would not have good endings, surely not! As the ship started to get underway, there was a foreboding air shifting between Ezra and Spider; for how would a foe keep a secret Ezra would dearly not want voiced to the rest of the crew?

You would not envy the living quarters of the pirates Ezra and Spider were keeping company – between the ordours most foul and the oddness of their silence (as most would be talkative towards the newer recruits, such is the way) – you gathered this particular ship held many secrets close to her berths or etched into her very wood! There was something ‘off’ though it was not readily seen – something felt different about this particular ship – not limited to the fact the articles of law they had to sign were anything but ordinary!

I honestly saw this coming – where the bloke who had it in for Ezra would pitch a fight onto the deck if only to prove he was right and Ezra was living in the wrong! The showdown was rather classic – someone hates you out of ignorance and rather than walking away and owning to your differences, they have to make you fight to live for tomorrow! The way in which Barlow inserted himself into this angered row was rather fitting – as you can’t exactly have the whole of your crew acting in a miniature insurrection straight under your nose due to the misconceptions of superstitious minds! Mind, a hard lesson ensued as well about how Barlow runs his ship and keeps order amongst his men but for Spider and Ezra? It was a caution against the winds,… of keeping ever watchful for what was still yet to come.

One of the humbling moments prior to this scuffle was when Spider talked to Hob, the young lad who was conscripted on ship in his mid teens. A life he had yet to comprehend in full and a life he had accepted be as it were. For Spider, there was another surge of regret about how he could not impart a choice of difference in Hob’s fate but rather, chose to accept his friendship and kindness than to pause too long on what cannot be changed. Hob for his part, was an obedient worker and knew his place. The doctor on the other hand was not one who understood how fragile his position was brokered against his willingness to take orders – someone who really ought not have tried his hand at pirating if he can’t even accept his life is not completely his own anymore! Oy.

I admit, I hadn’t foreseen what would happen which would turn Spider John into a sleuth amongst pirates! I knew there were dangers lurking in the firelight of the lanterns but your just never quite prepared for a character to take their exit. In this way, your heart goes out to Spider, as he is placed in a difficult situation – how to sort out the truth from the absence of interest of Barlow and the crew themselves? He took the honourable road to find justice but how do you find the truth when everyone seems to act in a way to conceal it?

Ooh! I had forgotten something quite obvious – how the title knits into the story-line and the meaning behind it offering a clue!* Though I do want to see how Spider solves this mystery – something clicked when I read the opening passage of Chapter Five and how insidiously a cover-up can become shortly after the discovery. I thought it was clever how the crime was carried out and how Spider John starts to ‘sleuth’ out for the truths behind it. A pirate ship is a very closed space to carry out an investigation but I felt Goble was doing a good job at keeping us invested in why this crime affected Spider John to the level it did and how hard it is to pull an investigation together when your surrounded by men who would rather never have any truths revealled. Very closed shoppe on the ship but also, the further Spider John investigates, the more compelling the plot becomes as you see how the layers are being brought together to showcase how dearly dangerous life as a pirate truly was back in the 1700s!

There is the usual customs aboard ship – the gambling and bartering, the food which no man would wish to eat on shore and the curiously curious secreted thoughts of a crew who did not trust themselves. This ship had a strict and stern Captain at the helm but the crew were an interesting mix of pirates – not just due to their age variations but their manner of speech, how they approached living on the sea and where their own personal morals were placed. It was not the kind of ship to board lightly – nor in thinking you were above suspicion from the Captain who had an eye in every porthole seeing what the crew was up too. Yet, something else was going on in the background of all of this ‘normalcy’. Even Spider John was having trouble sorting out what made the Plymouth Dream different from others of her kind.

As much as I was enjoying getting to know the trouble heart and soul of Spider John, as he took his faith with him on the seas – musing internally about where he stood in regards to his spirituality and how his faith affected his judgement and processing of his days as a pirate. It was an interesting layer to his personality – however, there was one instance I realised might push this past a series I could handle reading – the first true battle scene of the book. It came along in Chapter 10 and it was honestly far, far more intense visually and graphically than I could have asked of it to be!

I am a sensitive reader to begin with — used to pirate tales being a bit less intense than this one on the violent side of the ledger but evenso, I tried to give it a go, except – despite the fact Goble keeps you on the edge of the conflict through the eyes of Spider John, limiting at first the visual clues of the battle, there reached a moment where all was rather lost. (for me) As the battle increased, so did the visual nature of its depictions and that is where, I had to take my ‘exit’ as it all became a bit too much for me to read.

The hardest part too – was seeing the change of understanding in Spider John’s eyes – of how he had tried to spare young Hob once more from becoming a hardened pirate and how in the height of the battle itself he saw the captain in a whole new light of perspective!! Something told me right then and there, Spider was going to be in for more than one shocking surprise before the conclusion of the story!

Even though I wasn’t able to finish reading this particular novel, I wanted to still share my thoughts up to the point where I realised it was a bit much for me as it has a solid lock on giving readers who love stories about pirates something to consider through Spider John’s eyes. His character is wonderfully layered and his morals are disciplined in such a way to make a refreshing spin on the traditional pirate. Perhaps one of my readers will find this is more to their liking and get caught up in the angst of carving out a life where no future is guaranteed for a pirate on the high seas!

Note: (*) As I had interpreted this to refer directly to the crime in the story, if you look at it from a different angle it is a solid nod of a clue towards the strong language inclusive to the text if you relate to what the word means to Brits. Though in theory, I think this was meant for a context reference to the plot, I thought it was also fitting to have a dual meaning overall.

on the historical mystery styling of steve goble:

Rather immediately – as soon as you dive into The Bloody Black Flag, your immersed into the pirate world Mr Goble has created for us to feel comfortable inside. Even if you have been as highly selective as I have been over the years with which stories of pirates you’ve entertained (in both book and film) you’ll soon find traction in the narrative he’s writ, as everything we love about the lore of these stories is ready and waiting for you to become introduced to Spider John!

The background of the novel is well in-tune with what you would expect out of the Colonial era, including how fiercely pirates were treated if caught and how deadly their capture would become when it came time to dole out their sentences. This was not an era for the faint of heart, which Goble highlights through Spider John’s descriptive musings about the pirates who were not long for the world. The heightened sense of having to bottle down your fears and live in the confidence you had enough in you to survive comes across strongly as well. For this was not an era for self-doubt or second thoughts on how to live once you chose to align yourself with the pirates who could either give you shelter or leave you behind.

I truly was captured by the small niches of how this narrative felt atmospheric – whether it was when Mr Goble was referring to ‘stillness’ in reference to ‘ghosts’ or how he captured your eye for how authentic he made the background action feel textural accurate to his era of the 18th Century. The choices of his descriptive narrative were especially a treasure to find as I appreciated in watching how he built the background of his world herein.

Fly in the ointment:

All was well until I saw a slight peppering of certain words I felt the narrative could stand without as it had a heap of strength inside it to point towards the impulsive actions of a pirate who was bent on either revenge or vengeance or acting against the articles of the trade. For me, less is always more in that particular regard. Especially when it comes to Barlow declaring the importance of having chickens on board for their eggs! Oy. That man can spew anger like none other when he’s deprived of his eggs! As the story moved forward, it became quite apparent the worse offender really was the Captain – as Barlow suffered no fools nor did he entertain ‘small talk’. His mouth was as foul as they come and he honestly couldn’t articulate himself without using a multitude of expletives which for me – started to take me ‘out of the story’ as it truly felt like overkill.

Initially, I had felt the stronger words were more par for course with pirates at the head of the cast than an interference of the context of the novel. It nearly became one of those rare moments where I gave the stronger language a bit of a pass as it fit the construction of the characters being developed and how they would chose to speak if they were here to defend themselves. I would have maintained this perspective too, if the expletives hadn’t felt overdone.

The only other thing I can note, is I was slightly confused when certain passages were repeated or re-mentioned in different parts of the story-line – as to me, it felt like those details were already well-explored and did not need to be repeated again. That’s just a personal observation – as I know sometimes Mysteries have the hardship of knowing what to bring back round to the reader’s purview and what to ‘let go’ in past chapters. For me, this time round… the repetitiveness was occurring too close to the original disclosures.

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Ironically or not, I tried a new drink recently which was for the benefit of pirate lore as it involved cherry rum – mind you, I prefer cherry vodka to rum, but the drink was at best a ‘light’ attempt at a late hour cocktail. Maybe if there had been more rum in it than the other ingredients, I might have had a different takeaway. So far, my impression of ‘rum’ is it is best left for pirates to enjoy as it is just not my cuppa at all. I mention this being ironic as it was sampled the same week I read my first Spider John Mystery!

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It goes without saying — I listened to Pirates of the Caribbean: the complete collection of the motion picture soundtracks courtesy of #Spotify whilst I read this novel!

I was truly captured by the novel – as it played out the way I had hoped it would but with the backdrop of a motion picture soundtrack it became ‘larger than the text’ and fittingly most of the time, the high-pulse and rhythms of the soundtrack fit well in-line with the text of the novel! Overall, it was quite the theatrical experience!

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I look forward to reading your thoughts & commentary!

Especially if you read the book or were thinking you might be inclined to read it. I appreciate hearing different points of view especially amongst readers who gravitate towards the same stories to read. Bookish conversations are always welcome!

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{SOURCES: Cover art of “The Bloody Black Flag” & “The Devil’s Wind” along with the series synopsis, novel synopsis and author biography were provided by the publisher Seventh Street Press (via Prometheus Books) and used with permission. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Tweets were embedded due to codes provided by Twitter. Blog graphics created by Jorie via Canva: #WaitingOnWednesday badge using Unsplash.com (Creative Commons Zero) Photography by Pacto Visual; Book Review Banner using Unsplash.com (Creative Commons Zero) Photography by Frank McKenna and the Comment Box Banner.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2018.

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About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Wednesday, 29 August, 2018 by jorielov in #JorieLovesIndies, 18th Century, Action & Adventure Fiction, Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Blog Tour Host, Book Review (non-blog tour), Bookish Memes, Boston, Colonial America, Content Note, Crime Fiction, Debut Novel, Equality In Literature, Fly in the Ointment, Historical Fiction, Indie Author, Pirates and Swashbucklers, Prometheus Books, Vulgarity in Literature, Waiting on Wednesday

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