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Pirate Latitudes  
Pirate Latitudes.jpg
First edition cover
Author Michael Crichton
Country United States
Language English
Genre(s) Historical fiction
Publisher HarperCollins
Publication date November 24, 2009
Pages 320
ISBN 978-0061929373
OCLC Number 318430694
Preceded by Next
Followed by Untitled

Pirate Latitudes is an action adventure novel written by Michael Crichton. The book was published posthumously by HarperCollins on November 24, 2009, more than a year after his death.[1] It is an adventure story concerning piracy in Jamaica in the 17th century. It is currently considered a spiritual successor to Crichton's other notable historical novel, The Great Train Robbery.[citation needed]

The novel stars a privateer named Hunter who, together with the governor of Jamaica, plots to raid a Spanish galleon for its treasure. Johnathan Burnham says that it is "thoroughly researched...packed through with great detail about navigation and how pirates operated, and links between the New World and the Caribbean and Spain.”[1]


History of the book

The novel was discovered on one of Crichton's computers by his assistant after the author's death, along with another unfinished novel slated to be published in the fall of 2009.[1]

According to Jonathan Burnham, a publisher of an imprint of HarperCollins, the book was written concurrently with Crichton's most recent novel, Next.


In 1665, Captain Charles Hunter is hired by the Governor of Jamaica, Sir James Almont, to lead an expedition to the island fortress of Matanceros. It is there that a galleon, supposedly containing treasures untold, is awaiting protection across the Atlantic for safe travel back to Spain. Almont is excited about the possibility of reward in this venture, though his secretary Mr. Robert Hacklett is less than enthusiastic, calling Hunter a pirate.

Hunter gathers his crew in Port Royal and sets sail to capture the ship in its own harbor. Mere days into the journey, their ship, the Cassandra is captured by a Spanish Warship commanded by none other than Cazalla, the infamous Spaniard who commands Matanceros. After a daring escape from their cell, Hunter and his crew board their ship and continue on their way before Cazalla can retaliate.

Upon their arrival at Matanceros, Hunter, Black Eye, Lazue, Sanson and the Moor all make their way behind the fortress. Traversing up skyward cliffs, rough jungle foliage and deadly animals, the crew comes to see that Cazalla has docked under the suspicion that Hunter is still on his way to the island. The privateers manage to make their way around the village and soldiers occupying it long enough to set their traps. After a short duel between Hunter and Cazalla, the traps are sprung, and a slice to the throat kills Cazalla. The Cassandra appears and the crew takes their captain, his mates and the galleon out to sea.

After a few days, the treasure inside the galleon, El Trinidad, is accounted and split between the two ships. Soon afterward, Hunter discovers he is being pursued by the warship commanded by Cazalla's second-in-command. He is chased to Monkey Bay, where he narrowly evades capture with the aide of Lazue's eyesight. The warship is unable to follow due to the suns' glare on the ocean. Here Hunter waits until a few days later, the crew notices the signs of a terrible storm: a hurricane. Using the genius of Don Diego, their cannons are armed and aimed for a mere two defensive shots. Upon their departure, however, the warship has disappeared.

Celebrating their surprise escape, a few miles out to sea, the warship is seen coming on their stern quickly. With Hunter aboard El Trinidad, the ship took massive damage from cannon fire until the two were in perfect alignment. The aimed cannons fired upon the warship, merely damaging with the first shot and seeming to miss entirely on the second. After a moment of inactivity, Hunter watches as the attacking ship explodes with geysers of water shooting into the air. Moments later, there is little evidence of the warship.

Victory evades the two ships, however, as it begins to rain and storm. The El Trinidad and the Cassandra, helmed by Sanson, are separated by fierce winds and strong currents. After the storm abates, Hunter finds the El Trinidad beached on a strange island. A few hours later, they see the island is inhabited by cannibalistic natives, who nearly capture the niece of Governor Almont. On their way back to Port Royal, the crew suffers yet another misfortune when their ship is attacked by the Kraken. Killing many and damaging the ship, Hunter manages to mortally injure the beast. Their path is finally clear to Port Royal.

Upon their arrival, a courier gives message that Almont is gravely sick and Hacklett has taken charge as Governor. Hunter is arrested and put to trial, with Sanson betraying his captain and lying for the court. Hunter is sentenced to be hanged and placed in prison. With the aide of the sickly James Almont, Hunter is sprung from prison and kills the men who sentenced him, save for the judge himself who gives Hunter a pardon. Hacklett is shot in the groin, and Sanson sends word that he alone knows where the other half of the treasure is. Hunter turns the man's own crossbow against him and kills Sanson and throws his body overboard letting the sharks eat his body, yet is never able to find Sanson's treasure.


  • Captain Charles Hunter — A privateer who leads the Cassandra on their journey for treasure. Born in 1627, Hunter is originally from the Massachusetts Bay Colony with a Harvard education. A cunning and resourceful man, he is in many ways reminiscent of the criminal mastermind Edwards Pierce from The Great Train Robbery. Originally raised as a Puritan, he abandoned his home and religion at an early age to become one of the most successful and respected privateers in Port Royal. Although generally a reasonable man of his word, Hunter does not hesitate to use violence and threats to reach his goals--wealth. In addition, it is mentioned that one of his brothers was murdered by Cazalla years before, allegedly by being castrated and strangled to death. In the end, Hunter catches malaria during his long voyages to find Sanson's treasure and dies almost completely forgotten, in England in 1670, with a modest estate.
  • Don Diego a.k.a. Black Eye a.k.a. the Jew — Don Diego runs a jewelry shop in Port Royal. He is a very intelligent man, able to create and invent many instruments to suit his own need or that of his mates. In his past, he also worked with gunpowder and armaments, costing him three fingers and permanently blackening his eye (hence the name Black Eye). In the epilogue of the story, Diego lives to a very old age until finally dying during the earthquake that flattened Port Royal.
  • Sanson — A very large and heavy man, Sanson is a visual interpretation of the word assassin, with the exception of his surprisingly high voice. Notorious for being the most ruthless killer in the Caribbean, this Frenchman's skills include the sword, pistol, crossbow and negotiations. He is, however, distrusted by many Englishmen due to his nationality; this distrust is later validated by his treacherous actions in the book's conclusion.
  • Lazue — Lazue has excellent marksmanship and extraordinary vision, able to see far more accurately than anyone else. Raised as a man, this woman is able to confuse her enemies by baring her breasts and gain advantage. Her ability to traverse through shallow waters and coral reefs make her an important asset to the Cassandra.The epilogue of the tale mentions that Lazue is eventually hanged as a pirate and alleged lover of Blackbeard in Charleston around 1704. Yet if this is true then she must have been quite elderly, dying almost four decades after the events of the novel; in addition she predeceased Black Beard by at least a decade, long before he was involved in piracy.
  • Enders — While in Port Royal, Mr. Enders operates as a barber-surgeon. While at sea, he is a helmsman, able to read and steer the Cassandra perfectly due to his innate ability. His relationship to the ship makes his experience needed many times during the voyage. Evidently his luck eventually ran out as it is stated he died during a storm on another expedition soon after the conclusion of the book.
  • Bassa a.k.a. The Moor — A huge dark man, this giant is mute. After he avenged the man who cut off his tongue and killed his wife, the Moor escaped to Port Royal to make a living. Communicating with gestures, he provides an image of intimidation in addition to his strength and power. At the conclusion, it is said that he was killed by a released bull during Henry Morgan's daring attack on Panama in 1669 of which he was likely an expedition member.
  • Sir James Almont — Governor of Jamaica, Almont resides in Port Royal, where he oversees his duties. Known locally as "James the Tenth" due to his privateering expeditions that lead to his own personal tenth shares of treasure, it is Almont who hires the services of Captain Hunter. Both he and his niece return to England shortly after the events of the story, only to perish in the Great London Fire of 1666.
  • Robert Hacklett — A young and loyal man of England, Mr. Hacklett begins as a secretary hired to assist Governor Almont. Hacklett is a man of many words who throws them around with disregard of consequence. In his eyes, all privateering expeditions of Charles Hunter appear to be piratical ventures. He also has the misfortune of being sterile and marrying a promiscuous pretty wife who is well known to have been a mistress of King Charles II. Early on, Mrs. Hacklett becomes pregnant after a brief fling with Captain Hunters and in anger her husband allows Commander Scott to ravish her. The same night, she fatally shoots him in the groin before Hunter arrives to take revenge and she dies of syphilis in 1686 (undoubtedly due to her habits). Her illegitimate son with Hunter becomes a merchant and her grandson ultimately becomes appointed governor of the Carolina Colony during the early Revolutionary War
  • Captain Cazalla — A Spaniard who commands the Spanish fortress of Matanceros. He has a violent history with both Don Diego and Captain Hunter, yet has never met either. A villain in many respects. A brutal man, he also commands a warship that guards the naos in Matanceros' harbor.


Other sources close to Crichton have revealed that the manuscript for Pirate Latitudes was first written back in the mid- to late-1990's, as evidenced by a note in Micheal Crichton's autobiography, travels, when he mentioned excitement at traveling to Jamaica as it would provide more information for said novel (Albeit unnamed then). It was even considered to be the basis for a videogame to be developed by his now-defunct game development company, Timeline Computer Entertainment. Early manuscripts of this novel were reviewed by the game developer staff, with various aspects of planning and creative artwork developed to flesh out the story's translation into the interactive medium.

Film adaptation

Steven Spielberg is to adapt the novel to film, reportedly having wanted to make a pirate film and being an admirer of Crichton's work.[2] Spielberg has hired David Koepp to pen the screenplay. Anil Ambani's Reliance Big Entertainment and Steven Spielberg's DreamWorks Studios would produce the film.


  1. ^ a b c Motoko Rich (2009-04-05). "Posthumous Crichton Novels on the Way". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-07-18. 
  2. ^ Spielberg to make pirates movie - Yahoo! Movies UK & Ireland


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