STARRED REVIEW
July 2015

Stirring modern-day quests

Feature by
Don’t miss these superbly written books that combine intriguing history with memorable real-life escapades.
STARRED REVIEW
July 2015

Stirring modern-day quests

Feature by
Don’t miss these superbly written books that combine intriguing history with memorable real-life escapades.
July 2015

Stirring modern-day quests

Feature by
Don’t miss these superbly written books that combine intriguing history with memorable real-life escapades.
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2015 BookPage Summer Reads

Don’t miss these superbly written books that combine intriguing history with memorable real-life escapades.

Discovering a Golden Age pirate ship is “the hardest and rarest and most exciting thing an explorer could find underwater, or maybe in all the world.” That’s exactly the mesmerizing story that unfolds in Pirate Hunters: Treasure, Obsession, and the Search for a Legendary Pirate Ship. Robert Kurson, author of the best-selling Shadow Divers, makes readers feel as though they’re aboard these search vessels.

John Chatterton of Shadow Divers is now part of a trio trying to find a 17th-century pirate shipwreck in the Dominican Republic. Joseph Bannister was a respected English sea captain who went rogue, stealing his ship, the Golden Fleece, which the British Navy nearly sank in a fierce battle in 1686.

Chatterton, partner John Mattera and financier Tracy Bowden are determined to locate the wreck, but they clash over where to look. Meanwhile, other treasure hunters are breathing down their necks, and changing government policies threaten to shut down their mission.

Their elaborate hunt involves historical detective work on multiple continents and a powerful magnetometer that detects the presence of metals used in cannonballs. Kurson’s page-turning account reads like a novel as the search threatens to implode, with exhaustion creeping in, tempers flaring and even a few guns firing. 

The hunters finally succeed when they begin to think like pirates, treating readers to ringside seats on a modern Treasure Island. 

HITTING THE DUSTY TRAIL
For another contemporary adventurer, wanderlust was bred into his bones. When Rinker Buck was young, his father took the whole family on a covered-wagon trip from New Jersey to Pennsylvania. At age 17, Buck and his 15-year-old brother rebuilt a Piper Cub and became the youngest aviators to fly coast to coast.

In 2011, Buck decided to travel the 2,000-mile Oregon Trail from Missouri to Oregon in a restored covered wagon pulled by three mules. He chronicles his “completely lunatic notion” in the wonderfully engaging The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey

He’s accompanied by his brother, Nick, an expert horseman and mechanic. Nick is seemingly the ideal partner, except that he and Buck are the quintessential Odd Couple, with Buck being fastidious Felix and Nick sloppy Oscar .

Throughout, Buck skillfully weaves historical anecdotes into their misadventures, such as the story of Narcissa Whitman, the first white woman to cross the Rockies, whom Buck regards as his “guardian angel of the trail.”

Buck definitely needs an angel, sheepishly admitting after the first night that the wagon is overloaded, forcing him to leave behind cherished items like his Brooks Brothers bathrobe, bocce balls and shoeshine kit. 

Buck set out “to learn to live with uncertainty,” and in the end he and his brother fully embrace the experience, beautifully navigating a pioneer expedition on 21st-century terms.

 

This article was originally published in the July 2015 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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Get the Books

Pirate Hunters

Pirate Hunters

By Robert Kurson
Random House
ISBN 9781400063369
The Oregon Trail

The Oregon Trail

By Rinker Buck
Simon & Schuster
ISBN 9781451659160

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