Friday 30 August 2019

A Discovering Diamonds review of The Traitor of Treasure Island by John Drake

The Traitor of Treasure Island: The truth at last

This is an excellent read. The characters are complex and adult, making them in every way more convincing than the original book."


18th Century
The Caribbean / England

The Amazon blurb for this novel begins: “Buried for nearly three hundred years and now brought triumphantly to light by Dr Livesey, this is, at last, the true story of what happened on the fateful Treasure Island…” And it is such a well-written and enjoyable book, I really wanted this to be a true story. It isn’t, unfortunately, it’s a re-told version of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island – notwithstanding, this spin-off makes excellent reading. 

Told using extracts from Dr Livesay’s journal, with some chapters told from the point of view of Long John Silver and his stunning wife Selena, we learn the supposed truth about Jim Hawkins, the fabled pirate treasure and the death of Captain Flint.

It is a good while since I last read Stevenson’s classic, but I do clearly remember the dramatic opening with Blind Pew arriving at the Admiral Benbow pub to give Billy Bones his Black Spot. To re-write such an opening takes courage, but author John Drake made it just as compelling, if not more so because we see behind the scenes and are introduced to the idea that Jim Hawkins is a devious little viper. Knowing this changes everything. From this point on the story becomes Drake’s until we get to the island itself, when he uses Stevenson’s basic storyline told from different points of view.

This is an excellent read. The characters are complex and adult, making them in every way more convincing than the original book. Squire Trelawney is a gullible buffoon, but a fine marksman, which saves him from stereotype; Long John Silver is a likeable rogue, anxious to protect his gorgeous ex-slave wife, who is herself a force to be reckoned with; Dr Livesay a perceptive, more worldly-wise man – who sees right through the nasty little turn-coat, Jim Hawkins. And Captain Flint . . . Captain Flint is seriously scary. He is elegant, an excellent seaman, charismatic, and a sadist through and through.

My only quibble is that with the post-script about what happens to those who return to England the story loses its dramatic ending and becomes a tad over-long. It is also a bit deceiving in that it implies the characters were indeed real people. But if you’re looking for an action-packed pirate story put this one on your list. I’m looking forward to reading John Drake’s next book.

© J.G. Harlond

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