The Pirate Hunter: The True Story of Captain Kidd by Robert Zacks.
Tasty! Me timbers are shivrin’ to this exhaustively researched historical recounting of how the good Cap’n, one of the leading lights of the striving bourgeosie of 1680’s New York City was, er, tarred with the brush of piracy. See, Kidd started out on a voyage of pirate interdiction, armed with a commission that allowed him to sieze pirate cargo, and then, via various mishaps and miscalculations, found himself prosecuted for the very offense he sought to eliminate.
Did he deserve it? Mr Zacks stoutly defends the seafaring Scot, but reading the book actually created more questions for me than I had coming into it.
UPDATE: D’oh! I left it at me in-laws in Laguna Beach! Arrr!
Published by Theia, an imprint of Hyperion, in 2002.
Banvard’s Folly: Thirteen Tales of Renowned Obscurity, Famous Anonymity, and Rotten Luck, by Paul Collins
So perfectly up my alley, I grabbed it and finished it in about two days. Collins originally published some of the book in McSweeney’s, and this book can be found in the rapidly expanding McSweeney’s section of your local booketorium. You can recognize the works by their McSweeney-derived typographical cover design (centered, wide-justified Times or Century type with a single illustrative element subordinated to the type).
Thirteen kooks of varying obsessed success, only a few of whom I’d ever heard and none of whom I knew anything in detail. Amusingly, those that I had heard of I learned about via short, short capsule stories in a book that got me a-readin’ as a child, the Reader’s Digest book of >Strange Stories, Amazing Facts. Yummy!
Come to think of it, I believe I first read of dirigibles AND Captain Kidd in that same tome.
Leonardo’s Mountain of Clams and the Diet of Worms by Steven Jay Gould.
Saddened to hear of the death of this entertaining essayist, when I saw this collection I glommed it and look forward to it. I always enjoy Gould’s prose and his joy in linking the diverse into tales that reveal the structures of human society or the natural world. The flashiness of his ability in so doing is something I still take a child’s joy in.
The Mummy Congress, by Heather Pringle
A survey of the underfunded and eccentric world of mummy studies, including info about the mismatch between the public’s fascination with mummies and the scientific establishment’s rather arms-length relationship to the topic.