Why Pirates are The Best Badies

Here's a blog I wrote for the super book reviewers at: Powered by Reading

We are delighted to welcome to the blog Paul Whitfield, author of the brilliant Pirate McSnottbeard in the Zombie Terror Rampage,  a fast and funny pirate romp for fans of Mr Gum and Barry Loser. Packed with comic art and more gags than you can wave a kipper at, Pirate McSnottbeard in the Zombie Terror Rampage is a fully illustrated, laugh-out-loud pirate romp in which Emilie and her brother William set out to rescue their parents from the horrible and smelly pirate king McSnottbeard. Whisked from the high seas, through prehistoric lands, into an evil wizard’s castle and finally to the pirates’ clifftop hideout, they must tackle dinosaurs, zombies, angry parrots, and at least one warlock…

Paul is joining us today to tell us why pirates are enduring villains…over to Paul!

When it came to choosing the villain for my new children’s book there really was only one option.

You see, there’s something about pirates that make them perfect baddies. Or to be more precise there is nothing about them that stops them from assuming that role.

I am, of course, not the only one to think that. Pirates have been the go-to wrongdoers for discerning writers since forever…or at least 1883 when Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island cast the mold with the introduction of Long John Silver. Buccaneers’ place in kid’s books was cemented soon after by another Scottish writer, J.M. Barrie and his brilliant Captain Hook.

My own pirate king, Dashing McSnottbeard’s Scottish heritage and a love of kipper-based insults are a nod to those great Scot’s pirates. Mcsnottbeard’s habit of starting every sentence with ‘Arrrrr’, his uneasy relationship with parrots and his hatred of children place him directly in Silver and Hook’s lineage.      

And yes, I know there are candidates other than pirates capable of driving a sliver of ice down readers’ spines, but each and every one falls short in some way. 

The usual cast of monsters, for example, can be terrifying but are diminished by the host of nitpicking rules that accompany them. Werewolves need a full moon, vampires are so delicate they cower in the face of everyday cooking ingredients and as for zombies: too slow and too dumb.

Monstrous animals are out too. Anything that can be stopped by a sturdy, locked door is barely worthy of the title monster.

Everyday criminals are a step up. Here at least is nastiness twinned with liberty. And yet, where is the flair? If your getaway vehicle is a stolen hatchback rather than a Spanish Galleon then you probably lack charm.

And as for the criminal masterminds, they simply lack motivational credibility. If someone has wherewithal to put build a moon-based laser to hold a city to ransom, then surely it would occur to them to simply put their tech-smarts to more lawful uses and rake in the cash. 

Yet pirates, glorious pirates, bring the best of everything to their nastiness. They are the unknowable other that terrifies yet human, allowing a writer to explore our own worst instincts. They have liberty to do as they please, unconstrained not only by petty rules but usually their own consciences. They have pomp and pageantry – they even have their own flag. And their motivation is uncomplicated and unimpeachable: they want doubloons or revenge, and preferably both.

What more could any writer need.

Pirate McSnottbeard in the Zombie Terror Rampage (Walker Books) is available from all good booksellers now.