Black Sam Bellamy
Prince of Pirates
"I am a free prince and I have as much authority to make war on the world as he who has a hundred sail of ship and an army of a hundred thousand men in the field. I scorn to do you any mischief, though you are a sneaking puppy, and so are all those who submit to be governed by laws which rich men have made for their own security. Those rich cowardly whelps have not the courage to defend what they get by their knavery. They vilify us when there is only this difference: they rob the poor under cover of law, and we plunder the rich under the protection of our own courage.
--Sam Bellamy to the
Captain of a Captured Ship
In honest service upon the sea there was thin commons, low wages if any, brutal slavery and bone hard labor. In the pirate life there was plenty, pleasure, ease, liberty and equality. They did not have allegiance to any king, only to each other. When all hazard was done, at worst it was only a moment of unease upon the scaffold.
Mutiny! Why We Love Pirates
And How They Can Save Us
THE PARADISE BIRD
I spent much of my childhood on Cape Cod hearing tales handed down about the sea witch of Wellfleet, and her love affair with a pirate whose ship was wrecked somewhere off the Great Beach. Then in the mid-80s when Barry Clifford found the Whydah, ship of the pirate Black Sam Bellamy and began to bring up untold treasures, my excitement and interest in the tales grew. I clipped articles and interviews, and knew that when the time was right, I would tell the tale of Goody Hallett, often called the 'Sea Witch of Billingsgate'. The stories claimed she had an affair with Sam Bellamy in Eastham before he went off to seek his fortune in the Caribbean. When she was found in a barn with a dead baby, she was jailed for infanticide and later warned out of Eastham as a witch. She went to live alone out on the desolate uninhabited dunes above the Outer Beach. I believe that a story handed down so persistently has some basis in truth.
No one has ever been able to prove exactly who Goody Hallett was, but there are suppositions that seem well founded. However some of the most popular stories of her being an innocent 15-year-old Eastham farm girl did not seem true to me. I poured through old town records, and spoke to the former historian at the Whydah Project (now a fascinating museum and collection in Provincetown). I found journals kept by Cape people alive at that time (1715-1717), went to historical societies and cemeteries, read through town histories, found copies of old maps and studied details of life in early 18th century New England. I was fascinated with the Golden Age pirates whose democratic attitudes of inclusion and equality and whose scorn of the upper classes were so like what is happening in society today. Much has been said about the bold-talking, freedom-loving Bellamy's short but glorious pirating career. He is still rated the richest pirate ever to sail the seas and probably the most eloquent.
From legends and history I began imagineering, starting from facts known or suspected, real people who lived in Eastham at that time, and stepping off into the exciting world of fiction. Sam's fiery personality comes alive in the book, but it is the freedom-loving Mary Hallett he leaves behind who has always interested me most. And then Nathaniel Treat, son of the well-known minister of Eastham at that time, stepped out and began to beg inclusion. These three change each other's destinies as they find themselves in the grip of wild nature, love, obsession, revenge, magic and whatever lies beyond.
The Paradise Bird is a name that has double meaning. Sam Bellamy captured The Whydah, a fine English ship engaged in the triangle trade of sailing to West Africa to pick up captured Africans, selling them as slaves to the Caribbean plantations and returning to England with rum and sugar. The word 'ouidah' is a West African bird (misspelled as Whydah) and the translation of the name means Paradise Bird.
Mary Hallett is also the Paradise Bird. She has grown up feeling an outsider to the narrow Puritan culture in which she lives. She is a bold spirit reaching for something more, testing the limits of the possible. What will she do once Sam Bellamy leaves to find his destiny? Within the parameter of historical happenings and suppositions, I have spun an exciting tale of a woman reaching for hard-won freedom against all odds. This story is built of adventure, suffering, mistakes, growth, revelation, unexpected friendships and deep connection to nature and the sea.
Read a chapter of the novel on the Excerpts page!
COMING OF AGE
A collection of short stories about older people making new, and often hard won, decisions in their lives. The protagonists are varied—from the CEO of a recently off-shored company to an old New England farmer to the wife of a man with cancer sharing an idyllic vacation on a Caribbean island—each is struggling to find a deeper expression of who they are and how they can make the world a better place.
A short story from the book is on the Excerpts page!