The history of piracy along Maine’s shores in the early 18th century is filled with pirate raids on ships and coastal towns, and tales of buried treasure. And Portland author Christopher Morin finds this era to be fertile ground for his latest novel of historical fiction.
“Rogue Plunder” is Morin’s fourth novel, an exciting adventure set on a Maine island in 1716, a turbulent period of English conflict with the French and Indians. This excellent story of colonial settlement, pirates, bloodshed and buried treasure cleverly combines with treachery, betrayal, greed, madness and murder.
After suffering Indian threats, crop failure and despair, only two families remain on Storm Island: William Estes and his invalid father, and Elizabeth Eustis and her crazy mother. William and Elizabeth are starry-eyed lovers who witness a nighttime naval battle between two warships offshore. One vessel blows up, the other wrecks on the rocks.
Exploring the wreck the next day, William and Elizabeth find one survivor, a wounded British Lieutenant of Royal Marines who tells them a fantastic story of pursuit, battle and survival. The wrecked vessel is a pirate ship loaded with treasure. The three agree to salvage the treasure together, but the lieutenant’s story doesn’t ring true, creating suspicion, mistrust and odd behavior.
Greed, lust, treachery and murder surface, and then the Indians attack, forcing a tenuous alliance with deadly result. Morin masterfully blends action, suspense and intrigue with human weakness, showing how desperate and selfish people will do anything for a treasure of gold, silver and precious jewels. These three people will reveal themselves to be as vindictive, jealous and savage as any band of bloodthirsty pirates. Think of the high-stakes action in Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island” and the shameful human greed in B. Traven’s “Treasure of the Sierra Madre.”
BERNARD LANGLAIS REVISITED: MAINE ART SERIES FOR YOUNG READERS
Falmouth author, art reviewer and teacher Pat Davidson Reef had a great idea; introduce young readers, ages 8-12, to art with biographies of Maine artists, and the “Maine Art Series for Young Readers” was born.
Reef began the series with a book about Dahlov Ipcar, and now follows with this book about artist Bernard Langlais. Her choice of artists for the first two books is smart, for each artist is unique in their style and medium, especially Bernard Langlais.
As Reef describes, Langlais (1921-1977) was born in Old Town, fascinated by art at a young age, and ultimately earned fellowships to study in France and Norway before settling in Cushing. As she explains, Langlais worked with wood sculptures, line drawings and oil painting on paper, but he is best known for his over-sized, outdoor wood sculptures and abstract wood reliefs, or what he called “painting with wood.”
Langlais’s biography includes well-written narrative and beautiful color photographs of his work, describing how he sketched out his thoughts before starting a wood sculpture or relief. Most interesting are the hundreds of Langlais’ wood sculptures found in cities, towns, colleges and museums all over Maine, like his iconic 65-foot tall Skowhegan Indian and the collection of his work at the Colby College Museum of Art.
His former home in Cushing, now the Langlais Preserve, has more than 60 of his outdoor wood sculptures, and is just one location on the Langlais Art Trail, which highlights his art from Kittery to Presque Isle. As Reef points out, Langlais’ “images are strong, direct, and have a touch of humor,” like the whimsical, large 72-piece wooden outdoor sculpture “Football Scrimmage” at the Skowhegan Community Center.
Reef also wisely includes descriptions of the intricate restoration and preservation of Langlais’ outdoor artwork.
Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.