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Empire of Blue Water: Captain Morgan's Great Pirate Army, the Epic Battle for the Americas, and the Catastrophe That Ended the Outlaws' Bloody Reign

3.84  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,694 Ratings  ·  256 Reviews
A May 2007 Book Sense Pick

“Talty’s vigorous history of seventeenth-century pirates of the Caribbean will sate even fickle Jack Sparrow fans. . . . A pleasure to read from bow to stern.”
—Entertainment Weekly

The passion and violence of the age of exploration and empire come to vivid life in this story of the legendary pirate who took on the greatest military power on earth
Paperback, 332 pages
Published April 22nd 2008 by Three Rivers Press (first published January 1st 2007)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Mark Goodwin
Jan 24, 2016 Mark Goodwin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 5-stars
Book seems to have been well researched and gives the reader the feeling of being part of the action. Was Henry Morgan a Noble Patriot or a Blood-Thirsty Pirate?

Certainly his "army" was a breed of outcast with endurance and a thick stream of bravery in their blood. It has to be noted that Morgan knew how to pick his men and how to handle them. Their actions were prompted by greed and the search for wealth and "riches".

What motivated Morgan's pirates is compared to what motivated the Spanish and
Jason Koivu
Feb 10, 2013 Jason Koivu rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Right off the top you should be asking, "5 Stars for a book about pirates, Koivu?" Yeah well I have a thing for stories about randy seaman going after sweet sweet booty, what can I say?

Talty's pen puts a nice flourish on history that's appreciated, but hardly necessary considering his colorful source material. Patriotic Welshman Captain Morgan may not have seen himself as a pirate, after all he was only doing his duty for England, but if you were the Spanish in the Caribbean Islands at the time
Wow. I feel like I've got to take a week off after reading this one. A lot happens, man. (This is one of those books that proves reality is far more incredible than fiction.)I can say nothing more than that this must be the epitome of pirate literature - it may not be pirate Bible, but it's pirate Shakespeare at the very least. Loved it. Henry Morgan is a colossal figure in history, and this book gives him his due. (I read "Cup of Gold" by John Steinbeck about a thousand years ago - also about H ...more
Sep 05, 2011 Hannah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I would definitely recommend this book. I was surprised how much I didn't know about pirates, or at least how little is accurately described in popular culture. It really is kind of a war book, mostly full of descriptions of battles and stuff, but they are interesting battles, and it's really impressive to see some of the tactics the pirates used against properly trained armies to defeat them! And I can't get over how political it all was, much more than criminal.

Did you know that many of the pi
Pirates (or privateers) always make sensational subjects, so author Stephan Talty didn't need much embellishment to make the tale of Henry Morgan into a fast-paced and thrilling book. I've read a handful of other accounts of Morgan and other privateers and found this one of the most successful renderings. And while Morgan cuts a definite dash, Talty doesn't shy from making it clear that it was ruthlessness as well as leadership skills, strategic thinking, and inventiveness that led to his succes ...more
Melanie Unruh
Nov 05, 2009 Melanie Unruh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book will challenge everything you've learned about pirates from the movies. Real pirates were more brutal, less well-dressed, and drunker than in any movie. They were also utterly profligate, which attributed to their demise as much as the iron fist of any government.

One of the most enlightening aspects of 'Blue Water' has to be the analysis of shocking level of ineptitude with which Spain administered her colonies. Without the (non)contribution of the Spanish, the pirates would have had a
Aug 17, 2014 Mmetevelis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is rare to find a history book which utilizes a narrative style that so immediate and engrossing as well as inclusive of satisfactory historical and cultural background to make sense of the topic. Talty's prose has the cinematic quality of a good novel that does not hesitate to inform as it entertains. A book worthy of its subject - the lost era of the real pirates of the Caribbean and the formerly shadowy figure of Sir Henry Morgan (is this the rum's namesake?) I cannot recommend this enough ...more
Apr 26, 2015 Jeanette rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you ever wondered about pirates in the Caribbean during the late 17th century: who they were, what they did, where were their loyalties and why are they so fictionalized- then this is the book for you. It's not easy read, but it is less difficult to peruse than stolid history occurrence tracts. This follows Captain Henry Morgan's privateer occupation, his contemporaries and methods, and also the earthquake that ended Port Royal's existence as a pirate haven in Jamaica.

Understanding the specif
This was a great book. It was a fascinating nonfiction book about Port Royal in Jamaica during the 17th century. The true story of the Pirates of the Caribbean. Captain Henry Morgan really had a huge part to play in defeating the Spanish in the New World. The book describes the difference between buccaneers, pirates, and privateers, and also describes how the divisions betweem were often blurred and nonexistent. These men were courageous and tenacious. They were also lawless and uncivilized, ex ...more
I took in the audio version of this book, narrated by a gravelly-throated John H. Mayer. He turned the history into a tale that could've been told at the back of a dim sailor's dive, a place packed with rowdy pirates and privateers and buccaneers all whipped from salt and wind, all with scars, some with missing appendages. Havin read a few pirate romances, I knew reality wouldn't paint them in such a swashbuckling, to-die-for light, and sure enough, they were greedy cutthroats who pillaged and p ...more
Jenny Karraker
Aug 16, 2012 Jenny Karraker rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

There is a tv commercial in which an elaborately dressed Henry Morgan is drinking among friends at a fancy party-- a serving girl spills a glass of wine and cringes, thinking she will be whipped. But in an act of mercy and perhaps even democratic flair, Morgan pushes over his glass and encourages all his guests to do the same thing. Not knowing anything about Morgan except seeing his name on the Captain Morgan rum billboards, I wanted to discover more about him. I didn't realize he was a real p
Jun 14, 2009 Eric rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fantastic book about privateer Henry Morgan. This is a very readable tale of Morgan's battle with the Spanish. The author takes time to build the settings, describing places like Port Royal, Panama City, and other places in great detail. He also juxtaposes the lawless Caribbean with political climate in London and Madrid which is very useful for understanding how a pirate like Morgan could have accomplished so much so quickly. While the book is non-fiction, the author has created a fictional pir ...more
Tom Schulte
Nov 10, 2012 Tom Schulte rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is very engaging history of the The Brethren, Capt. Henry Morgan's real Pirates of the Caribbean. Along with the drama of a fireship ruse and a city-destroying earthquakes, it is interesting the actuality of buccaneer life. Rather than a criminal navy, they were more like a criminal marine corps: ships were a conveyance to get them to coastal settlements and departure points for laying siege, such as the pivotal struggle for Panama City having marched over 50 miles inland.

While it is not d
P.H. Solomon
Sep 19, 2015 P.H. Solomon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book a number of years ago but found it an interesting history of piracy. Though it's a non-fiction, the book an almost fictive quality since pirates can jump off the page. Frequently, these true-life tales have the ring of events described in fiction, movies and television shows and for good reason - they are the basis of fiction. This book covers everything from the politics behind piracy to the daily lives of pirates. As a fantasy author, I also find this book to be good source ma ...more
Well written and very interesting.
Sep 17, 2015 Anna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Anna by: st
I read Stephen Talty's first novel "Black Irish" last year and was determined to read one of his histories. This one looked too good to pass up -- and he really spins a great yarn!

What is about pirates? Books, movies, games are devoted to them yet they did terrible things.

Talty tells the already incredible story of two empires in great detail with clarity and wit. In this amazing complex multi-layered history, we are introduced to so many people and events, many of which have some fascinating p
Jan 25, 2014 Jerome rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Talty's book tells the story of the flamboyant Henry Morgan and his semi-official privateer war against the Spanish. Morgan continued to raid Spanish targets even after the British and Spanish concluded a peace, which technically made him a pirate, but he escaped the noose by pleading ignorance of the treaty.

Morgan was incredibly ruthless; many pirates worked hard to make their reputation for bloodthirstiness as real and immense as possible; this made it easier to coerce ships and even entire ci
Feb 10, 2013 Manny rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a great book. I was never into pirates per se, but after reading "The Jefferson Key" which dealt with a fictional family that still had a letter marque and were essentially privateers, a phrase I had never heard at the time, it piqued my interest. I found this book by accident and added it to me "to read" list, and there it sat. Until I finished an economic book and decided to change genres (I do this regularly).

The time, 17th Century; the place, Port Royal Jamaica; the man Captain Henry Mo
Apr 02, 2013 Ashley rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Poor scholarship, boring prose, and pointless invention.

This is the kind of book that gives popular history writing a bad name. He invents an example pirate character, and uses him throughout. This automatically brings his accuracy into question, as he describes the action in various events in a way that obviously does not reflect reality, focusing as it does on someone who was not there because he didn't exist. (the device could work, if it was used only as an example of the typical pirate, bu
Jul 02, 2015 Karen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a historical account of the Pirate Henry Morgan & the pirates part in the events in the Caribbean during the 1600s and the impact they had in breaking the Spanish hold on the area. This book was well written and reads like an adventure novel. I learned a lot about pirates and about this era in history. The destruction of Port Royal, Jamaica, was can't put down reading. Loved this book and highly recommend it!
Feb 06, 2009 Linda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As often as Jack Sparrow uttered the word "Pirate" as his explanation for his questionable behavior, I didn't really understand what that meant until reading this book. Talty helps us look past the romanticism of Errol Flynn and Johnny Depp to see what it meant to be a pirate in the Caribbean.

I particularly appreciate the insights into the politics of the time that allowed the pirates to flourish. Talty even talks about the weather and the geology of the area. Tsunami in Jamaica - who knew?

Rick Brindle
Nov 28, 2013 Rick Brindle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pirates, history
If you like your pirates (and I certainly do), then this is a book you'll want to read. This tells the story of Henry Morgan, a premier league pirate (if you're Spanish, privateer if you're not). His achievements in the Caribbean were legendary, as he took on the Spanish Empire on a shoestring, succeeding through aggressive tactics, modern weapons, and sometimes luck. Stephen Taly also cleverly introduces a fictional character called Roderick, who tell us what it was like for Morgan's men, most ...more
Andrew Tollemache
Apr 28, 2015 Andrew Tollemache rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A childhood with ridiculous amount of Caribbean trips (thanks Mom and Dad) has always given me a keen interest in privateering on the Spanish Main. This book was a loan from a friend and really tells a micro and macro tale at the same time. The micro story centers around the rise of Henry Morgan from being a lowly welsh immigrant to the new Brit colony of Jamaica to legendary sea captain who sacked numerous Spanish towns and became eventual governor of Jamaica. Morgan became the most famous of t ...more
Alejandro Ramirez
realmente me encanta que haya usado un titulo tan largo como los que se usaban en aquellos tiempos. La reseña advertia que es uno de los tantos libros que salieron para aprovechar el exito de la pelicula "Piratas de Caribe", pero que sin embargo era bueno. Y en efecto tiene buena investigacion, me decidi a leerlo porque algo habia que leer sobre piratas del caribe antes de ir a la boda de Vani y Fede en el crucero. Y en efecto le dio otro angulo a la visita del fuerte en San Juan Puerto Rico.
Sabienna B. gave this book to me as a gift because she knows I love outlaws and ships. So pirates! The book is actually one part biography of Captain Henry Morgan, the admiral of the Caribbean buccaneer fleet (who apparently hated being called a pirate because he always sailed under the king's commission as a privateer); one part biography of Port Royal, the Las Vegas of its day. The book was entertaining and engaging from front to back, with detailed play-by-plays of Morgan's attacks on the Spa ...more
David Orphal
Talty clearly had fun writing about pirates! His book was definitely fun to read (or listen to, as I did)

I had only two complaints of Empire of Blue Water. First, Talty occasionally got repetitive. Both descriptions of Kill-Devil, a pirate rum punch, uses nearly the exact same words. Perhaps I would have noticed this an several similar repetitions if I had't listened to the whole thing in one long drive.

The other problem I had was the imaginary pirate Tatly creates. At first, itseemed like a co
Aug 20, 2015 Karyl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I may be just about the only person in America that has not seen any of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, so I didn't have too much of a prior notion of pirates before reading this book, aside from pirate vernacular that we've all grown up on, like "avast, me mateys!" and "argggghhh!" (which, according to this book, are far more Hollywood than true piratical.)

I did, however, see this on display at my local library and thought it sounded like a good read (look at that subtitle, though!). I'm a
Feb 24, 2013 emily rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
There is nothing here that I don't like -- maritime history? Piracy? Yes! Towards the end, though (as is the case with so many books), Mr. Talty sort of falls into the trap of what feels like padding with an overabundance of military strategy. Not that I'm not interested -- I am! -- but some sections felt sort of irrelevant.
Todd Stockslager
Jun 08, 2015 Todd Stockslager rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Popularized history reads like the back-story of Captain Jack Sparrow. No pretension of serious scholarship leaves Talty free to create a composite character "Roderick" to represent a typical pirate (technically privateer) in telling the story of how Henry Morgan, under commissions from England, gathered his ragtag army and terrorized the Spanish Main from Port Royal, Jamaica. Talty does footnote his account, but most of his sources are second-hand.

Still the reader is impressed with Morgan's lea
Dec 04, 2014 Sujata rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reading this book while in the caribbean was a great choice - while I was far from Jamaica, I kept on imagining pirates and privateers around ever corner! It's exciting, historical, and really reminded me of the intersection of private financial interests, religious wars (Catholic vs. Protestant), and the always hated imperial designs of the related countries (Spain, England, and Holland). Lots to learn about the impact of privateers (pirates) in the growing British empire, AND also so interesti ...more
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Stephan Talty is the New York Times bestselling author of six acclaimed books of narrative nonfiction, as well as the Abbie Kearney crime novels. Originally from Buffalo, he now lives outside New York City.

Talty began as a widely-published journalist who has contributed to the New York Times Magazine, GQ, Men’s Journal, Time Out New York, Details, and many other publications. He is the author of t
More about Stephan Talty...

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