Josh's Reviews > The Pirate Coast: Thomas Jefferson, the First Marines & the Secret Mission of 1805

The Pirate Coast by Richard Zacks
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's review
Feb 27, 2011

really liked it
Read from February 27 to March 04, 2011

The Pirate Coast is an exciting non-fiction tale about a virtually unknown American hero, William Eaton, dispatched by President Jefferson on a Lawrence of Arabia-like quest through the Mediterranean and North Africa. His mission, to combat a Barbary Pirate state defiantly imprisoning over 300 of the country’s sailors, defines his life and changes history, becoming America’s first military incursion in the Middle East. The first two thirds of the book read as an adventure story. The events of Eaton’s secret mission to attack Tripoli, modern Libya, are often hard to believe, though well documented by the author Richard Zacks. One can quickly recognize the book’s greatest strength, as Zacks enjoys telling the seedy side of history, relishing in the often overlooked accounts of scandal, affairs, dirty deeds, pervasive debt, and human cruelty wherever he can find evidence of them. The last third of the book changes substantially upon the mission’s ending, when Eaton returns to the United States and becomes involved in political intrigue, alcoholism, gambling, and crushing debt. The book’s greatest weakness is this shocking shift in pace and topic, as an adventure story turns into a depressing biographical account of a man on a downward spiral far removed from his extraordinary exploits in the Middle East.

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