Buccaneer - M S Hunter

Ladymol's Review:

This novel has been the greatest unexpected treat I’ve had for a long time. I read the review at the back of Fancy Dancer for it and thought a bit of a gay/porn romp with some pirates would be fun. How wrong I was. I feel incredibly sorry for MS Hunter that the best the publishers could do with this remarkable novel was to sell it like a piece of porny trash, presumably because it was gay rather than het.

This is the remarkably well-told and researched tale of the pirate Tommy Cutlass (Cutler) and his Ashanti lover Ozzi The Spear. Set in the Caribbean in the seventeenth century, this book describes a remarkable world: a world without women. There just were no women. What were the men supposed to do? Exactly what they did do: turn to each other.  Homosexuality was so the norm on board ship and in the towns that developed around the fleets, that Tommy is “bought” from his father at the age of thirteen by a pirate for his first night and no one finds this strange. Getting a taste for what he was given, Tommy becomes a local hustler, selling his body to all and sundry in the port where he lives. Aged seventeen he is persuaded to join a buccaneer ship, and his real story begins.

The buccaneers weren’t pirates—far from it. They were the “territorial army” of the day: the non-uniformed warships, sailing for their respective nations. They fought for their king, shared their loot with the King’s representatives and had their permission to ply their unique trade. However, times were changing, and as Tommy rises through the ranks, he can see the winds of change blowing over this wonderful, but dangerous life.

The scholarship in this novel is remarkable. Tommy’s story is woven in with real life figures and events of the day. 

Tommy never grows out of his early love of men. The novel is a polemic on the male/male way of life as much as it is on the pirate way of life.  All the men on Tommy’s ship have male lovers, some permanent, some just playing the readily available field. The novel is in no way graphic, but has some very moving and real relationships.

Where can this group of men, with their unique lifestyles go when history overtakes them?

The second half of this novel is just as remarkable as the first as Tommy tells us the answer to that question.

Highly recommended.

Cerisaye's Review:

This book has everything I want in a novel: juicy plot, solid structure, detailed history, colourful setting, charismatic characters, wit & humour and explicit gay sex.  Oh, I ought to add, it’s irresistibly, unrepentantly un-PC.  That has a lot to do with its charm.

Pirates in full regalia are right up there next to rangy cowboys in my fevered romantic imagination.  Errol Flynn and Burt Lancaster swashing their manly buckles got my young heart racing, though I never understood why they’d want those silly simpering women Hollywood lumbered them with.  More recently I watched Pirates of the Caribbean.  Fine as far as it went, but what about the slash?  Jack Sparrow was clearly a gay boy, so where was his mate?  Humbug.

We’ve covered revisionist history of the American West pretty thoroughly.  Now we tackle that exciting period when privateers roved the Spanish Main, during the later 17th C.  Never to be confused with bloodthirsty pirates, these buccaneers fought for King and country just as determinedly as fellows in the Royal Navy.  In their own colourful, highly individualistic way. A triumph for free enterprise.  Like gay cowboys, Dakota & Bennie, Rezo & Gage, and frontiersmen, Brandy & Henri, men loving men, part necessity, largely by choice, 300 years ago was common in the West Indies, where there were precious few women and pretty near anything went, lawless and wild.  Given a surplus of active, healthy, lusty young men, these boys did what came naturally.  And had a ball.

The writer nails his colours to the mast right from the start.  Young Tommy Cutler surrenders his virginity entirely willingly, aged 13, sold by his publican father to Captain Red Barrow, for a number of gold coins.  This becomes something of a habit.  The boy takes to his calling with enthusiasm, not always for money either, when desire went both ways.  By age 15 Tommy regards the naked female body as the most disgusting sight he’s ever had the misfortune to see.  Whereupon he embarks upon an illustrious  career as a buccaneer, sailing on his deflowerer’s ship, “Red Witch”.

The attractive premise of this glorious ripping yarn is the existence of a self-contained homosexual community of equals, white men and black living/working peacefully together in a kind of commune or co-operative, along the lines of the famous Band of Thebes, forged from pairs of male lovers. The buccaneer and his partner or matelot enjoyed a relationship akin to marriage.  All this is explained in the novel, largely by showing us how it works in practice. 

Tommy’s rise through the ranks is meteoric.  He’s a clever lad, quick-witted and popular with the men.  For obvious reasons.  Along with nautical skills and seagoing experience, Tommy gets a wide sexual education, aided by willing teachers like Long Jimmy, Pancho and magnificent twins, Moe & Zeke, outstandingly blessed in the breeches department.  Tommy’s particular weakness is for his black comrades, a preference held lifelong.  This produces a unique love story, as Ashanti prince, Ozzie, wins heart and soul of our bold hero.  The novel celebrates man-sex with loving detail and abiding joy.  It’s truly something to behold.  Porn movie tropical paradise setting and sleek muscled hunks, with literary descriptiveness and emotional engagement.  Company bacchanals, 3/4-somes and romantic attachments.  It’s all there in blazing Technicolour.  I tell you, this book delivers on all counts. 

Its central conceit is that Tommy’s self-written story is transcribed for posterity by author M S Hunter, working from papers held in archive on the Caribbean island of San Vito.  I swear it’s real.  Look for it on the maps if you don’t believe me.  I’ve already booked my tickets.  An island paradise with sun, sand and stimulating visual entertainment not featured in most holiday brochures, if you get my drift.

The narrator interrupts the story from time to time to fill us in on background information, adding greatly to enjoyment of the history.  These chapters are perfectly judged to inform so I never felt dragged from Tommy’s chronicle.  The author clearly knows his stuff.  It’s most educational.  I’ve never before read porn with footnotes and bibliography.  Seriously.

It’s most annoying that M S Hunter clearly set up to write a follow-on book, telling more about the evolution of his gay paradise island, but it’s never appeared.  If this is down to his publisher, I’m very cross.  They should’ve hounded their writer until he produced that book.  Do not miss this wonderful novel.

Alyson Publications ISBN: 1555831532


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