Captain Blood - Rafael Sabatini Audio CD – 3 stars
Book – 5 stars


Just an adaptation (sigh)…As such, it’s not bad. The actors are good, particularly the one playing Arabella Bishop – her voice is perfect. I now have a beautiful voice to match the beautiful woman pictured on the inside cover of my printed edition. The only complaint I have is with the narrator. It’s hard to describe the nasal whine and stentorian intonation he adopts but it’s an all-around poor choice. Fortunately, much of the disc is dialog.

Ah…Captain Peter Blood! I don’t know exactly when I picked up my copy of this novel. I know it was sometime between late high school and early undergraduate (1984-1986). No matter – it merits 5 stars from me because I had so much fun reading it. Sabatini’s other great characters Scaramouche and the Seahawk are suitably roguish, swashbuckling and heroic but they pale in comparison to the incomparable Peter Blood – soldier, physician and brilliant ship’s captain. Even the quintessential D’Artagnan can’t measure up for in addition to his martial virtues and honor, Blood embodies a basic core of decency and humanity.

The story is simple enough: The year is 1685 and Peter Blood has settled at Bridgewater to enjoy a quiet life and a small medical practice. Unfortunately, Charles II’s bastard son has risen in revolt against his uncle James II and many of Bridgewater’s men have joined him. Though not among that number, Blood finds himself arrested and accused of treason for attending to the wounds of a rebel nobleman, brought to him by his young friend Jeremy Pitt. He and Pitt are sentenced to be transported as slaves to the Crown’s colonies in the West Indies, where they become the property of the vicious, cowardly Colonel Bishop. Here Blood makes the acquaintance of the colonel’s niece, Arabella Bishop – beautiful, intelligent, and blessed with a powerful personality. The perfect companion to a man like Blood. It will not surprise readers of this genre that pair’s relationship does not start off well but that all things come around in the end.

Through a series of admittedly fantastic accidents, Blood, Pitt & several other slaves from the plantation manage to save Barbados Town from Spanish raiders and flee in their ship. Hunted by the English and the Spanish, Blood and his crew find refuge in the French colony of Tortuga and are forced to become pirates – though Blood conducts himself with all honor and only preys on the Spanish (for the most part). Soon ship (rechristened Arabella) and crew are renowned throughout the Spanish Main for their exploits (particularly Blood’s zenith as a pirate – the raid on Maracaibo).

Come 1688, James II is deposed and the Glorious Revolution puts William and Mary on the English throne. Recognizing talent when they see it, William’s government sends Lord Julian with a pardon and commission for Captain Blood. It should again come as no surprise that, despite a few close calls, Blood wins everything in the end – pardon, commission and the girl – and the villains get the punishments they richly deserve.

And while we’re on the subject: I’d also recommend Errol Flynn’s film adaptation – it remains remarkably faithful to the novel; and the role of Blood plays to all of Flynn’s acting strength. And Olivia de Havilland is radiant (as the DVD cover says) as Arabella.