Marrin displays a real gift for blending explanation and breathless narrative. By the time that they have finished The Sea Rovers, readers have a firm grasp of the nature of piracy: the enemies that pirates faced, how they lived, what they ate and drank, how they spent their booty, how their ships were run, their stratagems and tactics, how the loot was divided among them, and how a woman could pass as a pirate. One also understands the large economic and political forces that made piracy profitable or a deadly risk. The reader senses the personal impulses that drove people into piracy.
Along the way, Marrin debunks the myths that surround pirates. One is that pirates fired cannonballs into the hulls of the ships that they were attacking; the truth is that they would never have risked sending the wealth stored in the hulls to the bottom of the sea. Another myth is that pirates made their victims walk the plank, hands tied and blindfolded; however, no eyewitness account of pirates ever mentioned this means of killing, although pirates could be very sadistic in how they dealt with prisoners. The most widespread myth is that of large buried caches of pirate treasure; actually, pirates always divided the loot soon after taking it, and they spent it freely in port.
According to Marrin, what remains of pirates as composite figures after the false glamour has been erased are bold, daring, filthy, cunning outlaws skilled in hand-to-hand...
(The entire section is 525 words.)