MELISSA BLOCK, host:

Now to a comic nautical theme: pirates. Writer Brooks Brown cares deeply about pirates, and we care about them - at least enough to allow Mr. Brown to follow his passion for our series, Three Books. That's our summer reading series where authors recommend books on a single theme. Here's Brooks Brown.

Mr. BROOKS BROWN (Coauthor, "No Easy Answers: The Truth Behind Death At Columbine"): Picture him: a swashbuckler standing on the bow of a boat with an eye patch, a wooden leg, and a parrot on his shoulder. He's the pirate. They existed in the past, and they inhabit the modern world. It just turns out we have no idea exactly what is underneath that fabled eyepatch.

If "Pirates of the Caribbean" is the soda-and-popcorn version of pirates, then "Under the Black Flag," well, that's the bottle of rum. Delving deep into the myths we've grown up with, David Cordingly dutifully destroys the happy face of pirates we've come to love. In its place, he leaves a history that is not only accurate, but considerably more fascinating.

As it turns out, pirates really did have parrots and monkeys. Kept as pets, they were often used to bribe slippery government officials. And female pirates, like Anne Bonney and Mary Read, they actually did spend years hiding themselves in men's clothing on ships ? killing, plundering and being tried for crimes on the high seas right alongside the men. Even the buried treasure some still hunt for today, it actually did actually exist. As "Under the Black Flag" shows, the truth behind the myths can sometimes be even better then the myths themselves.

In "Dangerous Waters," John Burnett hitches a ride on two cargo ships as they navigate the high sea and discovers that today's pirates are a far cry from the pirates we've come to know. Forget the fleets of ships flying the Jolly Roger, modern piracy often takes the form of a high-seas mugging by a small number of men in canoes. Deftly weaving in and out of the misconceptions and realities of the modern pirate, "Dangerous Waters" gives an honest and in-the-trenches view of piracy in the new millennium.

Meanwhile, as Lawrence Lessig writes in "Free Culture," a new breed of pirates is taking their battle to land. Rather than the waters of the ocean, they spend their time surfing the Internet and their plunder is not doubloons, their theft is out of movies, music and software.

Written as a brilliantly thought-out argument, Lessig takes us through the various worlds of Internet piracy and their implications. As he points out, the young men with BitTorrents downloading software today, is not a far cry from those who used VCRs, Walkman, and even the phonograph. The only thing in their path, as Lessig shows us, it is that that caricature we've painted of pirates ? the carefree lawbreaker who believe they are fighting against tyranny. And it turns out, these pirates are all around us.

The truth behind the tales be infinitely more interesting. Aye, me parrot concurs.

BLOCK: Writer Brooks Brown lives in San Francisco. His three for books about pirates are: "Under the Black Flag" by David Cordingly, "Dangerous Waters" by John Burnett, and "Free Culture" by Lawrence Lessig.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.